Shanghai Full House: Fusion of Sichuan and Huaiyang Cuisine

Shanghai Full House is not merely an upgraded version of The Hut, but a completely new and independent concept: a fusion of Sichuan and Huaiyang Cuisine.

The fusion of Sichuan and Huaiyang Cuisine is not simply placing Sichuan and Huaiyang dishes side by side on the menu. Instead, it involves a harmonious blend where each cuisine complements the other. Huaiyang cuisine is renowned for its delicate techniques and precise knife skills, while Sichuan cuisine is famous for its bold flavors and rich seasoning. Full House integrates these elements, combining the finesse of Huaiyang with the robust taste of Sichuan, to create dishes with a distinct Shanghainese flair, reflecting the city’s understanding of contemporary culinary trends.

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The name Full House is particularly intriguing. Its English name, Full House, not only suggests a full dining room but also symbolizes a winning hand in poker, implying good fortune and skill. The Chinese name “福廬” incorporates the character for fortune (福), cleverly chosen to resonate with both luck and the founder Zhu Jun’s humorous and lively personality. The restaurant features only three private dining rooms, each named after a card: King, Queen, and Jack. The layout is sophisticated, resembling a private club, with meticulously designed dishes that are both delicate and imaginative, easy to eat, and primarily served individually. This setup makes Full House an ideal venue for hosting international guests.

The name 「福廬 Full House」is quite intriguing. Its English name, Full House, not only signifies a fully booked restaurant but also represents the poker hand. The Chinese name sounds similar to “Full House” and includes the character “福”, which denotes luck. This clever naming reflects the witty and humorous personality of its founder, Mr. Zhu Jun. The restaurant features only three private dining rooms, each named after a card: King, Queen, and Jack. The layout is sophisticated, resembling a private club, with meticulously designed dishes that are both delicate and imaginative, easy to eat, and primarily served individually. This setup makes Full House an ideal venue for hosting international guests.

Located in the bustling city center, Full House offers a tranquil escape with its understated black-and-gold design. The menu features 19 meticulously crafted dishes, each displaying culinary artistry despite the seemingly extensive list. The first dish of the evening, “Zucchini Wrapped in Jellyfish with Shredded Pickled Radish,” captures immediate attention. This dish, which gained popularity from the TV drama Blossoms Shanghai, uses finely carved Yunnan zucchini to resemble a lifelike golden carp. Inside the carp are shreds of jellyfish marinated in sand ginger, offering a refreshing and fragrant taste.

Next is the “Scad Sashimi,” a traditional Huaiyang cold dish. This dish uses Indonesian scad, cured and marinated, then dyed with beet juice to create a striking red color and arranged in the shape of a butterfly. This follows the previous cold dish, showcasing Huaiyang cuisine’s intricate knife skills and presentation.

Scad Sashimi

“Crispy Eel, Wuxi Style” features the entire spine of an eel, retaining the classic Huaiyang flavor. Twice-fried, the eel becomes crispy and is flavored with a sweet, sour, and mildly spicy sauce, making it an ideal appetizer. The “Sunflower Chicken in Chili Oil Sauce” combines secret Sichuan spices with Guangdong sunflower chicken, topped with minced ginger, offering a unique blend of regional flavors. The sauce is well-balanced, enhancing the tender and sweet chicken.

Another standout dish is “Scallop with Spicy Eggplant,” using Australian scallops that are crisp and sweet, served atop a base of tangy and spicy minced eggplant, and accompanied by Sichuan-style pickles. This dish provides a layered and satisfying flavor experience.

Balancing innovation and tradition in Huaiyang cuisine, the “Celery Salad with Rattan Pepper & Quick-Boiled Curd Slices with Shrimp Roes” stands out. It combines traditional Huaiyang dried bean curd with shrimp roes for added freshness, paired with seasonal peppery celery, creating a fresh and numbing interplay of flavors.

