Here's what's pinging our radar this week: The new drinks-plus-music bar from China Social Club; the latest French Rotisserie Chicken place; and something in between restaurant and club.
What It Is: It's Australia Social Club. Basically. Melbourne Social Club. Assuming the space right next to the gloriously barfy C's bar -- the space that used to be long-running live music bar SUS2 -- Smash is an evening-to-later-on drinks hangout with good music programming. It's split on two floors with a bar, small DJ stage, smallish dancefloor, and pub seating on the first floor and couches, pool table, and modest record shop on the second.
The second floor overlooks the first floor like so:
The very Joan Miró-esque wall painting is by Dutch painter Merijn Kavelaars.
Smash is run by the two Australian-transplant DJs of China Social Club, Frau and PCJ. The inspiration for it is the more laid-back bar / cafe / club hybrids of Melbourne, and while it might take aim at the Dada-Elevator-C's-Shelter sort of crowd, it's less late night dance party bender and more chill pre-drinks hanging out and socializing for said crowd before they move on to those aforementioned thumpier clubs. That's the idea anyways. Maybe less Dada and more Daliah to put it somewhere on the Shanghai spectrum. (Without the food.)
Thus, even though it's run by DJs and there's even a record store on the second floor, they've put more emphasis on the drinks. To those ends, they've got a cocktail menu from Sebastian Robinson, who also did the drinks at Union Trading Company, Candor, and Botanist. They're priced at 50rmb to 60rmb. We tried one of their house specialties "Talking Shop", which is a huang jiu and gin-based thing. 'Twas quite lovely. Would re-up on it.
"Talking Shop" - 50rmb
They're also looking to have a fairly involved wine menu featuring "natural wines" -- wines made without preservatives and other chemical interventions -- which is like a thing I gather. In addition, they're stocking up on a beer bottles fridge and serving four taps: Tsing Tsao's IPA, Boxing Cat Contender, Jing A's Mandarin Wheat, and a Little Creature one. Beers and mixes 40rmb.
So music. With the odd international bookings here and there, the entertainment program includes off-kilter disco-and-whatever-else nights from the tried-and-true Shanghai DJ regulars, no pressure house party vibes nights, chill-out vinyl nights, and maybe even artier diversions: live experimental music performances, readings, and assorted creative miscellania.
First Impressions: I like it. Yeah, I do. It fits a nice little niche for people looking for a night out, but not something so involved wherein one must pretend to actually be familiar with the international guest DJ playing. There's room to have a lil' dance if you want to, sure, but it's more about hanging about and talking shit. And I like to hang about and talk shit -- I surely do.
Smash's opening night is this Friday, March 24. Expect a healthy turnout at that. They're getting going early with a free keg at 6pm.
Heat French Rotisserie & Bistro
What It Is: Opening up pretty much next door to Goose and Hard Rock, HEAT French Rotisserie & Bistro is what it says on the tin. A small-ish spot on Maoming Bei Lu with a bar and space for about 20 diners or so, they do a couple of mains, salads and sandwiches, along with a couple of desserts. But since the name has "Rotisserie" first and "Bistro" second despite the general rule of lists in alphabetical order, the focus is obviously on the chicken.
Served up courtesy of Chef Hugo (previously at Chala), the chicken's delivered in something like a casserole dish, along with plastic gloves so you at least look civilized while you rip and tear. Pricewise it sits at a smidgeon cheaper (also easier to get into) than DODU. A whole chicken'll run you 245rmb with 4 sides and 4 sauces, or 188rmb if you want it sans everything, and a half plus 2 sides and 2 sauces will set you back 125rmb. Sides are things like pomme noisette fries, garlic mushrooms, roast pumpkin and ratatouille (all 20rmb), while sauces are things like honey mustard, chicken gravy, and Thai chili sauce (5rmb each).
Tables are set in cubbies, and the big window has patrons at the bar sitting with their backs to the street, staring up at that sick phoenix mural. They're also doing that hot, trendy show-kitchen thing that lets you sit and stare wistfully as the chickens turn on the spit in their big ol' rotisserie.
Half Chicken - 125rmb
First Impressions: It's good chicken you gotta eat with your hands. They provide plastic gloves for a reason, and that reason is that you need to be tearing chunks of chicken off the bone with your teeth to enjoy the taste and texture Chef Hugo wrings out of these suckers. Despite some solid, tasty sides, I'll say the sauces were a bit bland and didn't leave much of an impression, but the chicken's good by itself with just a bit of squeezed lemon. I'm serious though; big mouthfuls, with your hands, very recommended. Also, special shout-out to the chicken wings. They were crunchy and a joy to consume. Perhaps not the pengest munch but a solidly peng addition to the rotisserie chicken onslaught.
Where Supper Club
What It Is: Hard to say. It's either a cocktail lounge with a gastronomic chip or vice versa. It definitely looks upscale.
Set on the second floor of a building in the Sinan Mansions, it's spacious, comfortably-furnished for small groups, with a long bar against a glass wall looking onto the street, and one of those open kitchens. The tables are mostly low but high enough to eat off and the ambience is solidly "financier's Wednesday martini with colleagues."
The drinks menu features a thankfully unboring array, including a Barnabe Fillon (78rmb), Williams-Pear Martini (68rmb), Royal Mary (68rmb) and Whiskey Smash (68rmb), all made by the bar-tending staff behind the bar. There's also champagne packages and wine. They've also got a handful of bottled beers available of the craft and non-craft variety.
Williams-Pear Martini - 68rmb
The food menu is pricey. It's mostly Western dishes with some Asian touches. Fancy bites like Oysters (Gillardeau 6pcs / 198rmb) and Hokkaido King Crab Legs (2 pcs / 218rmb) seem obvious, and there's a selection of soups, salads, risottos and pastas for around 78rmb, and some appetizers (French Wagyu Beef Tartare at 58rmb and Sous Vide Egg & Truffle Mash Potato for 48rmb). Mains are things like Pan Fried Cod Fish (238rmb), pricey steaks with multiple marbling options, Sous Vide Beef Short Ribs (198rmb), Sous Vide Pork Pluma (158rmb)... lot of sous vide stuff on there. We were told that the new Taiwanese chef, Chef Edison Lee of Le Mout Taichung, is a new addition to the team and so might be changing the menu up to add some more Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese touches. Your mileage may vary.
There's also a DJ booth. Every Wednesday to Saturday, they have a live DJ from 9.30pm and they say they're going to be installing a dance floor in front of it... sometime. Plans are to bring in some international DJs. They also have "light dinner entertainment" planned. Basically, performers moving around from table to table; there was a magician while we were there.
Sous Vide Australian Beef Short Ribs - 158rmb
First Impressions: It's a pretty simple idea, I guess; quality drinks and food in an upscale environment for the well-off. The food was good, presented nicely, and pricey. But the new chef might still be changing stuff up and what we say could be irrelevant in a week. The cocktails were actually fantastic and, at 70rmb to 80rmb, good value for money by Shanghai classy-lounge standards. The whole thing seems like it's trying to be a slightly fancier Liquid Laundry. They've got a DJ booth right as you walk in. So it's not taking itself too seriously; there was a floor magician (guy called Nicolas Petruzzi) doing the rounds of the tables while we were there, manifesting the card you thought of in his shoe. Cool trick, but I can't shake the feeling everything doesn't quite fit together. I think I like it, but it seems like it's still trying to figure out what it really wants to be.