Yu Shan Ge is a high-end vegetarian restaurant close to the Shandao Temple MRT stop. Even though we took a taxi to it from our hotel, we realized it was actually a walkable distance and walked the way home. After the filling meal we had, walking was a smart choice.
The restaurant itself is nicely decorated and just stinks of money, but luckily not in a tacky way. There are glassed walls decorated by rocks strung on wire, beaded partitions, and dim lighting. While we were doing research on vegetarian restaurants in the area, we read that this place is frequented by celebrities but alas, we didn’t recognize any.
Yu Shan Ge serves food influenced by Japanese cuisine which is evident in the meticulous presentation of each dish and the little speech that our waitress gave before setting down the food. Everything we ate had some florid, touchy-feely, spiritual story behind it. While it’s typically a turn off for me, I was surprised that most of the food was tasty enough for me to overlook the over-the-top presentation.
The first thing the waitress brought us was this dish of water with rose petals and a lemon slice floating on top. I was immediately reminded of the story of the boorish American who thought the finger washing dish was some sort of cold soup. It felt strange rinsing my hands in this bowl of cold water while the waitress smiled and looked on, but at least my hands were clean.
Because Will doesn’t eat dairy or eggs, we had to ask them if they could modify the already vegetarian menu to his restrictions. Luckily, the waitress seemed happy to accommodate.
The first dish we were presented was a cold appetizer plate of vegetarian sushi and salad. The bite-sized piece of fake salmon was actually some sort of agar preparation. It didn’t have the same texture as real salmon, but tasted good nonetheless. The custardy tofu on a cracker was also nice.
One of the soups we had that night really stood out because of its mouthfeel. The broth was rich, thick, and coated my mouth the way a slow-simmered pork broth would. I think it was a vegetarian rendition of shark fin soup and it was one of the best I’d ever had.
We also had a taro root porridge type dish which was presented in such a thoughtful way. It was brought out to us on a straw mat with an orchid plant on the side and some rocks. Even though we were sitting in a dark restaurant, it was cute that the chef wanted to bring a little nature to his dishes.
The only letdown of the dish came in the form of what I assumed was the main course. I think it was supposed to be a vegetarian play on steak and gravy and it certainly looked nice, but the taste just wasn’t good. The texture of the steak, which I think was made of chopped mushroom was actually decent, if not a little weird at how accurately they mimicked the fibrous texture of real steak. What broke the dish was the sauce. It was too peppery, sweet, and sour. It made me think of gravy made out of Chinese spices, which might have been what it actually was.
No Chinese meal would be complete without rice, and this meal was no exception. Unfortunately, by the time the savory, sticky rice came out, I was beyond stuffed. I could barely manage to finish half my bowl of rice.
Dessert was a good breather. I was dreading that it would be something really sweet and filling like a pastry, but then that would go against the restaurant’s whole message. Instead, we were brought out some cut up fruits and a bowl of sweet soup filled with white woodear mushrooms, dates, and papaya. It was sweet, but just the perfect amount of sweet.
Yu Shan Ge is certainly not priced as a casual place to stop by and eat, but it is worth going there at least once for the experience. Their mini-speeches before each dish is a little hokey for me, but it’s worth sitting through just for the food.
Yu Shan Ge
14, Bei Ping Dong Rd (at Shandao Temple MRT)