Inches is a swanky new Eastern/not-Eastern fusion joint in Binjiang, located on the tip of the western-pointing corner of the LongFor Paradise Walk complex on Jiangnan Avenue. There’s no access from inside the shopping mall itself, so make sure you get yourself outside the mall and avoid hunting in the wrong place on empty stomaches like we did.
John, Inches’ chef, does a fantastic job of marrying foods and flavors and techniques from in and around China with sublimely complimentary soulmates from all over the world.
We began with the Sous Vide Tuna Salad served with Lettuce, Spinach, Frizee, Cherry Tomato, Cucumber, Radish, and Walnut (68RMB); this is a very Japanese-inspired starter, with the tuna briefly pan seared and served with a creamy dressing with more than a hint of wasabi mixed in to pep up your step.
Much mellower was the Home Made Marinated King Salmon (58RMB); this was simple and delicious but unsurprising in flavor with the first bite, and then we noticed that the smokiness had been amped up to 11, making the aftertaste a completely separate experience. I haven’t compared salmon to whiskey before, but this reminded me of some of my favorite peaty scotches in its one-two flavor punch.
The last of the starters was the Pan Fried French Duck Liver served with Century Chinese Bok Choi, Crouton and Walnut (98RMB). I’m a huge sucker for anything that reminds me of foie gras and this was no exception. This was easily my favorite dish of the afternoon, particularly in its use of the bok choi: you may have seen this preparation method in other dishes; it’s prepared by shredding the leaves and cooking them in soy sauce, salting them up and softening them down. Also excellent and surprising was the deep purple sweet beet sauce it was served with, which I’d assumed it was a raspberry puree at first glance. After I’d stuffed myself with the rest of the offerings I somehow had room for a second helping of this one.
We enjoyed two pasta dishes, a creamy Crab Gratin (68RMB) risotto dish, and a zesty-spicy prawn Squid Ink Spaghetti (108RMB). I enjoyed both and I’d love to have a second go at the spaghetti, as I had it only after it had endured an extensive photoshoot and lost some of its heat by the time I got to it.
The first of the main dishes was the Sous Vide French Fat Duck Breast served with Hoisin Sauce, Crispy Leeks, Cucumber, and Cherry Tomato. This was a massive steak-like portion, succulent and uh, ducky in its flavor. The skin was scored and fried up after a long dip in a sous vide bath, making for easy slicing of perfect skin and meat bites. At 68RMB, this was a steal.
Next, the Roasted Red Fish (118RMB) and the Sous Vide Marinated Lamb Chops (148RMB); these were the most “normal” of all the dishes insofar as what you saw and what you tasted were in perfect alignment. The Red Fish was my favorite of the three mains, crispy skin with a squeeze of lemon, and prepared in such a way as to make the bones almost a non-issue, it was easy to love in a comfort food way.
I’m running out of room here but I’d be remiss if I didn’t gush a little about their cocktails. The Green Bamboo Snake, the Poison, and the Antidote (all 85RMB) are all unique and enjoyable additions to the Hangzhou cocktail scene. The dangerous-sounding ones keep the taste of bourbon and gin (respectively) front and center in their flavor, but the antidote keeps its whiskey hidden under layers of other tastes.
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