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December 27, 2009

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Some new twists on old favorites

THE modern, two-floor bistro Fountain stands out in the heart of the landmark Xintiandi area with its cozy dining environment and attractive and delicious international cuisine.

It's versatility makes it all the more appealing.

It is a popular bar to hang out at night with its fine list of cocktails, but it's also a good place for lunch and to while the long winter afternoon away.

The Bistro menu retains a casual European style while flaunting international influences.

For starters and soups, try the signature Fountain Clam Chowder (60 yuan), a creamy soup made with juicy clams and served in a bread bowl.

The thick texture of the soup did not taste very heavy, nor greasy, thanks to the chef's addition of a splash of white wine. Mixed with carrots and onions along with bacon, the soup had several layers of flavor. The bread bowl is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

The Old Fashioned Fish & Chips Plate (160 yuan) proved to be a real winner and is strongly recommended. The firm, succulent Atlantic white cod fillet was cooked in a light, crispy batter served with tartar sauce.

The unforgettable taste includes a light wine flavor, bringing out the freshness and fragrance of the fish.

According to head chef Shane Wilkins, the batter's ingredients include Tsing Tao beer.

My guest gushed that it was "possibly the best fish & chips she had ever tasted in Shanghai."

For main courses, Fountain's menu includes Western staples such as char-grilled burgers, steaks and rotisserie chickens.

Wilkins says the Fountain Gourmet Burger (120 yuan) is the most popular item on the menu based on how often it is ordered. But on this occasion, he recommends their new Wagyu Wagyu burger (160 yuan). This gourmet burger includes a 150-gram premium wagyu beef patty along with Swiss cheese, pickles, fresh onion and mushrooms. Presented delicately with a fresh vegetable salad and French fries on the side, this burger set gets your stomach juices flowing. The beef was cooked to our liking - tender with a slightly salty flavor that retained the original taste of the meat.

An appropriate amount of juice drips down onto your hands when lifting the burger.

But for those who prefer white meat, I recommend the Grilled Chicken & Avocado Club Sandwich (120 yuan).

The chicken tastes a bit smoky and peppery, but the dry texture is balanced with some slices of bacon.

The combination of the meat, the distinctive dressing and multi-layered vegetables really provide a rich eating experience.

With a name like Fountain, you'd expect some good alcoholic beverages. The place doesn't disappoint.

Wash down either of these two heavy main courses with one of several creative cocktails.

The Shanghai Fountain Iced Tea (75 yuan) is a twist on the classic Long Island iced tea.

Fountain's Singaporean mixologist Zac Mirza skips the Coca-Cola and replaces it with a wolfberry sugar syrup and smashed medlar fruit. Pu'er tea is added to give it the usual Long Island color.

It tastes remarkably light for the sum of its parts, including the regulation two-and-a-half ounces of alcohol - equal measures of vodka, gin, rum and liqueur as well as lemon juice.

Another highlight on the list is Berry Bellini (65 yuan). It is a sensuous Champagne cocktail layered with strawberry, raspberry and creme de cassi. It looks and tastes great. The sweet fruit gives the Champagne a refreshingly light flavor.

Xintiandi's bars and restaurants are known to charge more than most places in town. But if you expect quality and quantity as well as good service to come with those prices, Fountain scores highly on these fronts.

Portions are large enough that women may want to share a main course. Service is considerate and unobstrusive.

For culinary adventurers, Fountain offers delicious food in inviting surroundings with quiet but attentive staff.


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