We thought we felt a disturbance in The Force. Infamous after-hours club Amber returns to the scene of the crime. Plus two more seafood options in Shanghai.
On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile 2-3 new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.
Grab bag of venues this week. But let's just cut right to the chase: This is what Amber looks like now.
Quick Take: Big Red is back. Shanghai's most notorious after-hours club Amber Lounge bursts back on the scene in a fury of flashing red lights on Nanjing Xi Lu.
What it is: Jesus. Amber Lounge. Remember that place? Good Lord. Amber Lounge. Even if you remember it you don't really remember it. It's super hazy. Details get lost. Details must remain hidden. To protect the guilty. But I think -- I think -- it was the go-to after-hours club in Shanghai for a number of years, having first been at some place, then moving to some place else. This is its third place. It's on Nanjing Xi Lu right beside Windows Garage. Another fine and upstanding establishment. You kids play nice now.
Amber comes to you from a couple well-traveled Shanghai nightlife concerns (ex-Dragon) and goes straight for your jugular. It's red. Red, red, red. Red everything. Lots of flashing lights, super serious looking bouncers, tables with champagne waiting to be uncorked, and a very sizable dance floor actually. Good for them for not sticking a bunch of tables on it. Word is this iteration of Amber Lounge is not orientating itself as an after-hours venue. They've cleaned up, put together a cocktail list, and are throwing their DJs on from midnight to 6am or 8am instead of basically starting at 3am. They want you to go and turn up earlier with a full wallet instead of at 9am with an empty one. Think that's how the other ones started too so we'll see about that.
But for now, you're still going to Celia if you want to keep going beyond 9 or 10am.
Drink prices are 80rmb cocktails; 60rmb-80rmb mixes. Pretty standard-for-Shanghai, I guess.
First Impressions: It looks like friggin' Darth Maul designed it. It's austere. And serious. It's for hard-asses. I don't know. I gotta say it looks really impressive, with the lights and all. Sound wasn't all that great but whatever. It's a mix of bottles-plus-tables club and painfully sincere underground dance music venue. Market-wise it seems like it's angling for people who like to go to say... Monkey Lounge, Le Baron, ASL, intermixed with their standard trips to the big Shanghai clubbing chains.
Quick Take: An imported American dining trend begins phase two of the process. Mass dissemination. Here's a new place to get a poke bowl on Changle Lu.
What it is: Poke is a raw fish salad dish from Hawaii. It's kind of like if a drunk sushi chef came home from the bar and just threw everything in his fridge in a bowl. Yes, it can be very tasty or very bleeeehhhaaarrg. Poke is like a hip new thing in the States. Or at least it was a few years ago which means it's like a hip new thing in Shanghai now. (Not to be cynical. Hey, nothing wrong with importing an interesting idea.) Shanghai seems to have very positive feelings for this place called Little Catch. And so now Shanghai gets another option with Poke Poke, which is also doing their own line of poke bowls and sandwiches. (No relation to this place in Austin, Texas with the same name.)
On the menu: Four or five varieties of poke bowls with options for 2 or 3 seafood items. Prices are 50rmb-60rmb for two and 70rmb-80rmb for three. The "Original" pictured below contains Salmon, Tuna, and / or Argentinian Prawn, Avocado, Nori, Salmon Roe. They also do a spicy poke, a wasabi poke, and an orange mayo.
They've got a few interesting non-poke items. A truffle hot dog, a chicken quesadilla, and, pictured below, a peanut butter, cheese, mushroom, and bacon sandwich for 38rmb.
First Impressions: I thought it was alright. The portions are decent and the prices were alright. Think it's alright. It tasted healthy. And I felt like a very interesting, hip, and modern person eating it. Like the kind of person who knows about fonts. Think that's the whole point of poke. It's food for people who know about fonts. The sandwich was way better that it ought to have been that's for sure.
Quick Take: A new seafood fine dining restaurant in Jing'an designed for rich locals.
What it is: From the owner of Japanese restaurant Zhi Teng (a couple doors down) comes this two-story seafood restaurant on Tongren Lu, across from the Jing'an Shangri-la. The dishes are a European fusion of prawn salads, spaghettis, steaks, and of course oysters. The restaurant's concept seems focused on the upper-class local clientele. Some evidence of this: (1) The dishes are European, but the flavors seem modified to fit local tastes; (2) There are three private rooms (baofang) on the second floor where the real action is -- the first floor has little seating and a large bar area without an actual bar; (3) One of the managers asked us if it was okay that there was garlic in the (garlic) bread "because foreigners don't eat garlic."
They do have an interesting selection of oysters that get shipped in throughout the week. Those include La Perle Blanche and Geay from France, Taylor and Kumamoto oysters from the US, and of course Fine De Claire and Gillardeau (also from France). Other ingredients on the menu are Iberico Bellota 60month ham, M9 Wagyu sirloin steak, and Spanish red king prawn. Dinner comes out to about 800-1500rmb per head, not including drinks. Wine starts at about 400rmb a bottle and ends in the tens of thousands. So, not for the light of wallet.
First Impressions: The ingredients are indeed fresh -- they had some of the best oysters I've had in the city, and for once, they were properly shucked. That being said, portions are small and it's quite pricy for a non-five star hotel address on Tongren Lu. The first floor doesn't feel like the environment where you drop 1500rmb. But if you've got the money to impress, this could be a place to take the in-laws.