Shanghai Restaurant Review: Botanik

By Cristina Ng, May 24, 2019

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The Place

Within the quiet recesses of Jianguo Zhong Lu’s Taikang Terrace, perched above The Plump Oyster, there’s an open-air restaurant helmed by executive chef Elijah Holland. Botanik is defined by a seasonally-influenced, ever-changing tasting menu focused on local products, many of which are grown in the garden surrounding the dining area. Holland is also an avid forager, and the group’s chefs and bartenders often take to the great outdoors to go ‘grocery shopping.’

The Botanik team on the rooftop. Image by Agata Holland/courtesy of Botanik

The beverage program is an equally original compilation of organic, natural and sustainable wines, as well as gin-based cocktails that allow Zander Bostoff and Julia Markina to play with botanicals harvested on-site. The latter notably just won The GREAT Gin Mixologist Competition, so you know you’re in good hands.

The Food

This season, Holland and company present a 12-Course Set (RMB688) of thrilling plates. Everything is made from scratch and sourced from within China, with the exception of plants grown from non-native seeds on the Botanik rooftop.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Like many meals, this one opens with bread and butter, but their iteration is far from ordinary. Color and flavor come from a gorgeous blend of butterfly pea and lavender, to be smeared with umami-rich kombu butter. Par for the course, they mill the flour and make their own bread starter.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

A bite of uni nestled in a miniature grilled acorn flour tostada is enhanced by tangy sour cream, chervil and chives. The springy texture of the acorn wrap is especially intriguing.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

The next bite is a pretty jumble of spring beans, wild peas and mint, kissed by a gentle spray of chamomile vinegar, on a broad bean leaf that you eat like a woodland taco. 

Imaage by Agata Holland/courtesy of Botanik

A glistening red sphere that looks like a cherry but is, in fact, a mulberry and juniper gel containing duck prosciutto comes next. It’s presented in a juniper bonsai, so you are literally eating from trees.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Grilled anchovy from the South China sea coupled with Russian radish on fermented jicama naan as well as a bowl of fresh river prawns swimming in nasturtium paste, sorrel juice and white miso carry things forward competently to the star dishes of the night.
Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Charcuterie fashioned from mushrooms and jujube is well worth the effort. King trumpet mushrooms are salted, smoked and hung for six weeks until they resemble bacon while ‘salami’ is made of almond and jujube. They even saved some turkey tail fungus from a Chongming Island foraging trip last year to infuse in vinegar, which seasons this number.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Another vegetarian course features bamboo shoots from the Sheshan National Forest Park poached for six hours in bamboo shoot tea from Hangzhou. After a roast and a quick pan fry, the crisped-up root is served with a bamboo and noni fruit sauce. The fruit is native to Southeast Asia and North Queensland, Australia, and gives off a fragrance similar to blue cheese when ripe. Dill oil, freshly snipped dill blossoms, and grilled Sichuan pepper leaves add dimension to an already complex dish.

Midway through, a refreshing spring melon gazpacho with lemon verbena oil and Yunnan ham sets things up for the arrival of lotus shoots – poached in their own juice – with white asparagus and Kaluga caviar.

Image by Agata Holland/courtesy of Botanik

The evening’s runaway hit was built around sprouted a coconut heart from Sanya grilled like a piece of meat. The dish is set in motion by smoked, roasted coconut meat, razor clam seasoned coconut water and fermented wild black garlic from Dongbei. Sponge-like coconut heart is an efficient delivery system for the complex mix of savory sweetness, and memory of this dish makes us want to cry – it was that good.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Watching Joshua Moroney (chef de cuisine at C Pearl, owned by the same group) carve up a roast goose on the pass drums up anticipation for slices of medium rare bird sliced over Henan green wheat. The protein is roasted and smoked for four hours and dunked in goose stock at regular intervals. Prickly pear sauce, goose jus, marjoram and sorrel round things out. FYI, that goose comes from their farm in Guangzhou.  

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Dessert comes in waves from a Chinese-inspired peach gum with basil seeds, strawberry and guava, followed by rose ice cream. 

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

The frozen floral delight consists of buffalo milk infused with beach roses and climbing roses picked from the garden. An explosion of texture and flavor comes via sea buckthorn sauce, purple rice chips, candied and fresh rose petals, sea buckthorn leather and buffalo milk skin.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

A meringue mint pop, ‘stolen’ cherries on ice and melon rind with lemon balm are the final touches. May we suggest sticking around for a final Parsley Daiquiri (RMB80) made with parsley-infused gin, dill oil and parsley seeds

Food Verdict: 3/3

The Vibe

Image by Agata Holland/courtesy of Botanik

This seven-month pop-up continues until November and comes with the thrill of dining in a romantic secret (and edible) garden. The driftwood roof is covered in tree branches. The furnishings are homey without being cutesy, and the selection of serving plates don’t feel overly curated or precious. All in all, the environment is ideal for midsummer and early autumn feasting.

It has the feel of a restaurant on the brink of making it big, and we urge you to make reservations before time runs out. While they have plans for a permanent space – less dependent on the weather – dining here during the al fresco season should not be missed.

Vibe Verdict: 2/2

Total Verdict: 5/5

Price: RMB688 per person
Who’s going: locavores and gourmands
Good for: urban escapes, slow food, local products

[Cover image by Cristina Ng/That's]

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See a listing for Botanik. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews

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