Lunch: Song Qi Monaco by the blog « What I ate today and why »


It took us a while to find Avenue Princesse Grace, though I’m not entirely sure why; once we got there, it was basically the street that runs parallel to the sea. But on the way down past the Casino, there were so many twists and turns (including going past the famous Fairmont hairpin bend) that we initially found ourselves on a back street – but thankfully made it in the end.

Lunch was booked for us at Song Qi at 1pm, and so we walked past it first, as we were there around 11.30am. We didn’t know what to expect other than that it looked Asian, so we wandered along up the boardwalk  next toLarvotto beach, stopping for a cold drink (it was really, really hot) then back through the gardens lining the Grimaldi Forum.

When we arrived back at Song Qi, we found dozens of people milling around, including a camera crew – we were basically at the press opening of Alan Yau’s first restaurant in Europe outside of London, and what appeared to be the first luxury Chinese dining experience on the Riviera.

Even more brilliant, the great man was there himself! And as one who loves Wagamama and Busaba, among others, it was nice to get to meet him and have a bit of a chat about his new launch. Apparently, he’s been thinking about this since 2008; Monaco is a prime location for the kind of food he does, and it’s suprising that no-one’s opened such a place already.

But the Monegasques are in for a treat; the restaurant is beautifully designed by a pair of French architects, and looks like the interior of a laquered Chinese box, all glossy black and gold surfaces, and jade coloured velvet chairs and banquettes. It has a deeply indulgent feel without being too heavy or formal, and I was sat in the middle of the restaurant, in a seating area which felt like being in a giant golden birdcage, with a journalist from Le Figaro and one from Nice-Soir, and a very glamorous girl from Chinese Vogue. None of them have a clue who Alan is, or his background, so I use my rusty French to fill them in.

The food, it has to be said, is magnificent; firstly, the chef comes to chop up our Peking duck at the table with a rather large cleaver. The cooking method uses an electric oven, and has been precisely tweaked so that the duck stays very moist; unusual perhaps for this dish, but it tastes delicious, served with home made pancakes, cucumber and spring onion, in the traditional style.

It’s followed by a dim sum platter, of har gau (with prawns), scallop shuimai, spinach and prawn dumpling, and a chui chow dumpling (no idea but it tasted amazing). As a kind of decadent palate cleanser we had a small bowl of lamien noodles in a light broth with a (very generous) spoonful of caviar on top – that worked VERY well. The caviar left a delicate, salty taste and the hand pulled noodles were chewy (in a good, al dente way).

That wasn’t even the main course. The main course was epic. It involved Black Angus rib eye beef with black pepper, which had a pleasing nose-tickling quality, steamed turbot in soya, ginger and spring onion sauce (that was just awesome – big chunks of fish supported by subtle flavours), steamed prawns with black bean ( and stir fried asparagus, lotus, chinese celery, daikon and cloud ear mushrooms.

By this point I was stuffed, and also getting a bit merry what with the constant top ups of a very nice Sauvignon Blanc. We’re there for approximately three hours, but it’s three hours well spent. The food is simply delicious; there is nothing heavy, or claggy, or over powering, or pointless. I think Mr Yau has got another hit on his hands.

Atmosphere: 9/10 – delightful by day but I can imagine it will feel sexy and intimate at night

Food: 9/10 – Alan does it again

Value for money: 8/10 – in this case you do get what you pay for.

The food is simply delicious; there is nothing heavy, or claggy, or over powering, or pointless.

Blog : What I ate today and why