Yi Long Unveils 'Secret' Madame Ching Modern Canto Menu

By Sophie Steiner, November 23, 2023

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The Place 

After the abrupt closure of Joye&Sam’s basement food court, our greatest lament was the loss of Madame Ching x Anarkia, a fresh Chinese concept backed by self-trained Chef Dali Wong.

READ MORE: Joye&Sam: The Everything Everywhere All at Once Venue

Thankfully, Chef Dali – an Australian born to Hong Kong parents – is serving up his whimsical spins on the Cantonese delicacies of his childhood with his newly launched contemporary Canto menu at Yi Long on Donghu Lu. 

Image courtesy of Yi Long

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

What first opened as a luxuriously designed traditional Cantonese teahouse of sorts has continued to expand its offerings with a duo menu concept curated by – you guessed it – newly appointed Executive Chef Dali Wong: there’s Yi Long for the purists, and Madame Ching for those who are looking to be surprised. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And surprised is what you will be, as Chef Dali has deconstructed, dissected, and dismantled his way through conventional Cantonese cooking, bending the rules to rebuild unbridled, Frankenstein-esque recipes that combine a Cantonese flavor base with Western techniques and plating.

The Food

The shared kitchen epitomizes the symbiotic relationship between the two concepts; using the wastage from the established Cantonese side of the kitchen, Chef Dali reinterprets and repurposes flavors, resulting in unexpectedly intriguing plates.

“We are intentional about pushing the boundaries of culinary knowhow while respecting traditions,” explains Chef Dali, dunking a fried shaomai into an activated charcoal and finger lime sweet and sour sauce. “Our cuisine is familiar yet new, comforting yet refreshing.”

DSC00694.jpgBlackbeard (RMB58). Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Case in point, the counterpart to Yi Long’s Cantonese double-boiled broth that uses only the supplest heart of the bok choyis Madame Ching’s Green with Envy (RMB58).

Instead of throwing away the verdant outer leaves, Chef Dali blitzes them with coconut cream and five spice into a vegetal stew, topped with mantou crotons.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Similarly, Fishy Business (RMB68) uses Fujian yellowtail bones as a stock base, filled out with cream and Marsala wine, wood ear and enoki mushrooms, youtiao and fish skin crackers – a European-style soup base that doubles down on local flavors. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The tongue-in-cheek dish names further exemplify the playful tone of the menu, like Light Me Up (RMB78) – a twist on Cantonese beef brisket curry, made with shredded tenderloin and rolled into fried spring roll cigarillos, a cheddar curry sludge-like dipping sauce on the side…

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

... and What’s the Catch? (RMB68) – whitebait coated in seasoned flour then deep-fried, flecked with curry mala seasoning and dunked in tangy XO aioli.

The ideal drinking snack. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Equally addicting, the Skinned Alive (RMB48) showcases fish skin chips, liberally coated in a salted egg yolk crumble that leaves the palate salty and slick.

A dusting of smoked cayenne lends a necessary spice to cut through the yolk’s unctuousness.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Ubiquitous with the Canton region, char siu is a pillar of siu mei cuisine – sauce-laden, spit-roasted meats over an open fire – that finds its way to the mainstage of the Pirate Sandwich (RMB68) guabao.

A pillowy steamed mantou bun encases the aforementioned accordion-like fat-pleated char siu and pickled red onions, finished with a nip of laoganma chili labneh heat.

DSC00736.jpgBound and Tied (RMB68)  runner beans, olive leaves, truffle paste, chuhou mayo. Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

It requires audacity to mess with the perfection that is Italian carbonara, but Chef Dali does so with ease, siphoning laoganma foam over paccheri noodle tubes, the customary pancetta swapped for shredded Cantonese roasted goose as the Chained Up (RMB78)

DSC00794.jpgCurry Favour (RMB78) – curry prawn dumplings topped with caviar. Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Easily the best green vegetable we’ve consumed all year, the roasted Poseidon’s Lawn (RMB88) is a masterpiece.

Chef Dali first blanches the greens in his own lushui recipe, a Guangdong-style braising liquid used commonly for marinating meats (a master stock of sorts, with a slew of aromatics, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar and so on – giving the beloved Cantonese roasted meats their signature essence).

