Song, a dynasty renowned for its prosperity, was the heyday of the Chinese nation’s cultural exuberance, where all aesthetics, from culture to living scenes, were interpreted to the extreme. The Song people were endowed with a daring spirit for breaking with tradition. Driven by an inclusive atmosphere and economic affluence, the Song populace engaged in a vibrant social and domestic life, enjoying a wide-array of entertainment places including tea houses, restaurants, and perhaps the most prevalent – organized banquets, from court banquets to feasts held by powerful local officials. They can be vastly luxurious and expensive to host.
The Song Dynasty marks an important notch for Sichuan cuisine because during that time Sichuanese food travelled to the Central Plain of China and since became a national popular cuisine. The popularity of banqueting during the Song Dynasty also contributed to the flourishing of Sichuan cuisine. Besides, three of the four great inventions of ancient China were made during the Song Dynasty, and that one of the most crucial influences on Chinese cuisine was the invention of the iron wok. It is believed that this simple utensil can give rise to qi, which connects and pervades everything in the world, including cooking.
Nestling on a secluded island overlooking the serene Luhu Lake, Silver Cottage draws on the classic scenes from Xi Yuan Ya Ji (or西园雅集图, ‘Xi Yuan elegant gathering of eminent scholars’) and aura of Song Dynasty daintiness to offer an exquisite experience with culinary delights and leisure activities. Upon entering the restaurant, guests will be welcomed by typical daily scenarios of the Song Dynasty, including broidering, guzheng-playing, tea-making, incense-burning, flower-arranging and indoor decor paintings. Guests will also be provided with Song Dynasty costumes to get a taste of the ancient lifestyle, experiencing rich culinary culture and Song-style elegance.
Dishes are at the core of everything. Sow in spring to grow in summer, reap in autumn and stock up for winter. The wisdom imparted by this ancient Chinese proverb is a good starting point for understanding Silver Cottage’s approach to its dishes: valuing food’s body-nourishing properties and honouring the concept of seasonality. In designing the menu, Silver Cottage sought advice from Sichuan cuisine masters and historians specializing in the Song Dynasty, basing each of its dishes on a Song ci poetry. Drawing on the sophistication and techniques of Song-style banquets, Silver Cottage embodies the timeless traditional Sichuan cuisine in a variety of presentations, ingredients and flavours.
The Song Dynasty poet He Zhu once wrote ‘the moon is reflected in the curtains and the ice is born in the jade’. Having cold dishes was indicative of prestige and high social status at that time. This dish mainly features Juyondai sake-soaked foie gras, chilled flower crab and sweet prawns, paired with spring bamboo shoots and house-special sauce with an infusion of peppercorn and wasabi spice, creating a brand-new experience that is bright and refreshing. It’s shaped with a semi-ice ball made of rice and highlighted by candles to recreate the imagery of the moon.
Butterfly Bamboo Fungus Soup
Known for being a secret recipe among the versatile culinary world of Sichuan cuisine, the Butterfly Bamboo Fungus Soup here served at Sliver Cottage is passed on by master Zhang Zhongyou himself, who is a renowned Confucian chef. As a widely famed fare that’s seldomly seen in restaurants, the dish is accomplished by a vivid butterfly made from chicken breast velvet with its cute, dotted wings using vegetable juice for colour; even the butterfly’s tentacles are handled with great care. Placed in a rich broth, this dish is an elevated poetic denotation just as dragonflies dipping the surface of the water.
Plum Noodle Soup
This is a classic soup dish from the recipe book Shan Jia Qing Gong of the Song Dynasty. White plum blossoms are hand-picked during the Great Cold (24th solar term), finely chopped and brought to broil in a sandalwood soup and mixed with flour to shape delicate plum blossoms, before cooked in chicken broth to bring out a unique fragrance portfolio. The result is a cuisine with an incredible elegance massively loved by the literati of the Song Dynasty. Due to seasonal restrictions, Silver Cottage replaces plum blossom with rose petal and replicates the whole process under instructions from a renowned noodle master, saluting Song-style elegance and delicacy.
Hibiscus Chicken Velvet
The Hibiscus Chicken Velvet sees two great skills of Sichuan cuisine marry one another – molecular gastronomy Mashed Chicken (雪花鸡淖, literally snowflake chicken), where chicken meat is finely mashed into cloud-like velvet, and Sichuan rice product, which can be traced back to a celebrated noodle master Mr. Lin Jiazhi. Rice products is a regional cooking technique near the brink of loss and was passed on by master Lin to master Zhang Zhongyou. Silver Cottage has put an elegant twist on this ancient recipe by making the rice into cute ‘flower petals’ to add complexity. Saluting the city flower of Chengdu, the dish presents a delicate blooming ‘hibiscus flower’ made by finely mashed chicken velvet that are almost soft as clouds and light as snowflakes. The velvety, delicate, and smooth mouthfeel of the chicken is paired with petals made from rice products cushioned underneath. A classic Sichuan dish that interestingly and deliciously combines meat and vegetables.
Tableware is tailormade to specifically recreate the atmosphere of a Song Dynasty feast. The owner Zhou Ziling partners with Li Qing, the founder of Shushan Kiln, to perfect ceramics pattern design and manufacture, spending two years to eventually decide on using a relatively less mainstream ware during the Song Dynasty – white porcelain. By adjusting ceramic powder compositions, they were able to increase the translucent beauty and the austere, ivory-white and warm-glazed vessel surface. Li uses line patterns in his design to showcase the beauty of the Song Dynasty. What’s more, guests will be served sake in ancient drinking vessels to complete the dining experience. Life in the Song Dynasty is perhaps something like this.
The enchanting banquet draws a poetic end with the flowing sound of the guzheng and the bamboo flute, but the pursuit of a highly aestheticized way of life continues here.
公关副总监 Lucy Lee,
公关专员 Daniel Zhu,
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