Yunnan is a lush province in China’s southwest heralded for its countryside charm and border influences. It is endowed with a progressive cuisine full of produce variety and fresh flavors.
Cha Ma Garden is Shanghai’s most comprehensive Yunnan restaurant. As far as positives go, it almost ends there. From the hundred or so pages of menu, we struggled to pick any standout dishes. Its offering is so vast it probably covers every single permutation the province has ever made.
To start, a plate of mint sprigs with garlic and chili, liangban bohe (凉拌薄荷, RMB18) proved mouth-wateringly fresh. Satisfying, too, is a row of mild goat cheese slices, dali shuijian rubing (大理水煎乳饼, RMB58). Served grilled and dipped in salt and chili, it adds a new dimension to Chinese appetizers.
A signature butterflied carp, grilled with a spicy crust, banxiang kao luofeiyu (板香烤罗非鱼, RMB78), blends delicate fish with powerful flavors. The carp here is too bony and watery to achieve distinction; Lotus Eatery's version is far superior. Our Yunnan-style mashed potato, laonainai yangyu (老奶奶洋芋, RMB26), was also disapointingly oily. Similarly lacking in content is the pu’er tea tossed shrimp, pu’er cha xiangxia (普洱茶香虾, RMB78). While the crisped tea leaves added distinct flavor, the shrimps are a little meagre and dry.
At Cha Ma Garden, it’s necessary to order a few extra dishes in the name of trial and error. With enough patience, you may discover a gem or two.
- Cha Ma Garden
- 021 6067-2538
- Shop 6-204, 699 Zhongshan Nan Er Lu (near Chuanchang Lu) [map]
- 上海市中山南二路699号正大乐城6-204 (近船厂路)
- ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