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Common language of good food

By Li Xinzhu in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2012-09-29 09:55

Common language of good food

Sea Horse Sushi in Shanghai offers both crossover-style and traditional dishes. Provided to China Daily

There has never been a lack of good food in Shanghai, and stylish Japanese sushi houses have always been a favorite of the young white-collar urbanites.

It does take an X-factor to stand out among the competition, especially when there is such a crowd. Comfort and class are among the deciding factors, but being able to offer unique selling points is always the top concern among owners.

Sometimes, variety can be that necessary spice. Sea Horse Sushi Delivery's three outlets, for example, have totally different decor. The first branch was opened in 2010 on the famous commercial hub, West Nanjing Road. It opted for the modern sushi bar look with very clean tidy lines.

The second branch, just a five-minute walk away, is on Fumin Road where the competition comes from a neighborhood full of international cuisine offerings. This outlet is also much larger, with three stories. It has a full wall lined with spirits and a huge LCD television that screens Japanese anime.

Common language of good food

Now, the latest branch is also a change from its older siblings. The atmosphere here is more cafe like, with wooden chairs placed outside under giant umbrellas.

Thirty-something Zhao Yimin is the owner of the restaurant, and she has huge passion for food, especially Japanese cuisine. That obsession drove her to quit a job in a State-owned media company to start her own culinary business.

She decided to capitalize on her husband's talent and experience in an east-west fusion of sushi making, and that has proven to be their winning formula. The French approach is also reflected in a menu that also suggests wine-pairing for some dishes and both Japanese sake and French wines are on the list.

Smoked duck breast with foie gras and white truffle oil maki is the signature dish here, and certainly its most popular. It is also typical of the French-Japanese fusion Zhang is talking about.

In addition to all kinds of crossover-style dishes, the Sea Horse also duplicates traditional ball-shaped sushi that is now rarely offered commercially. A set portion of seven assorted ball sushi includes salmon, snapper, Hamachi or yellowtail, surf clam, scallop and beef.