Bargain, Balanced, Ballin': 20 Foie Gras Dishes For All Budgets

By Sophie Steiner, December 31, 2020

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Bargain, Balanced, Ballin’ is where we take a deep dive into a certain dish or food fad, one by one, creating a guide for where to sample the best (and sometimes worst) of them, all around the city and for any and every budget.

Shanghai has an unhealthy (on multiple levels) obsession with foie gras, and – like your mentally unstable ex – is not scared to flaunt it. Move over shaved truffle, caviar and uni, foie gras is running the ‘naughty’ eats list these days, in all of its indulgent glory. 

Served as a pâté, stacked on steak, wrapped in a pancake, mixed with mapo tofu, rolled into a dumpling and – even – used as a pizza topping, this bougie ingredient has found its way onto just about every menu in Shanghai. 

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Made from duck or goose liver, this dish only exists through the act of force-feeding the birds through a tube-like funnel, known as a gavage, for weeks before slaughter. This results in a higher fat quantity in the liver, translating to that signature creamy texture we all shamelessly crave.

While some blame the French for triggering the current foie gras controversy (that now involves numerous animal rights and welfare groups), the origins date back to the ancient Egyptians who caught and domesticated geese purely to fatten them up and consume them. Pharaoh, crushing it in both the pyramid game and the culinary world. 

Finding foie gras in Shanghai is about as hard as finding xiaolongbao – it’s a bit too everywhere – so instead of the usual suspects, like the traditional French pâté or terrine versions, we sought out foie gras in its most unique forms or paired with unexpected flavors. 

This is in no way an exhaustive list. In fact, we specifically chose a more niche focal point for foie gras dishes out of fear of contracting gout. But for you, That’s Shanghai readers, we are willing to take that risk. 

Bargain

Tokyo House (RMB18/ngiri, RMB42/roll)

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Quite possibly Shanghai’s busiest value sushi spot, Tokyo House, keeps the Japanese fare fairly classic, with one exception – adding seared foie gras in nigiri and roll form. Just like the rest of the proteins there, the foie gras quality is no concession – it gets that French stamp of approval (at least from every French person we know). 

A flame-torched thick slab of fatty liver sits atop a cylindrical dome of exactly 25 grams of sticky sushi rice. The ratio of rice to foie is absurd, with the rice just acting as a vessel small enough to balance on your fingertips, making it that much more convenient to shovel more foie in your face. 

Sober Company (RMB78)

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One of Shanghai’s top-rated bars, and the newly appointment #42 on the World’s 50 Best Bar List, Sober Company is lauded for its imaginative drink menu. It’s no surprise that the Canto-inspired menu at Sober Kitchen on the second floor is just as creative, with fusion dishes like the Foie Gras Sn*ckers

Crispy butter crackers hug the creamiest slice of salty foie gras pâté, drizzled with a coffee-flavored butterscotch caramel. One bite alone is insanely rich, like eating a stick of melting butter. Even though an order includes just two ‘snickers,’ we suggest sharing with at least a few friends, unless diabetes is the goal. 

Baker’s Pizzeria (RMB79/small, RMB119/medium, RMB128/large)

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Like something out of a horror movie, Baker’s Pizzeria has decided to put foie gras on a pizza (gasp!) Not just that, they tout it as their signature dish – while every dead French person in the history of the world rolls in their grave. 

Let’s get down to brass tacks – this pizza is pretty gnarly. Our first question, before even reaching a bite of foie, is: is this cheese real? Does artificial plastic-ey mozzarella atop a layer of some equally suspect truffle cream sauce make something a pizza? 

As we ventured down the rabbit hole debating the philosophical merits of what is and what is not a pizza, the foie gras merely crumbled in our mouths in all of its lackluster un-creaminess, a sad excuse for a pizza topping that most wouldn’t deign to include into the category of edible foods. 

Unique idea? Enough to make it on this list. But will we return? Not even if someone paid us. 

Commune Social (RMB98)

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A classic Negroni takes on edible form in the Foie Gras Panna Cotta, a texture playground of a dish that brings together luscious foie gras mousse, earthy toasted almonds, dots of herb oil and bright orange gems of Negroni jelly – a citrus burst on the front end and rounded bitterness on the back of the palate. The expert level balance of textures and tastes that runs through every plate at Commune Social finds no exception here. 

