Lots of activity out there this week in the restaurant genre, "places that are quite nice actually". Here's three new ones that are already making a bit of buzz all over your social media feeds.
(It's likely. Probably. We're guessing. We don't know what kind of friend list you're rolling with. Maybe you're impervious to this sort of thing...)
What Is It:
Assuming the space recently vacated by Amokka on Anfu Lu is Apollo, a casual but very arts-and-crafty "Latin-inspired" sharing plates restaurant delivered with chill Nordic vibes. The buck stops with Mr. Willis (Mr. Willis, La Strada, BANG by Willis) and the formula seems to follow his Pelikan restaurant — at least in that it's built around the culinary personality of a dishy Danish chef, with a menu oriented towards idiosyncratic fusion creations and said chef's no small amount of skill in pulling them off.
Although the feel recalls the popular Jing'an restaurant (and the clients do too -- when we went, lots of thin and tidy Scando couples with bone straight white-blond hair, decked out in sensible navy sweaters and sensible navy sports coats, looking like professional Winter Olympics ski jump coaches), the food veers to a pan-Latin sort of thing. Variations on chicharron, tostada, ceviche. Lots of avocado, tomato, pineapple, pineapple, pineapple. Lots of curing and smoking, and so forth.
But more specifically: The menu breaks down in Snacks, The Earth, The Sea, From the Land, and Treats categories, with four or five options in each. In ordering, you should pick a few from each category, 3-4 dishes total per person, and share amongst your table when they arrive. It's ideal for two people, on dates of course, and they offer a set menu for two persons "A Meal to Share" which is 9 courses at 250rmb per person. (A really great deal, it must be said.)
Basically everything from "Snacks". Highlight is the "Tequenos" at 52rmb
Cured Salmon, yogurt, puffed rice - 68rmb
Scallop Ceviche, aqua chili, cucumber, celery - 78rmb
Mussel Soup, scallop, tapioca, apples - 48rmb
Beef tartare, soft & crispy quinoa, fresh tomatoes, chili mayo - 78rmb
Halibut, black olives, green tomato, fume - 78rmb
Pork neck, pineapple, pineapple, pineapple & chili - 68rmb
Tenderloin, chinmicurri, kale - 128rmb
Browned butter cake, caramel, popcorn, muscovado ice cream - 58rmb
A lot of this we've seen all over the place lately. Avocado. Quinoa. Yogurt. Kale. The scallops, the beer tartare, the pork neck. That said, Apollo serves up some really interesting and provocative combinations therein. Lots of great texture variations (see: cured salmon plus puffed rice) and lots of fresh and vibrant flavors. Lots of ingenuity. The presentation style is also pretty interesting. Basically all the meat courses are buried under roughage, so you've got to dig around for your rewards. A few of these are startlingly good. The Mussel Soup, the Halibut, and Browned Butter Cake in particular. Really, really good. Order those. Right now! Do it!
So yes. Definitely one to try out. Get a friend or someone more than a friend out to that dinner sharing menu. 250rmb per person. That's very right on. Will be back for sure.
What Is it: After Christopher Pitts left Table No. 1, it seems they wanted to clear the slate a bit. So they renamed their restaurant to something near and dear to the new Executive Chef, did a feather-light touch-up of the interior, and launched a brand new menu.
Chef Jonas Noel, a native of the Alsace region of France, has worked at Oslo's Bagatelle, Hong Kong's Caprice, and most recently L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Ten years ago, he worked at Michel Bras' restaurant, where he was apparently forced to go full hunter-gatherer (not really), looking for herbs and ingredients in the surrounding areas. Oxalis was one of the first things he hunter-gathered. Brand narrative!
The menu's split into four categories. Bites like Flammkueche; Small Servings like Free Range Chicken (78rmb) and Atlantic Halibut (128rmb); Shared Servings is a trio of two-four person plates: a 1kg T-Bone (1,388rmb), a Berkshire Pork Shoulder Blade (698rmb) and a Boston Lobster (948rmb), and is probably the section that inspired them to put a cutlery rack on each table containing some super nice knives made by Laguiole. Finally, deserts. Highlight? Pavlova (68rmb).
Free Range Chicken Terrine (78rmb)
Aussie Angus Beef "Hand Cut" / Laphroaig 10y (168rmb)
Berkshire Pork Shoulder Blade (698rmb)
First Impressions: Never made it to Table No 1. Clean slate, I am! I enjoyed Oxalis. Stand-out was the Berkshire Pork Shoulder. Brought out for inspection like a sacrificial offering, then broiled and braised for 30-45 minutes so the fat gets a terrific crispness to it. The fact that it's delicious, and one serving could feed four people, narrowly justifies the 700rmb price tag. Tariffs on US imports might see that come off the menu, so I'd say try it while you can.
Office crowds were already trickling in when we were there, and as one of the better options in a fairly denuded area, I imagine it'll get even more traffic when those nearby office blocks open up, who should be glad for the three-course, 188rmb "Express Lunch." Recommendation: Free range chicken, Atlantic Halibut, Pavolva, knife with the lava stone grip.
What Is it: The dining headliner of new hotel The Middle House is a half-moon shaped bar/lounge/restaurant hugging the outside of Taikoo Hui Mall. The name comes from New York-based Chef Gray Kunz, who headed up Cafe Gray Deluxe in Hong Kong's Upper House. He consulted on this menu, but Chef de Cuisine in Shanghai is Peter Lin, previously of Sir Elly's, and he's doing his own take on Chef Gray's own take on 'modernized classic cuisine.' Double-takes. Heading up the wind-chime adorned bar is Gary Hu (Langham and W Shanghai).
They're currently operating a short, A5 size menu split up into hot and cold appetizers like Steak Tartare (115rmb) and Barley Risotto with Creamed Porcini (128rmb), fish like Seared Sea Bass with Muhammara Sauce (188rmb), meat like Pan-Fried Iberico Pork Chop (198rmb) and Lamb Tenderloin Stew (188rmb), and a handful of sides for between 48-68rmb. That's set to expand next month with five more fish and meat dishes, and a lunch prix fixe they'll be changing weekly.
Steak Tartare (115rmb)
Tarragon Shellfish Soup, Lump Crab Meat Salad (108rmb)
Steamed Prince Edward Island Toothfish (228rmb)
Seared Sea Bass (188rmb)
Pan-Fried Iberico Pork Chop, Port Wine Sauce (198rmb)
First Impressions: Good-looking, well-designed spot. Cozy environment. Lovely terrace. Tasteful artwork. Feels you should take a potential business partner and/or a well-groomed gentleman/ladyfriend. The menu is a little hit-and-miss, though. The lamb was both a little too spicy for the menu and a little underwhelming, but the Pork Chop, though a little unseasoned, was cooked so it melted off the bone. The Sea Bass, for 188rmb, was great. Get that. Get that twice.
Not sure if this is going to stand out in the flood of fancy hotel restaurants we're about to see in the next few months, but with reasonable prices (all the ones we quoted are net), an extensive cocktail list for 78rmb(!), and the space as pretty it is, feel like it's worth a visit.