Hey, Shanghai, here's four new venues around town we're holding aloft to you like Rafiki holding Simba on that cliff in The Lion King.
Circle of life style, y'all.
What It Is: The concept behind Shake, named after the activities of dancing and cocktail-making, is based on the New York supper clubs of the '60s, wherein patrons would spend an entire evening at the venue for food, drinks, and entertainment. Shake's dinner menu features fusion dishes created by Co-founder and Head Chef Danyi Gao (previously of Mr & Mrs Bund and Calypso). Drinks are made by Colin Tait, former bar manager of Vesper in Bangkok. At around 10pm from Thursday to Saturday, a six-piece band performs with veteran singers from Shanghai's music scene. The entertainment lasts until 2am, but the place stays open even later.
Atmosphere: Classy. Upscale. There are areas to stand and hang out in, and there are darker corners for intimate conversations. Screen panels cover the band's instruments on off-nights of the week, so an empty stage doesn't leave you feeling something is missing. Live performances will cover the likes of Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder.
Damage: Cocktails, from 70rmb to 80rmb, are all "soul" themed with names like "Godfather of Soul" and "Son of a Preacher Man". The fusion dinner menu features original creations with mostly Asian and some Western elements, such as steamed soy bean rice with blue cheese and spring egg, crispy pork feet confit, and rib eye with plum kimchee sauce and crispy leek. Dinner runs around 200rmb per person, depending on what you order. Not too bad.
First Impressions: We haven't been to a show yet, but it's pretty safe to say Shake is working with some good ideas. The prices are fair. Feels like Shanghai's well-to-do, stylish crowd is going to love this place. Word on the street is that JZ Club's new spot is opening down the block, but even then, Shake should fair well.
Note: This week, Shake will only have live entertainment on Friday and Saturday.
2. The Market
What It Is: The Market is a new lifestyle hub-type complex with a cluster of F&B and shopping venues linked together by a shared events space. In addition to their own vendor Bar 31º, F&B vendors include Cambio Coffee, Topolino, Happy Buddha, Dutch Pies, Papito Pancakes, Asian Plus, and Amelia's. Taking cues from Shanghai burgeoning pop-up market trend, property owners are going for a space that's hip but also family-friendly and focused on the local community in the Jing'an / Putuo area. Currently, they host charity events, markets, and a few private corporate functions.
Atmosphere: The Market is quiet and relaxed. It's a place you can grab coffee or lunch, bring the kids to, or do some light work on a laptop. The main seating area is sunk into the ground in the center of the building, where the swimming pool used to be.
Damage: Prices are pretty much the same as the vendors' other locations. You can get an Americano from Cambio for 20rmb, a 14-inch pizza from Topolino starts around 100rmb, and a bowl of noodles from Asian Plus is 28rmb. On average, lunch will run you around 50rmb.
First Impressions: It's nice to see a cultural space developed for both expats and locals in the northern side of the Jing'an area. If you live nearby, this is a nice spot to grab a bite or attend a community event.
3. Professor Lee
What It Is: Located on the fourth floor of K11, right next to Hungry Lung's Kitchen is the recently opened Korean restaurant, Professor Lee. The name comes from Lee In Jin, a professor of pottery art at Hongik University. An encounter with him at aforementioned university inspired the owner of Bello'co, who studied there, to open up this pottery-themed Korean restaurant. That's kinda neat. The food here is mid to higher-end westernized Korean cuisine: their two-page menu is divided into starters, mains, stews, pastas and home-made desserts, with an emphasize on Korean grilled meat and seafood. For drinks, a decent selection of fruity soft drinks, coffee, and French wine.
Atmosphere: Relaxing, rustic, and very dimly lit -- good for a date night. Professor Lee takes up two floors, with seating spacious enough for the staff to prepare and present the dishes right next to you. On the system is funky rock to lounge music, hardly noticeable once you start a conversation.
Damage: The majority of the items in each category are from 58rmb to 88rmb, with a few outliers above 100rmb, such as slow-cooked pork belly, ginseng chicken with octopus stew, and raclette rib eye, which are up around 400rmb.
Wine is reasonable priced. The cheapest option here is Monastier Cabernet Sauvignon which costs 128rmb for a bottle and 48rmb for a glass. Fancy soft beverages like grapefruit, lemon, and orange sparkling ade are 88rmb, and can be shared among two people. A few dishes like the Caesar salad and Professor Lee's Tiramisu Lesson are prepared table-side -- the latter costs a mere 48rmb.
First Impressions: From the moment you sit down at the table once notices how much effort and attention to detail went into the place; see: handwritten notes for reserved seats, menus carefully wrapped in envelopes, handmade pottery tableware, each with the character "李" carved into them... it's the little things. They have complimentary red vinegar and coffee shots before and after the meal as well. It's a nice experience.
The food is hearty yet brisk, and well-executed, although arriving in smaller portions than you might expect from a traditional Korean eatery. Service is almost obsequious -- the waiters speak quietly and bow before you whenever they leave the table, even just to hand over the tissues.
The craftsmanship of Lee's works has influenced how the dishes are made and presented: artfully casual and a bit "rough". There's lots of hype on the Chinese review sites about this place ever since it opened about a month ago, and they pretty much live up to it.
-- Jin Qian
4. Ocean Grounds
What It Is: A simple cafe and coffee shop chain on the outside and a whole lot of depth and complexity beneath the surface. Ocean Grounds is the brainchild of SCAA-anointed (Specialty Coffee Association of America) Californian transplant Jim Lee. Ocean Ground’s one-of-a-kind menu makes use of arcane infusions, secret recipes and preparation methodologies, and coffee molecular alchemy in the construction of exceeding elaborate coffee libations.
Put simply, it’s this: It’s a super intense coffee place operated according to a super intense mixologyst’s mindset. They’ve got the single lot / single origin coffee beans, the drip / hand pour thing, and that artisinal reverence for the craft that your typical third wave place has, but it’s one step beyond in the creativity department. You’re going for one section on the menu: The “OG Hand Crafted Coffee” section, which features five singular and unique coffee concoctions, the frontrunner of which has been featured in international publications.
This is the OG New Orleans Style Iced Coffee (58rmb).
Not going to get into the excruciating details of how this is made, suffice it to say, it seems like it would be in proper company as an entry in the World Mixologist Championship or whatever.
Originating from one guy (Lee) in Beijing in 2011, this is their second venue in Shanghai with more on the way all over the country. Coming from Beijing, this dude is sort of revered in that city. Like, as much as a coffee artisan can be in any city. He’s not there anymore because Beijing can’t have nice things.
Atmosphere: Simple and understated. Looks like a typical cafe. Has a nice patio. From 7pm onwards the place transforms into a cocktail bar with, of course, coffee being the main feature, but also a lot of fine whiskeys and bourbons figuring politely throughout. The cocktails thing after 7pm is a whole other bag, but I think I’m already over my word count. I'll just say this: you should try the cocktails.
Damage: The high-end stuff is 43rmb to 58rmb. The standard coffees and espressos are from 25rmb to 40rmb-ish. They’ve got bagels and cakes from 20rmb or so.
First Impressions: You either care about this stuff or you don’t. If you don’t, you are leading a drab little life and I feel sorry for you! You must be terrible to hang out with!
For everyone else, there’s two camps: If you’re in the area and want to try a nice, creative, and unique coffee, slot it into your walking around schedule for the day. And then, on the other hand, if you’re a coffee fanatic kind of person, you’re going to want to explicitly seek it out to see for yourself, make up your own mind, and bask in the absurdly intricate subculture of it all.