Dodu (RMB98)

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It only makes sense that at French rotisserie chicken joint Dodu foie gras would make its way onto the menu. Torched like a crème brûlée, we added ours to the champignons poêlé for that extra savory goodness.  

The Nest (RMB98)

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The Seasonal Foie Gras at The Nest is pan-fried with red wine, roast figs, pickled blueberries, radishes and radicchio for a winter-focused flavor profile that hit it big this holiday season with over 150 plates purchased alone on just Christmas Day. Damn, Daniel! This city loves foie gras. Check back in the summer though and the accoutrement will be quite different; as this dish’s name hints, it changes seasonally. 

SOiF (RMB105)

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Unexpectedly naughty, the Foie Gras at SOiF is a borderline inappropriately fat slab of seared foie topped with glistening beads of salmon roe, nori shreds and bonito flakes and perched atop Japanese miso sticky rice that would satisfy even the snobbiest of rice snobs. The charred, crisp exterior gives way to a luscious center that is ambrosial – a true food of the gods. 

Balanced

Cellar to Table (RMB135)

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Sinfully buttery the Rougie Foie at Cellar to Table arrives tableside, topped with scalloped grapes and served alongside a quenelle of green apple and caramel chutney and homemade sourdough. Although the portion may appear small, the spread is über flavorful, so even the thinnest spread packs a punch. 

Sober Company (RMB138)

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Sober Company’s Foie Gras Mapo Tofu is much sweeter than the Sichuan style, playing into the Canto theme of the food menu. The buttery foie gras mimics the texture of the soft tofu cubes, making the entire dish overly creamy. Although the small bits of ground pork add some texture, this dish could even be enjoyed by a denture-sporting shushu

The foie gras is truly excessive, and what it adds to the dish is minimal – aside from the boasting privilege of mentioning said ingredient – but if foie is what you seek, you’ll be happier than the spice lovers that are left with more sugar and tomato-y tang than lingering heat. 

Blaz (RMB148)

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At Blaz, one of Shanghai’s newest French wine bars, the Foie Gras is a rich quenelle of whipped butter-textured mousse. Paired with thick cut ribbons of cured duck breast that have been crusted in osmanthus, coriander seed and Sichuan peppercorn, the tangy apricot chutney served on the side cuts through the unctuous fattiness present in the rest of the dish. 

Azul (RMB158)

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Whimsical is the key way to describe the menu at the new Azul, and the Betun de Foie is just that. A shoe-polish looking foie gras mousse is served in a shoebox with a “shoe polish” tube of apple chutney – an ode to the shoe shiners of Argentina’s back streets. Served in an actual shoe box with toasted bread, consuming this foie gras is all about the experience of tricking your senses – playing with ingredients in such a way that your eyes see one thing but your mouth tastes another. 

Coquille Foie Gras Crème Brûlée (RMB158)

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Sitting in a world halfway between an appetizer and a dessert, the Foie Gras Crème Brûlée at Coquille comes in as the most well balanced dish on this list. The foie gras' true flavor comes through most, yet it works as if it was invented for crème brûlée form. 

A mix of eggs, cream and the foie gras form a luscious base, while crisp brûléed sugar creates a thin seal just asking to be broken. Tokaji jelly and fresh raspberries add a balancing sour note to the plate, while toasted spiced walnuts round it all out with a perfect hint of earthy crunch. 

KOR (RMB158)

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Porky, soup-filled and stuffed with foie gras, the Foie Gras Wontons at KOR sit in a world halfway between a xiaolongbao and hongyou chaoshou… but fancy. Swaddled in a mix of zippy red chili oil, sesame seeds, cilantro and crunchy peanuts, these already over-the-top dumplings are finally dusted in thinly shaved Pecorino Romano, taking them to a next level bite. 

Ballin’

Epices & Foie Gras (RMB188)

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With the words ‘foie gras’ in the actual restaurant name, Epices and Foie Gras is the poster child for all things duck liver… the appetizer section alone features at least three different foie gras dishes at any given time, and the Trilogy of Foie Gras – that showcases foie gras in three different ways – is just one of those starters.