The crucial component in Chef Dali's lushui is nanjiang – or 'southern ginger' as it directly translates – an ingredient he describes as a cross between turmeric and ginger. When matched with star anise, cinnamon and his proprietary spice blend, it creates a depth of flavor we didn’t know broccoli could take on.

The broccolini are served over a velvety seaweed powder-speckled labneh, dribbled with XO oil and – get this – an XO crumble made by extracting the oil from this umami-rich sauce and dehydrating the residual ingredients (namely Guangdong seafood, chilis, onions and garlic) into a panko-esque sprinkle. 

A prime example of the mad scientist-level sorcery going on behind the scenes in Yi Long’s 20+ person kitchen. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Ubiquitous with Shanghai in the fall, hairy crab is the star of the seasonal Hairy Legs (RMB268), a plump globule of burrata perched atop abalone sauce-soaked baked orzo, swaddled in a smarmy local crab reduction. 

DSC00824.jpgFire in the Hole (RMB128) – phoenix tail prawns, nose-tingling wasabi mayo, flying fish roe, rice paper puff. Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Expect to find Cantonese roast goose – in shredded meat and crispy chip-like skin forms – when hoovering the Silly Goose (RMB248).

The goose’s carcass is used as a stock base to cook the chapa rice, that’s then baked on a charcoal pan in goose fat for kernels that char like Cantonese claypot rice. 

But the prize is the combination of smoke-imbued, fat-speckled goose liver sausage from Guangdong, and lip-pucker-inducing pickled gooseberries, all coming together in one glorious mouthful. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The pièce de résistance, the Captain’s Cut (RMB688) sees 750 grams of 36-hour bone-in beef short rib slathered unconventionally in a sticky, sweet char siu sauce – a glaze usually reserved for pork – and anchored to the plate by a truffle potato purée.

While the exceptional amalgamation of beef and potatoes with char siu sauce may clash with the philosophies of esteemed Cantonese conventionalist, the ineffably delectable result is worth throwing the culinary rule book out the window for. 

The drink menu is no afterthought either, curated as it is by Chase White (of Bar Blanc, a new drinkery on Julu Lu).

In fact, like Yi Long and Madame Ching, the cocktail menu also offers both a traditional and modern menu split, with beverages augmenting the dining experience through similarly Cantonese and Chinese-leaning ingredients. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Take, for example, the Dangerous Liaisons (RMB88) – featuring a blend of cognac, rye, and PX sherry shaken with a chengpi pu-er tea. 

The Golden Triangle (RMB88) is similarly slurpable, a gilded-hued sipper of reposado tequila, sweet corn, suze, lillet and fig leaf. 

The Vibe 

Madame Ching isn’t searchable on the holy bible of China restaurants, Dianping, making this fifth-floor locale all the more a clandestine destination.

You have to be in the know to know (and now you know).

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The old Hollywood-meets-Chinawood-inspired décor centers around a cocktail and tea bar, flanked by a wall-length wine display.

Image courtesy of Yi Long

Opposite that, a curving staircase heads up to the mezzanine, a maze of private rooms and a plush, velour-backed chair-filled lounge that sees ample daylight give way to more intimate vibes as the evening progresses.

Image courtesy of Yi Long

Image courtesy of Yi Long

Prices are beyond reasonable – for the portion, ingredient quality, and absolute wizardry that goes on behind the scenes. These are inimitable dishes – bites that shatter all notions of Cantonese cooking.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

In the works, look out for the launch of Dim Sum Disco Brunch in early December – free flow dim sum and drinks with a live DJ bumping groovy house disco tunes (from the dumpling steamer-basket designed DJ booth) every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4pm. 

Also on the horizon, Chef Dali plans to launch a late night menu from 11.30pm-1.30am with Madame Ching style bar snacks and house cocktails. 

Plus he's got another 'secret' menu in the works – so secret he can't even share the deets with us. 

(But we know there will be cow penis, so there is that...)

Price: RMB250-400
Who’s Going: Hip locals, well-traveled in China expats 
Good For: Curious foodie outings, happening dinner and late-night vibes, Canto craving satisfaction

Yi Long, 5/F, 20 Donghu Lu, by Huaihai Zhong Lu 东湖路20号5楼, 近淮海中路.

Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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