Roll on with the new places to wine and dine in Shanghai. This week we're looking at:
What It Is: Xime ("tasty to the last sip" in Japanese) is on the first floor of "The Place", which is a big commercial building on Changle Lu, west of Changshu Lu. Facing the building, it's around the right side. The restaurant is from Jun Nishio, the "experimental" Japanese chef behind the "Munchies" part of Elevator's NO (B)ORDER night (and a bunch of other things), and Sam Norris of the currently returning-soon-bigger-and-better restaurant Wishbone.
Xime is just well-thought out, no-pressure, Japanese comfort food and drinks. The space is divided into two, with the requisite Japanese-style bar seating in the one room and a more general dining area in the second. Style-wise, it's firmly in the "quaint Japanese" genre, with little toys and quirky knickknacks giving the place some personality, against the standard blond wood and white walls color pallete.
For lunch, it's catering to the white collars who work at The Place, of which they are legion. Rice, udon (Japanese noodle), and soba (another kind of Japanese noodle) sets are 58rmb to 68rmb with a nice variety available from meat to veggie. For dinner you can get a little more involved in a number of ways. They've got Japanese-style hot pot, a la carte meat, seafood, and veggie dishes, a section of quirky Chef's specials and seasonal dishes, and some great deals on their sashimi platters.
Pro-tip: They are also doing their own shochu infusions, with dragon fruit, watermelon, kiwi, apricot, and more. Don't miss out on those. 50rmb.
shochu inusions - 50rmb on the rocks; 55rmb with soda
Sashimi Sets - 5 Types: 218rmb; 3 Types: 138rmb; 1 Type: 48rmb (Choose from: Tuna, Red Clam, Bonito, Salmon, Octopus, Kampachi, Mackerel)
DIY Maki Roll Sushi Set (Roll with your Creativity) - 188rmb
Beef Udon - 68rmb
First Impressions: I liked it a lot. Yeah, it's great! Lots of personality on the menu, some great savings on sashimi, and the booze was real good. Great option for lunch with that beef curry udon bowl a touch above your standard Coco Curry thing. For dinner, with the alt clubbing connection of the management, I can see it being a hip little low-key dinning spot for Shanghai's cool kids before they go off looking for trouble.
Music was good too, with a playlist of obscure Japanese pop that can only have been compiled by some sad white guy. (Turns out, yes. Frau of China Social Club did the music.)
What It Is: The Popolo empire (Gemma, Bar Centrale, and Alimentari) has swallowed the Enoterra empire and have reworked their Wuding Lu spot into QV. They're on the same row along with Cafe de les Stagiaiirigiaires and Malabar, a popular little strip of Euro bars servicing the expats who are hard at work turning Jing'an into Xuhui's sequel.
Popoplo's mandate is people-oriented, dishing up authentic Italian food and drink to a price-conscious middle market. Their venues are more for us wage-slave, toiling middle class Shanghai Ren who get bummed out about spending more than one or two hundred RMB at dinner and thus rarely go to The Bund. We need to eat too. We need cheese platters and wine too. Hence, QV.
QV's got the look. They're definitely ticking all the boxes for the Shanghai wine bar starting kit. Lounge-ish lighting. Deep woods. Lots of black. Serious wall of wine that inspires reverence. It's the vibes that Dr. Wine popularized in Shanghai during the Great Wine Bar Craze of 2010. It's a cut older and more mature than the rest of the venues on the street. Ideal for dates; suitable for small groups.
On the menu: The majority of the wine list is Italian and French whites and reds, five options for each by the glass. Happy hour prices (daily, 4pm to 8pm) put them at 45rmb to 55rmb. Non-happy hour prices are around 60rmb to 70rmb. Bottles are available from about 220rmb, with the majority in the 235rmb to 320rmb range.
The food menu is straight-forward Italo wine bar food with some reasonable pricing.
Tartare Di Manzo - 68rmb
Duck in Autumn - 48rmb
Affettati Misti - 88rmb
Tempura Sea - 52rmb
First Impressions: QV is not exactly reinventing the wheel here with this one -- it's a genre that's come and gone countless times in this city -- but they satisfactorily provide the Shanghai wine bar experience to those looking for it. Service is great, prices are fine, food and drink is executed well. It also works as a more low-key alternative to the more collegiate party-party-party type places on the street, if you're looking for something more mature or more relaxed.
What It Is: Bordertown is the Jalapeño "loco tacos" space renovated, re-worked, re-branded, and re-launched. (Guess, they realized their hearts were in Texas after all). Ken Walker, of dearly departed Bubba's Texas BBQ restaurant, Chili Cook-off, Taco Cook-Off, and Hot Sauce Festival fame is still at the helm, and Chef Gavin McAlee is back in the kitchen. The Jalapeño space has been spruced up, with a fresh coat of paint and a new look, the bar has been moved, and the top floor space is in the process of renovations, slated as a general events space. The plan with that is to turn over their second floor to Ruijin Cajun's Matt Rea who will be cooking up some events (and probably a lot of his own swap dogs).
The new menu is a road trip from Cali through Nevada to the Texas border on a river of green chili. Coming from their experience with Bubba's and Jalapeño, Bordertown is the merging of the two — authentic Tex-Mex with a BBQ overlay. The Jalapeño menu, which is creative Cali-style tacos ("Franken-tacos" with things like pork belly and kimchi, and liberal avocado throughout) has been carried over, and with that they've introduced a line of "Bordertown Bowls" (their take on "power bowls") as well as lots of variations on burrito mains, including a heart stopping "Burgerito".
So that's the Tex-Mex. In the near future Walker is getting his smokers over and adding Bubba's-style BBQ to this menu, featuring rotating cuts on offer.
Basket of Fresh Chips w/ Chorizo y Queso - 48rmb
Classic Taco - 25rmb; Seoul Sister Taco - 35rmb; Green Chili Carnitas Con Queso - 35rmb
Mini Chimmies - 68rmb
Burgerito - 78rmb
First Impressions: I'm a fan of Gavin McAlee's food and it's more from him in his style: classic California-plus southern States American home cookin' with an eye to contemporary trends (see: kimchi, avocado). I liked the Jalapeño tacos, up there with the best in the city in my opinion, and it's good to see those survived the switch. The Mini Chimmes are also indeed quite righteous. As is their Queso. Get the Queso.
For overall vibes, they're still in the process of fully Bubba's-fying the space, with the upstairs still coming in. We'll see what Matt from Ruijin Cajun turns that into, but expect sports on lots of TVs, poker nights, music, southern booze, and more. If you've got a Bubba's size hole in your heart, stuff it with Bordertown.
A few deals to watch out for: Monday is buy-one-get-one on the "Burgerito" and Tuesday is 100rmb all-you-can-eat tacos.