The ménage à 'foie' starts with a foie gras panna cotta topped with tart raspberry jam and a candied pecan. With the texture of airily light cheesecake and the buttery crumble crust, you could easily convince someone to enjoy it as a dessert. 

Next in line comes a more traditional pan-seared foie gras. Seasoned with five spices and topped with sautéed sweet bell pepper slivers, this creamy liver’s texture is contrasted by the mango jam-slathered toast it rests on. 

The third serving comes as a denser terrine, served with another piece of toast and balanced kumquat jam. 

Anchor (RMB198)

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At Anchor, chef Conrad Van Den Heever puts a South African spin on the Foie Gras Torchon to remind him of home. First marinated in rose baijiu and Chinese five spice for 24 hours, the foie gras is then sous vide to form a velvet-textured roll. Served alongside rose baijiu-preserved summer peaches with a lashing of chestnut aioli and bright Mirin pickled mustard seeds, we understand how this dish could be homey and comforting to just about anyone. 

Hakkasan Duck (RMB228 or RMB438 with 10 grams of caviar)

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To begin any meal at Hakkasan, one would commit a cardinal sin by not ordering the signature Crispy Duck, which is now served with a generous portion of battered, buttery foie gras contrasted against crisp lettuce and fried bean curd. Slather on a shmear of plum sauce before wrapping it all up in a charcoal and black sesame pancake and topping it with a hefty dollop of golden Kaluga imperial caviar for a food-gasmic mouthful – the rest of the world melts away leaving just you and this bite as all that matters in the entire galaxy.  

Mavis (RMB228)

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"In culinary school, I learned to throw just about anything into a wagon wheel," says chef Jeremy of Mavis. And that he does with the Pigeon Pithivier – a beef wellington-esque flaky pastry roll stuffed to the brim with pigeon breast, foie gras, and – get this – eel. By building an outer layer of forcemeat insulation made up of ground pigeon breast, liver and heart, the most important and delicate pieces of meat stay extra juicy and tender. The unctuous foie gras just melts into the pigeon flesh for the ultimate carnivore's delight. 

Le Coquin (RMB268)

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Named after the Italian opera composer, Gioachino Rossini, Tournedos Rossini are edible decadence composed of fillet mignon topped with pan-fried foie gras served alongside a shmear of black truffle mashed potatoes. Although this dish can be found on other French haute cuisine menus, the expert execution at Le Coquin makes it all the more memorable. 

Mess (part of brunch set for RMB398 per person)

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The concept of Mess, the new restaurant out by the Modern Art Museum, is the full character embodiment of its larger-than-life, human dynamo, gregarious host of a head chef, Shahaf Shabtay, who throws an ambitious amount of elements together. But it works. 

Chef Shahaf intertwines all he has found on his travels and his culinary explorations. Cue the Columbian Arepas, warm cornmeal biscuits, stuffed to the brim with seared foie gras and potato salad – one of the free flow side dishes that make up part of the weekend brunch menu. Potatoes, cornmeal and foie gras? Not the most traditional of pairings but worth seeking out. 

Coquille Beef Wellington (RMB1,688)

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Coquille's Beef Wellington is the motherload, the pièce de résistance, the ultimate in all things indulgent, and it's worth every damn kuai. Medium-rare Australian Wagyu M9 Tenderloin is nestled against a fat – in every possible meaning of the word – piece of foie gras and surrounded by an inner casing of chopped truffle mushrooms and an outer layer of flaky filo dough crust. Sliced into four entrée size portions, each piece is topped with truffle butter and served alongside M9 Beef Carpaccio, Uni, and Superior Oscietra Caviar. 

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In most items on this list, the foie gras is purely excessive – using an expensive ingredient to make an already fantastic dish that much more, well, expensive. But here, the foie gras actually serves a purpose and elevates the dish to something more special. The hero elements of foie gras are pulled to the forefront to create a better collective consumption experience.

Coquille's Beef Wellington puts foie gras center stage in a way that highlights its best attributes, but it still works together exceptionally in a cohesive manner with the other, equally bold ingredients. 


Click here for more Bargain, Balanced, Ballin’ 

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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