What It Is: I think the first thing Mosto Group did when they opened up Moka Bros was hold a pop-up for La Social, their Sanlitun, Latin-inspired bar (with arepas!). Something like a year later, they've finally opened up a Jing'an branch. Much like the original, it's small, packed with detail, and serving up a short list of arepas and Latin-inspired (if not exactly Latin) cocktails.
Go at least once just to enjoy the silly shit they hung up everywhere. The Mao bust with the ping-pong paddle peacock fan. The acupuncture doll with angel wings pinned on. The stage lights made from huge hot water kettles. The shrine to the Virgin Mary, directly behind the DJ booth and underneath the Dodge fender they hooked up with headlights. They even painted the air-con unit and stuck colorful plates on the ventilation ducts. This is a vibrant- looking spot, and they did not half-ass the knick-knacks they hosed this place down with. It looks like they imported a junkyard from Caracas.
Drinks are tequila, mezcal and rum, heavy on the grenadine syrup and served in glass jars. Except the mojito (88rmb), which tastes overwhelmingly of passion fruit, served in a soup bowl. Not sure how that'll work on a dancefloor. Majority are 65rmb a pop, putting them in the upper range of the "dancefloor fuel" category.
As for the arepas… they're fine. The Chicharron heavy "La Paisa" (40rmb) is even pretty good, but others, like the Reina Pepiada (38rmb), were a little bland. Not even the Tabasco sauce saves that. Also, are these Colombian or Venezuelan arepas? I'm getting mixed messages. Feel like Shanghai's been inundated in arepas the past year and I still don't know what "authentic" ones are supposed to look like.
Have to mention the dancefloor, because this place is clearly meant for dance of the spicy Latin-lover variety. It's sunk a little below the main seating/standing area, providing a handy vantage point. Though when the place is as packed as it was on opening night, that step could be a deathtrap, especially if you find yourself beating a hasty retreat from a persistent first-time acquaintance. Just saying.
First Impression: La Social is for people who aren't so jaded they can't enjoy a surface-level meta joke, who are willing to chuckle at drinks called Pablo's Cock-Cain, and actually enjoy dancing, specifically to salsa music, interspersed with ABBA hits and whatever else they throw on. It's kooky. Yeah, "kooky," like someone dressing up as a piece of sushi for Halloween, or wearing a leopard-print wedding dress. Vivacious, larger-than-life people, people who wear panama hats, people who don't break out in cold sweat when a rumba beat comes on. You know. Fun, sexy people.
The original was set up because the founders felt there wasn't a Latin-enough space in Beijing. La Social, meanwhile, has set up a stone's throw from Revolucion. Gauntlet thrown!
What It Is: Staking out most of its own floor in that somehow-still-only-half-opened building that also contains Jazz at the Lincoln Center, FOGO is a Bund lounge from a crew that's been in the Bund lounge-business for a while (they met at M1NT). Muted lighting, shiny marble and low seats and tables, with artistic-looking installations scattered about. The things that sets it apart from its neighborhood (The Nest being the most obvious antecedent) is the very ample terrace space and this 'lava oven' thing they're getting installed: something like a firepit? That last bit plays into the general "fire" theme they've got going on, along with the fireplaces and the name itself, taken from a volcanic island in the Atlantic.
The cuisine is supposed to evoke the old spice routes, manifesting as that sort of photogenic, nicely plated steaks, seafoods, fusion dishes (tandoori Caesar salad), and amuse-bouche looking things you're supposed to have at high-end, muted-lighting lounges. Molecular liquid olives, like they once served at el Bulli. Apparently they had a Spanish chef in to consult on the menu. Drinks are your standard mix of fruity, strong and bitter flavors, but they're worth a try for the solid execution and the hint of creativity. Plus, comparatively cheap for the area, by which I mean, 78rmb for some decent ones, but then up.
First Impression: Some might call it bland. Others might call it a welcome addition to the lounging scene. Main appeal here is a trio of terraces terraces overlooking Nanjing Dong Lu, one lounge-y, one grassy, and one with more privacy. That and the fact that you can get a cocktail for under 90rmb a little back from the Bund. Not unique to this place, but still, always welcome. It isn't reinventing the wheel, as much as the "lava-oven" sounds like a neat gimmick.