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Argentine cuisine gets fine dining makeover
By Ruby Gao

IF you think Argentine cuisine starts and finishes with heavyweight servings of grilled beef, then think again.

Unico Colagreco, a newly opened restaurant/bar on the second floor of Three on the Bund, has reinterpreted the South American country's signature dishes and ingredients to create a fine-dining experience, offering what management describe as "intimacy with nature."

The eatery is composed of two parts: Unico--Spanish for unique, a casual bar featuring Argentinian tapas and contemporary cocktail; and Colagreco--a fine-dining restaurant with twists of both Mediterranean and French, named after the co-owner Mauro Colagreco, the first Argentinian chef awarded with two Michelin stars.

Colagreco has a classical and elegant ambience, featuring by dark herringbone wood floors and red leather chairs.

This sophistication is offset by the quirky and colorful "Amazon Jungle" corner behind a glass wall. Here a pretty parrot named Coco Loco, sporting a yellow and white leather cap, holds court, helping bring a little piece of rainforest to Shanghai.

The food on offer features a balance between aroma, taste and visual presentation. The chef loves using fresh mint, petals and seasonal, colorful vegetables to create natural combinations.

For example, signature starter òThe Forestó (158 yuan) -- yellow quinoa, white parmesan cream cheese, wild mushroom with a spinach-colored savory sponge cake -- not only sees the plate looks like the forest but also highlights a delicate scent and a balance in texture.

And a dessert of raspberry, lychee and rose water blossom features a presentation filled with light contrasts: from the white lychee soba and rose-colored cream to ruby-colored raspberry. The result is layers of scent and starting from a strong floral note and ending with the sweet delicate rose aroma -- and a light, refreshing sweetness.

All the fragrances, petals and vegetables come from Unico Colagreco's own organic farm located in Pudong's Nanhui area, which ensures freshness. Most of the seeds are imported from the Mediterranean.

And of course, an Argentinian restaurant cannot live without quality beef. Argentina and Australia are Unico Colagreco's main sources of meat. Australian beef rib-eye (308 yuan) is strongly recommended. The rib-eye, after marination and a 120-day dry aging, is tender and flavorful, with buttery succulence.

The restaurant also distinguishes itself through its good collection of Argentina wine -- from red malbec to white chardonnay -- expressing strong New World fruit bomb character.

Unico, the lounge bar area, features a long marble central bar, plus unique ice-sculpture lighting, providing an aerial effect of light and ice.

Its cocktail and tapas menu, which plays on the theme of compass point coordinates, brings together contrasting territories. For example, one of their impressive tapas -- "S-38 W-64, the Pampas" -- is fresh oyster covered with paste made of passion fruit and coriander. The sweet-and-sour fruity flavor of the paste balances the salty and slightly fishy oyster.

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