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Shanghai: French chef takes an organic approach
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French chef Nicolas Vienne is looking to reinvigorate the Sofitel Shanghai Hyland's approach to food, focusing on organic and high-quality produce that kicks off with a special focus on foie gras next month.

Foie gras will be highlighted at both the Sofitel Shanghai Hyland's buffet and its Mosaic Restaurant. 

Vienne has started restaurants and cooked in resorts across the globe, from the island paradise of Bora Bora in Tahiti to Boston in the United States.

It was while he was working in the US that Vienne says he became a convert to organic produce, eventually starting an organic French brasserie in Boston.

He says he will be gradually moving the Sofitel Shanghai's menu toward listing the various suppliers, telling diners how the food on their plates is produced.

"We will start to visit our producers one by one and it will be the next step of our menu that we give all the details about where the produce comes from so people can know what they eat," he says.

Vienne started at the Sofitel just about two months ago from his previous posting with the group in Bora Bora.

Before that, he spent a year on the remote island of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific before working in Paris, Miami, Beirut and Boston.

During his time at Sofitel's luxury resort in Tahiti, he took the opportunity to continue to expand on his organic approach.

"During the two years there we started changing the way the kitchen operated, using organic, natural cleaning materials, organic bamboo plates made in Vietnam and also working with local producers," says the chef.

Vienne's approach has continued in Shanghai, where he is sourcing his foie gras from a local producer.

The foie gras is flash frozen to ensure its freshness and Vienne says he is impressed by the quality of the locally available product.

"To have a good foie gras, it must arrive between one and three days after the duck has been killed," he says. "If it is longer than this, it becomes bad and there are veins and red spots and it is not very good."

Poor-quality foie gras will also not hold its rich duck fat when cooked, and Vienne prefers to lightly roll his foie gras in rice flour or a tempura mix before searing it.

Foie gras will be highlighted at both the Sofitel Shanghai hotel's buffet and its Mosaic Restaurant.

Vienne has designed a range of Asian fusion-style dishes that showcase the foie gras in a number of dishes.

"Foie gras is typically French and we want to bring some French culture here with classic French produce with the foie gras, the cheese, the cold cuts, the pastries and the bread," he says.

One such dish is a simple fillet of sea bream partnered with a seared piece of foie gras.

The dish is finished with a drizzle of a sweet apple cider and brown sugar reduction that has subtle vanilla and caramel flavors.

A toffee sugar garnish with black sesame seeds crowns the dish.

Other interesting selections include a ravioli appetizer stuffed with foie gras, shrimps and ginger and served in a lobster broth, with an organic white cocoa bean puree.

"My signature is simply to serve the best produce with the right cooking time and fresh vegetables, but I also really like playing around with molecular techniques," he says. "I like to create new shapes, I like things geometric and not a mess on the plate."

Address: 505 Nanjing Rd E., near Fujian Rd
Tel: 6351-5888
Mosaic Restaurant is open from 11am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 10:30pm


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