YEN: An Elegantly Modern Take on Jiangnan & Cantonese Cuisine

By Sophie Steiner, June 5, 2023

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A restaurant where “the traditional and contemporary blend to create a cuisine without comparison or compromise,” YEN at the W Shanghai – The Bund has upgraded their haute cuisine offerings by adding modern Jiangnan dishes to the previously Cantonese-leaning menu.


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Jiangnan cuisine is that of the lower Yangtze River region – think Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai.

So it makes sense that YEN has also welcomed Chef Alan Li, a Shanghai native who brings more than 20 years of culinary experience to the table.

His pedigree shows through with his own innovative spin on Jiangnan and Cantonese cuisine, as well as a few Shanghai favorites from his childhood thrown in for good measure.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Chef Li’s new menu sits at the heart of China’s diverse culinary culture – one that has brought people together for centuries through an array of time-honored traditional dishes and ceremonies.

At YEN, these plates are re-interpreted through creative imagination and passion, resulting in a tasteful collision of old and new. 

DSC04021.jpgImage by Sophie Steiner/That's

Begin with a classic Guangdong-style Poached Chicken (RMB170), plump and juicy with springy skin that is best savored slathered in scallion oil and ginger paste. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Jumping from conventional to whimsical, the Foie Gras Cube (RMB180) represents the melting pot of cultural influences in Shanghai.

The bite is one of contrasts: a velvety, umami-rich foie gras paste encased in a lip-puckeringly tart hawthorn and champagne jelly, curiously adorned with crackling, fruity popping candy.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Jasmine Black Pomfret (RMB155) is Chef Li’s take on Shanghainese xun yu, or smoked fish.

First dried, then flash-fried, the fish is coated in a sticky jasmine honey that seeps into the flaky folds, releasing a warming and floral syrupy sweetness with each bite, further enhanced by aromatic jasmine petals.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Presented like a work of art, the Confit Cherry Tomato (RMB85) falls in the same flavor profile as tomato brined in preserved plum, a cold dish commonly eaten as a palate cleanser in China’s Canton region.

In place of the plum’s sour notes, balsamic vinegar “caviar” pearls pop with each invariable tomato bite, elevated by fruit-forward acidic hibiscus juice. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An upscale version of you bao xia – Shanghainese-style quick-fried river shrimp – the Grass Shrimp with Scallions (RMB235) takes this dish to another level with meaty prawns fried to crispy perfection in a glossy sugar, soy, and vinegar marinade.

Piled high with a mountain of fried scallions, the allium puff up to a straw-like consistency, equally candied in a finger-lick-worthy haze of a glaze. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A notably qing dan – light-flavored – Huaiyang cuisine dish usually reserved for government officials, the Shredded Bean Curd Salad (RMB110), or Gansi – is a labor of love.

Chef Li showcases his knife skills, julienning the tofu ribbons in uniformity alongside dried scallops, shredded chicken, salty cured ham and bamboo shoots, all swimming in an umami-rich chicken broth.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The menu’s piece de resistance – the East Fujian Yellow Croaker Porridge (RMB688) – is theatrically cooked and presented tableside.

This Shunde, Guangdong “xian” style of congee soup sees the raw fish added to the robustly chicken-simmered stock, the heat of the congee cooking it through, all the while absorbing the fish’s delicately oily flavor. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

After being ladled into bowls, diners can choose to top their broth with aromatics like scallions, cilantro, white onions and crispy puffed rice, or savor it in all of its viscous richness, an added layer of slickness from glutinous rice. 

DSC04241.jpgRed Quinoa Salad (RMB120) with wild rice, sweet peas and gorgon seed, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Dessert offers Cantonese classics – like the Crispy Taro Swan Pastry (RMB45) balancing on a spinach jelly...

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

... or new-age sweets like the Shanghai Popcorn (RMB60) – a play on the streetside sweet popcorn stall snacks, perched atop a White Rabbit cream dusted with huamei fen, or preserved salted plum powder.

Image courtesy of YEN

YEN offers an expansive a la carte menu for both lunch and dinner, plus four different lunch set menus to choose from for RMB288 per person.

The team has also added a handful of new dishes to the famed free-flow dim sum brunch – including more Jiangnan dishes – now going for RMB388 per person.

YEN, W Shanghai – The Bund, 5/F, 66 Lvshun Lu, by Dongchangzhi Lu 旅顺路66号5楼, 近东长治路.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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