A few weeks ago we were invited for a truly unique experience – a sneak preview of the special Chinese New Year menu in Abu Dhabi’s most celebrated Chinese restaurant, so we new we were in for something special…

What most people consider to be ‘Chinese’ food anywhere outside of the Far East is actually a highly Westernised form of cuisine based mostly on Cantonese food. However, anyone who has actually been to China will tell you that a truly Chinese culinary experience is a wholly different affair altogether. Bridging that gap between Western perceptions and Chinese realities is the Shang Palace. Billed as one of the most authentic Chinese culinary experiences you’ll find anywhere in the region, the Shang Palace gives you a true taste of China without the severe culture shock of some of the more weird and exotic dishes that can be found in China itself (fried Scorpions, anyone?). And the Chinese New Year menu, created particularly for the Chinese residents of Abu Dhabi, was to be no exception.

First off was the very traditional Chinese New Year dish of Happiness Yee Sang. The accompanying plum and soy sauces are drizzled over the salad-style dish, and then the whole thing is tossed as high in the air as you can without making a complete mess – the higher it goes the better luck for the New Year! With the Yee Sang came the appetisers, which were beef slices rolled in enoki mushrooms, chicken and seafood wontons with Chinese vinegar soy sauce, and double- boiled crab meat soup with dried scallops. So far, so good – none of the dishes took us by surprise, boasting familiar Chinese flavours, whilst introducing us to dishes we’d never experienced before, all tasty, all devoured!

“So far, so good – none of the dishes took us by surprise, boasting familiar Chinese flavours…”

The same went for the mains. The steamed hammour fish fillet was delicious, as were the roasted chicken fillets served on prawn crackers, and the Wok-Braised Ee-Fu noodles with river prawns in spicy scallop sauce. After such an expansive menu (which we were assured was for three-to-four people, but we think could easily have fed five to six!), we struggled with the desserts, tasty as they were. The rice dumplings with sweet ginger tea were good, but the pan-fried sticky cake was our favourite.

Unfortunately, this particular set menu was specifically for the Chinese New Year, so is no longer available. However, several of the dishes are to be included on the a la carte menu, so if you’re up for a culinary adventure and a truly authentic Chinese experience, give the Shang Palace a try!