From Glasgow to Edinburgh via Shanghai, Mamasan's tour of Asia in a culinary box
There was a time, a few years ago, that once a week I'd take a celebrity to lunch and then write about the experience.
Names including West End super-producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and EastEnders’ favourite John Altman who, despite his chilling portrayal of Nasty Nick in the long-running soap, is one of the nicest guys around, joined me to review that week’s eaterie of choice.
From the plushest of posh hotel dining rooms to homely family run pasta parlours, there were an equal number of good and bad experiences back then. Of the worst, well, the gritty scallops served up in one West End hotel still make my teeth grind, while Domenico's was easily the best kept secret we stumbled across. My favourite memory, however, is of walking into a Chinese restaurant in Leith accompanied by celebrity chef Ken Hom (addressed throughout as Master Hom by staff) and watching as every other table was put on hold as the entire kitchen was charged with ensuring his meal was perfect.
Today, of course, those reviews have given way to ‘At Home’ versions as restaurants adapt to survive the pandemic. One review request that caught my eye the other day came from Glasgow's Mamasan Bar and Brasserie – they were trialing a new Edinburgh delivery service of their Shanghai Box.
Founded by Capital-born Brad Stevens in 2020, Mamasan has become one of Glasgow’s most innovative dining concepts despite the lockdown. Diversifying, their ‘At Home’ service aims to transport you to a different South East Asian destination each month, promising a boxed culinary tour of Shanghai in February.
The menu comprises of a snack, lobster and prawn toast with burnt chilli sauce, a starter, aromatic braised duck leg spring roll with hoisin sauce, a side, egg fried rice, a main, sweet and sour Iberico pork with pineapple, banana shallots and dragon fruit and, for dessert, Asian pear sticky toffee pudding.
To wash it down there’s Shanghai Tea - a blend of green tea infused gin, lemon, peach infused chartreuse, lychee pearls and Sichuan pepper.
Everything you need for your meal is delivered to your door in an impressive presentation box that, when unpacked, makes you wonder if it’s bigger on the inside than the outside - there are 18 containers in all.
Simplicity and speed is the key when it comes to preparing ingredients - nothing takes more than 14 minutes to reheat.
So what of the food? Well, if lobster and prawn toast conjures up images of a fantoosh version of something your local take-away might serve, scrub that and imagine plump, finely seasoned fish cakes crammed with half a lobster tail and delicious prawns in each. Be warned, the accompanying burnt chilli jam is hot, hot, hot.
The spring rolls, crispy on the outside, succulent on the inside, are heaven when dipped in the hoisin sauce.
The most complicated dish to prepare, the sweet and sour Iberico pork with Jasmine rice, is an explosion of addictive flavours and has just the right kick.
Sweet tooth? You'll need one for the sticky toffee pudding and bubbling sauce, possibly the sweetest thing ever.
Which just leaves the refreshing Shanghai Tea... all the more intriguing thanks to the lychee pearls. Ganbei!
Pre-order a Mamasan Shanghai Box, (£65 serves two), at https://mamasan-onenightin.com