EQ (Yanping Lu)
What It Is: The latest EQ after a few venues in far-flung areas, Putuo and Huangpu Districts. This one's smack dab in the middle of the action in Jing'an on Yanping Lu next to Revolucion and Raw and around the corner from the Wuding Lu bar street. Standard, minimal and clean dining room. A bit nondescript but still comfortable. Looks like they possibly made overtures to going "chic" but decided their heart wasn't in it. That's a good thing.
The mandate is the same as the others: naturalist Nordic cuisine with an eye towards modern Danish (which I think is just salad-ier versions of traditional Danish fish and pork dishes. Dan's Old Farmhouse, anyone?) Salmon makes appearances on the menu, particularly in the Quinoa salads -- they do some good salads -- they've got a shrimp-based version of the traditional Danish hotdog that you always buy from the kiosk thing next to City Shop, and a really succulent pork jaw dish, which is, I think, singular to them in the city. It's really pretty marvelous. The meat disintegrates upon contact.
This last one is the "Chocolate Bomb". Accurately named. See the little chocolate Lego guy? Denmark!
First Impressions: I liked the other venues of EQ -- in particular, the brunch -- because it's feels like they've got some good heart and good intentions with their food. Nice spot for a friends dinner at reasonable prices. Nice addition to the neighborhood. Lots of decent places for dinner in San He Hui Yuan Land these days, but they're still offering something new. Check it out.
Oh yeah: salad, pasta, sandwiches, and rice dishes, 68rmb-88rmb; meaty mains from 88-150rmb; deserts around 40rmb. 100-250rmb per person depending on how deep you go.
Please Note: SmartShanghai bullied our way in to eat before they were even open. They're waiting for their license to dry. Open in 1-2 weeks.
Mi Xiang Yuan
What It Is: It's been open a minute but it took us a while to get down to try out this little blast from Shanghai's past, Mi Xiang Yuan, AKA "The (Fragrant) Rice Garden". So yeah, let's get that out of the way right off the bat. The location of the Mi Xiang Yuan ain't so hot for most center-dwelling residents. Shanghai celeb chef Anthony Zhao (also of the oft-replicated farm-to-table Holy Cow hot pot restaurant) is returning to his more utilitarian quick-lunch roots on the basement floor of something called the "Gopher Center" on Mengzi road in Huangpu, after building his name doing this same concept several years back off Mandang Lu near Xintinadi. Mi Xiang Yuan made waves in the day for offering authentic Chinese eats to tourists and tasty and thrifty rice-based lunches for white collar workers. Both groups leery of the standard hole-in-the-wall that might practice... umm... questionable hygienic standard.
It's tough to make a case to go all the way out there for 40-something kuai lunch rice sets in a mall, even if they are delicious and great value. And yeah, that's what's really working for Mi Xiang Yuan -- tasty lunch sets, great value -- so we hope it gets scaled all over the city as soon as possible. Someone throw a garbage bag of money at Zhao. Move one into our work building. I'm down for that.
Lots of chicken bases in different styles -- the Gong Bao and Terriyaki are great -- along with beef and sausage.
First Impressions: Tasty, tasty Chinese foods with great quality ingredients at (basically) local dining prices. Like 40rmb for a lunch set that includes some veggies and soup. The thread of being conscious to quality ingredients is something that's been carried over from the first incarnation of this restaurant, the Holy Cow, and this latest version.
FED by July
What It Is: FED (standing for Flower, Eat, Drink) is a modern French restaurant tucked inside a stainless steel and gauze-curtained greenhouse. At the helm of the kitchen is Chef and GM Frederic Quemin, a jovial Frenchman who's been in Shanghai on-and-off for about 11 years. The owner of FED pretty much gave him carte blanche to design a menu around the motto "with flower we touch your heart, with food we touch your soul."
The Foie Gras
What does soul touching look like? Modern French, plus a little Asian twist, and a playful attitude. Frederic calls it 'Tradern.' Traditional/Morden. There's a little kookiness in there. The Foie Gras (187rmb) is served on a very purple plate with celeriac, red cabbage and crabmeat. The 16 Hour Beef Sirloin is coated in leek ash and comes with a whole pickled chili, horseradish and red wine sauce. It's a mix-and-match of favorite taste combinations. The Compressed Pineapple lies on a dry curry paste. An amuse bouche included what I swear were poprocks. Frederic says he likes customers to be surprised by their dishes, and, well, yep! Prices hit those fine-dining notes; easily 500rmb here per person. They do a lunch menu closer to Frederic's traditional French roots, available without dropping a bomb (three courses for 187rmb).
The sirloin with a whole chili
First Impressions: FED has an urban woman feeling to it. Welcome, successful ladies who don't flinch from metal tabletops, business ladies who wear business high-heels, and cut loose at a Thursday lunch meeting with a few glasses of wine. The food, similarly, seems a little stand-offish at first, but is remarkably approachable after the first bite. Also delicious. This metaphor was poor. I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable journey of discovery. Jellied apple and King Crab (187rmb)? Lovely combination. Banana Caramelized (67rmb) with parsley cream? Delightful. Really liked that pickled chili pepper, too. There's no lack of fine fine-dining places in Shanghai, but on the whole, FED by July seems friendly enough to garner a following.
- Alex Panayotopoulos