The “Stewed Bone Fish Soup with Turtle Rim & Watershield” is a nourishing delight. It features the tender cheek meat of fish, simmered in turtle soup, garnished with seasonal water shield and a touch of angelica root, resulting in a light and flavorful broth. Full House also offers a fusion of traditional Sichuan and Huaiyang cuisine with the “Pan-Fried Minced Shrimp with Quail Egg Served with Stir-Fried Minced Chicken with Egg White.” The egg white, made from finely minced chicken breast, has a soft texture that pairs beautifully with the intricate “elephant eye” of bread, shrimp paste, and quail egg. This dish, with its complex preparation and layered flavors, exemplifies the meticulous craftsmanship of Full House.

Pan-fried Minced Shrimp with Quail Egg Served with Stir-Fried Minced Chicken with Egg White

The “Signature Fried Shelled Prawn in House Special Sauce” is a true delight. The prawns are intricately carved to resemble blooming peonies, with succulent meat enhanced by the fermented flavors and smoky aroma of pickled peppers and bacon. It is a dish that leaves a lasting impression. Next, the “Pan-Fried Fish Maw with Shrimp Roes” features a fragrant pan-fried fish maw weighing over eight pounds, paired with Shanghai chili sauce. The soft, glutinous texture of the fish maw resembles an upscale version of spicy rice cakes.

The “Boiling Oil Scalded Pigeon, Leshan Style” is masterfully executed at Full House. This dish presents pigeons in two ways: the traditional Huaiyang-style stir-fried pigeon breast in the center, and the Leshan-style oil-scalded pigeon legs, embodying the fusion of the two cuisines.

Signature Fried Shelled Prawn in House Special Sauce

The “Braised Shark’s Fin with Crab Meat” is another must-try dish. The tender shark’s fin, paired with sweet and savory crab meat, offers a rich and varied taste experience. The “Fan-shaped Smoked Yellow Croaker” is equally surprising. Using the local braising technique, only the tail of the yellow croaker is selected, slow-cooked and smoked with tea rice for a unique flavor. Served with a special sauce and presented in a fan shape, it adds an elegant touch to the table.

The “Stir-fried Boiled Pork Slices with Hot Sauce Served with Pancake” features black-haired pork raised in the mountains, paired with butterfly-shaped pancakes and orchid tofu. The slight sweetness, characteristic of Shanghai cuisine, complements the rich layers of flavor. The small, adorable pancakes are delightful. The “Stir-Fried Seasonal Vegetables” combines the fresh sweetness of winter melon with the aged flavors of ham, resulting in a savory broth.

Finally, the meal concludes with the Crab Meat Buns, a perfect combination of savory crab meat and steamed buns. This dish also echoes the theme of the braised shark’s fin with crab meat, bringing the entire banquet to a satisfying conclusion.

According to Mr. Zhu Jun, the founder of Full House, there was a famous restaurant called Meilong Town on Nanjing Road in the early 20th century, not far from Full House. It was a popular spot for Shanghai’s trendy crowd and business people, renowned for its Sichuan and Huaiyang cuisine. However, as time passed, Sichuan and Huaiyang cuisine lost its market appeal by the end of the century. Mr. Zhu hopes that Full House can revive the concept of “One River, Two Cities,” blending the culinary essence of Chengdu and Shanghai on either side of the Yangtze River. By introducing a unique fusion of Sichuan and Huaiyang cuisine, Full House aims to bring back the charm of those bygone days.

Designing a set menu is a challenging task for Chinese restaurants. Many people have preconceived notions and expectations about traditional Chinese cuisine, and diners often judge dishes based on their authenticity. However, Full House’s dishes have no established standards for comparison, as each dish is a unique and innovative attempt. Full House offers seasonal set menus throughout the year, each incorporating elements of banquet design. The number of dishes, their flavors, presentation, and serving order all vary and are carefully selected. Mr. Zhu believes that the concept of Sichuan-Huaiyang fusion might once again become a popular trend in Shanghai, but this idea must first gain acceptance from diners.

Full House, with its unique fusion of Sichuan and Huaiyang cuisine, revisits the classics and revives the charm of Shanghai back in the old days, reminiscent of the era depicted in TV dramas like Blossoms Shanghai.

Mr. Zhu Jun, the founder of Full House and the Author

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Author: Jocelyn 华姐
Photo:  福廬Full House、Ye Shi

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Jocelyn Chen
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