If you go to Tai’an Table for the first time, wear your walking shoes. The 20-seater restaurant is secreted away in an office compound deep off Zhenning Road, and even if you take a Didi to the entrance, you might end up circling the complex before spotting its greyed out logo, which is what I did (hint: it’s the first building on the right).
Tai’an Table is purposely discreet – you have to ring a doorbell to enter – because it’s meant to feel like a dinner party at a friend’s home. If your friend is owner and chef Stefan Stiller who’s charging you at least ¥1,228 to eat there. But for that price, you get to see the German national move around the open kitchen observing the cooking through his magnetic glasses, plating food, and serving diners.
Opened in 2016, Tai’an Table started with a menu of 14 fixed courses that got them a Michelin star the year they opened. In July, they swapped that out for three options: 10, 12, or 14 dishes. Everyone gets eight core items that rotate every two months, and you pick the rest off two sections: classics, which have a three-month lifespan, or the weekly specials. It’s a change that seems to have worked – the restaurant retained its star for the third year in a row in September.
It’s a pity that specials only last for seven days because the tom yum goong, one of the options on the current menu 17, is delicious. The lobster soup was briny and full of zing, and the scampi exploded with juiciness. If you don’t see it on the menu, lobby Stiller to bring it back.
Other seafood dishes are just as memorable. Little clouds of trout roe turned into depth charges that sprayed umami over smooth arctic char and crunchy cucumber, sweet and nutty bouchot mussels provided brawn to a lightly poached sole fillet, while the classic sea urchin with brown butter and sourdough was delightfully creamy. Dinner gradually weaves from sea to land with the tea egg-like oeuf en meurette, simmered with beetroot and port until luscious, and a beef short rib. Cooked for 10 days, it’s achingly tender and comforting, only for a snap of the crispy beef tendon to restart the experience again.
101-102, Building No.1, 465 Zhenning Road, Lane No.161 / 镇宁路465弄161号1号楼101-102号
173 0160 5350