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October 18, 2009

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French classics take on top local flavors

THE leaves in the trees of Sheshan's rolling hills have taken on a golden hue and the crisp, clear autumn days make it the ideal time to visit.

While appreciating a slice of natural beauty just an hour from downtown Shanghai, visitors can also find plenty that shines in the food offerings at Le Meridien Sheshan with a new French chef, an updated menu and a range of warming autumn promotions.

For American expats in China, the coming winter is synonymous with Thanksgiving, and Le Meridien is making sure this special family occasion is celebrated in style with a take-away Turkey dinner service.

Taking the hassle out of preparing a meal to enjoy with friends and family, Le Meridien is providing stuffed turkeys with a selection of traditional desserts and side orders delivered to a customer's door within 72 hours of ordering.

Prices start from 680 yuan (US$99.61) for a 5-kilogram turkey and orders received before November 19 enjoy a 15 percent discount.

Arriving just two months ago, Le Meridien's new executive chef Gilbert Steiner has hit the ground running, introducing a new menu that incorporates French classics and a range of Asian dishes taking in the best of the region's cuisine.

With classic dishes from the culinary traditions of Japan, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Vietnam, he has provided a bountiful selection for both Le Meridien's international visitors and Shanghai locals looking for a diverse, eclectic dining experience.

"We want to accommodate every different kind of taste because we have a strong local market as well as international travellers," Steiner said.

"We try to provide quite a big range of choice for everyone and I like to chat with guests and get feedback about what they like so we can respond to their demands."

There are a number of ways to tackle his new menu, with diners having the option to order four courses for 308 yuan and three courses for 240 yuan, plus a 15 percent surcharge.

Diners can also add two glasses of wine for 128 yuan or one for 68 yuan.

For those not wanting to order numerous courses, they can go for a la carte offerings that include Western dishes like burgers and sandwiches.

A set menu option that is a good showcase of the chef's skills in both traditional French food and Asian cooking is the "Indochinois" set for 258 yuan that offers both traditional French and Southeast Asian inspired dishes.

The set starts with a delicate pan seared tuna which has a Chinese five-spice crust and is very lightly seared so its middle has a sashimi-style rawness.

It is partnered with greens dressed with a citrus and passionfruit sauce that is a tart compliment to the fish.

Steiner then moves into a warming soup, a pot-au-feu-de with seared foie gras in a clear, clean beef broth with Thai-style flavorings. The broth is wonderfully light and the shiitake mushrooms, ginger, chilli and lemongrass give it a warming quality.

For main course, diners can enjoy a tender marinated piece of Australian beef tenderloin served with a side of roasted and stir fried vegetables and rice.

The beef has been marinated in olive oil and garlic and finished with a soy and rice vinegar sauce.

Steiner then demonstrates his background in classic French cooking, rounding out the set menu with a traditional vanilla creme brule.

It is well executed and the generous serve is enough to send diners off for a stroll through Sheshan's hills to work off their excesses.

While Le Meridien's popular weekend lunches have always provided the perfect excuse to escape downtown Shanghai's hustle and bustle for the quiet of Sheshan, its new menu also provides an intriguing selection to interest diners looking for a gourmet escape.


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