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[On The Radar]

On The Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants and bars that you might like to know about. See More
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[On The Radar]: Italian, For Better and For Worse

One good, one bad. Italo and Pass Residence. But which is which?
By Dec 3, 2019 Dining

TELL EVERYONE

Two new entries this week out there in Restaurant Land, both treading familiar ground in the kitchen, both relying heavily on their design to draw in customers. One does it better than the other.

Italo


2/F, A Mansion, 291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu View ListingTaxi Printout




Quick Take: Great space, shame about the food.




What it is: Funkadeli moves on up. Literally, to the second floor on Fumin Lu. Figuratively, into the world of restaurants, with a very handsome loft space decked out like a fancy Italian living room. The inspiration was meant to be 20th century Milan design, and in some of the art on the walls and design on the menus, it’s got that cool geometric futurist vibe. Design by Max Trullas Moreno of MTMDesign.

First impressions: Great room, super comfy, red and brass tones. It's a lovely space to sit down and have a drink. They nailed it on the design. The food, on one of our two trips for this article (one a media invite, the second anonymous), was a disaster. Service not much better. Explain!



On our first visit, which was with the knowledge of their media people, the food was familiar. Average. Competent if not outstanding. That's when we took these pictures.


Fresh burrata and caponata, 98rmb


But then we went back again yesterday, after they had rotated their limited menu and the dishes from the previous week had changed, and things were… different. Grilled artichokes had neither the flavor of a grill nor the flavor of an artichoke. The duck in the tagliatelle with duck ragu had the pink color of canned tuna and a complete lack of flavor. Toasted hazelnuts and crispy duck skin, as promised on the menu, must have gone missing between the kitchen and our table. A spaghetti with clams and Sichuan chili oil tasted like spicy plastic. The tiny, 9-inch pizza with "48 Hour Slow Cooked Porchetta" was even worse. 48 hours! Who cares! Is this a slow-cooking competition? Porchetta does not need to be cooked for 48 hours; the pork mush that came on our pizza proved why. Like the other dishes, it went back to the kitchen, 90% uneaten.


House made fennel sausage and artichokes, 98rmb



Uni carbonara, 158rmb


Am I being too harsh? The place just opened. Their grand opening is this Saturday. They have kinks to work out like any other restaurant. Still, I think not. There is no discount here for not being ready; they took my money with little problem (though were unable to issue a fapiao by WeChat, only business card – come on, guys, it's almost 2020, get with the program). The food was one misstep after the other, until a decent lemon tart. Even then, before it arrived, the well-meaning but misguided waitress came over to give us a little tip: "Next time, don't order the lemon tart. It's too sweet." She then served us a lemon tart. Earlier in the evening, when my friend ordered a second glass of wine, as might be expected at a lounge, the same nice lady came over to remark: "Wow, you can really drink. Lihai!"



The Funka guys are nice. I like their taste in music. They have great goodwill among the Euro drinking set for being friendly and affordable and fun. And they deserve all of that. They've created a very comfortable space in Italo, one I'd happily spend more time and money in. But, guys, please. The kitchen. The service. The food. It's important. I don't have an agenda. I have tastebuds. I watched other tables' reactions to it also. I've talked to friends who have been and had a similar experience. Something's wrong. Sorry but it's true.

PASS RESIDENCE


318 Julu Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu View ListingTaxi Printout




Quick Take: Wood-fired oven and natural wines in a bombed-out space.




What it is: Not, in fact, a hostel, hotel or private abode. Pass Residence is, confusingly, a restaurant from the oha Group. It's one of many new projects they have opened in the past couple of years, from the pocket-sized oha eatery on Anfu Lu to Bar No. 3 and Blackbird 2.0 in Columbia Circle. Most recently, they have come a little bit east of their comfort zone to open the Dead Poet bar on Jinxian Lu and now this, on Julu Lu.




The previous tenant was a Sumo Cat ramen shop, remnants of which linger on in the exposed concrete. The look is super-hip and open, kind of distressed and still kind of bohemian, with cords of apple wood for the oven stacked against the wall and the kitchen barely separated from part of the dining room. Lord knows how, in 2019, they managed to get a license for a fully wood-fired oven — not the more common gas or gas-wood hybrids — but I suppose it's refreshing to know there are still licensing "workarounds" even in this day and age.




That oven is central to the food here, which is done, as it is at all of these places, by chef Blake Thornley. It's Italian and simple and meant to get you drinking something from the wine "cellar", which is a separate room towards the front where you are meant to browse and pick yourself a bottle to bring back to the table; price are written on the label. Nice idea. It's a walk-in wine "list" and definitely within that casual-hip vibe that this group aims for in all of its projects.

First impressions: Are tiny pizzas going to be a 2020 trend? Judging by these two places this week, yes. Tiny pizzas are now a thing.


Wild mushroom and rocket on flat bread, 55rmb; mixed marinated olives, 38rmb; pizza with herb roasted chicken, caramelized onion, olives and feta, 88rmb


For having a wood-fired oven, there's not much indication of it in the food. Perhaps they are still figuring out how to blister the crusts correctly, and get that smoky flavor into the rest of the dishes.


Marinated vegetables, olive oil, balsamic, feta, 56rmb



Burrata 125g, olive oil, balsamic, 72rmb; marinated white anchovies, 68rmb; rosemary flat bread, 25rmb


The rest of the food has a couple of standouts, like the XL-sized gnocchi with black cod, zucchini, Parmesan and cream (66rmb) and the ragu oxtail over handmade pappardelle with semi-dried tomato (78rmb). Antipasti are simple things like confit mushrooms with garlic and balsamic; marinated vegetables; burrata; and rosemary flat bread.


Potato gnocchi, black cod, zucchini, parmesan, cream 66rmb



Ragu oxtail, handmade pappardelle pasta, semi dried tomatoes, 78rmb


Overall? Liked it. Pizza not as much. Big gnocchi were a win. Antipasti were antipasti. I'd come back, and I'm not even a natural wine person, which is a big chunk of this place's identity. Cool environment, bro. Would repeat.

TELL EVERYONE

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