USA to Nanyang and back again. Here's a look inside Palmetto, Paradise Classic, and Bulldog Bar-B-Q.
What It Is:
Everyone likes that southern American cuisine — amirite or amirite. Who doesn’t have time for a little fried chicken and gravy? MmmMMMM! We’re talkin’ ‘bout the fine culinary traditions of the state of Ge-ORR-gia! Somewhere Justin Fischer’s tail is wagging like an old, old, old, (old) hound dog. Anyway, Palmetto. This is what the inside of Palmetto looks like. It’s still a work in progress but the broad strokes are there:
It’s kind of, yeah.. tasteful. Grown up. From its time as Ruijin Cajun, they’ve switched the bar around, redone the bathrooms, and opened up the backroom into sit-down dining. They’ve got some nice mosaic wall pieces and the floor is retro tiles. Colorful and kind of chic. Purposefully exposed wood and brick like it thinks it’s in Santa Monica. (Or Shanghai.)
The concerns behind the new place are Shanghai F&B lifers Paul Gray, Chef Gavin McAleer of chili and taco fest victories, and and Jason Oakley (Fifty 8° Grill, Laris, Coquille, Scarpetta) doing consulting on the project. With Oakley consulting, the menu is the product of Chef Gavin McAleer relying a bit or a lot on a Savannah background. Pauly Gray is behind the bar so you know it’s permanently Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. On our visit, the “Cocktails” portion of their offerings were still being determined but they’ve got these. Custom boozy teas:
Sweet Georgia Peach Tea, The John Daly, Fruity Surprise, and Minty (48rmb each)
Food is dig-in, family-style comfort food with a section of snacks (18rmb-50rmb), mains (70rmb-90rmb), a section of sides with or without meat (18-28rmb), and pie for dessert (48rmb).
Meatloaf and Onion Gravy (78rmb)
Southern Fried Chicken 3pc (68rmb); Mac 'n' Cheese (28rmb); Okra in Tomato Gravy (18rmb)
Cornbread and Sorghum Butter (18rmb);Boiled Peanuts 18rmb; Deviled Eggs (18rmb)
Food is finely wrought and finely deep fried. Chicken Fried Steaks, Pork Ribs, and Meatloaf, everything covered in gravy, coming with classic sides like Shrimp 'n' Grits, Creamed Peas, Green Beans with Country Ham and more. In doing it up you're getting a main and then pairing it with snacks and sides. Price wise it pretty much in the middle, tilting slightly upwards. Average spend around 150rmb-200rmb per person.
Food is lip-smacking good. It's classic deep fried American artistry and comes across as very heartfelt and genuine. It's like someone's family recipes spruced up a bit with a few tricks and flourishes here and there won from years in the trenches (read: the Culinary Institute of America). Traditional but unique. My fav's: the meatloaf, the cornbread and sorghum butter, the green beans and country ham, and all the gravies. Five kinds of gravy. Daaaarn tootin'.
The menu is still coming together and they're still adding on to it. A tasty catfish and hush-puppies dish came out and it wasn't even listed yet. If you're keen you should trickle in and try it out. Would give them another week or two to be firing on all cylinders.
What It Is: From the company behind the colorful xiao long bao chain Paradise Dynasty, Nanyang-style cuisine restaurant Paradise Classic opened their first branch in the basement of Shanghai Tower last month, right next to a Paradise Dynasty. A few steps away from Fatburger. Esteemed company indeed.
It has a nice and bright environment. Walls are decorated with Chinese traditional ceramics and classical Chinese instrumental music plays softly in the background. Offset with the modern decor, it all combines for a very contemporary look.
The Nanyang-style is clearly accentuated here, although they're right to avoid the Hainan-Chicken-Rice and Bak kut teh clichés. The menu starts with slow-cooked soup then appetizers. It covers a large variety of Cantonese and Singaporean dishes and staples, with a few Thai-style offerings here and there. It comes subtitled with clear and informative English translation for our English-speaking friends.
The food is homely and rife with nostalgia. Take the iconic Nanyang cuisine clay-pot "rat noodle"(老鼠粉) -- a type of short and chewy rice noodle stewed with salted fish, with a raw egg on top. There's plenty of meat and poultry options as well. If braised pork trotters or charbroiled pork collar doesn't intrigue you, their signature Espresso Chicken might -- fried chicken thigh covered in a sticky dark brown glaze that has a subtle bitter aftertaste.
Espresso Chicken, 58rmb
Good for family and friends. Average per head is around 100rmb-ish. They also offer stir-fried and soup vermicelli with various toppings, catering to the white collars working nearby. These usually cost around 35rmb to 52rmb.
Trio layered (osmanthus, pandan and coconut) jelly, 28rmb
First Impressions: Shanghai has too many places that make Nanyang dishes, but Paradise Classic manages to offer something unique and interesting on the menu. Food is savory and flavorful, coming in generous proportions and good value. The service is almost on par with more upmarket Chinese restaurant chains like Din Tai Fung, but doesn't cost extra.
In Singapore, Paradise Classic draws lines of people waiting to get in to eat. The Shanghai chain hasn't achieved that level of popularity yet. Well, maybe when their second chain opens in Puxi at the end of April. After all, Nanyang cuisine has many qualities that southern Chinese can appreciate.
What It Is: Bulldog assumes the small space on Julu Lu that belonged to Amelia's before they had to close down for "matters beyond their control".
Bulldog offers three main dishes -- "Tony's Bar-B-Q Chicken", "Good Ole' Country Ribs", and their specialty, "Bulldog Texas Bar-B-Q Brisket". Owner Charles Tse, originally from Hong Kong, says he took a break from real estate development to open Bulldog after being inspired while on a trip in Texas. Most items on the menu are chef Tony's creations, but the brisket is Charles', and yeah, it's good.
You can get the three mains in small, medium, and large portions for 45rmb, 85rmb, or 160rmb, respectively. The portions double up with each jump in size. Add 15rmb to that to make it a set, and choose two side dishes from the likes of grilled veggies, mac and cheese, cream of corn, French fries, and salad. Hoegaarden is on tap for 30rmb/300ml or 45rmb/500ml. Bottled beer includes Blue Star, Coronas, and others.
First Impressions: From the menu, to the food, to the pricing, Bulldog keeps things simple, and that's a good thing. They just opened and they're just focusing on their core talent of providing solid, hearty meals. Try the brisket if you stop by, and you certainly should if you've been missing Western barbecue in the city.