Changle Lu between Chengdu and Ruijin Er Lu. This is a length of road better known for its quirky fashion boutiques than its dining options. Avalon Wine Bar and Grill
ruled the roost here until it quietly stepped down in early March. Bloc quickly slipped in and filled the vacuum.
What it is:
A debut restaurant by Chicago-transplant Mike Solovey. Solovey arrived in Shanghai about four years ago and got his start running the kitchen at Bubba's
. Shortly thereafter, he served a two-year stint at Boxing Cat Brewery
followed by a few consultancy gigs here and there while he drew up plans to do something he could put his own stamp on. Along the way, he partnered up with Shahla Salih, owner of Urban Thai
, and a few other investors. Bloc is the end result.
If that name invokes flashbacks of a now-defunct night club in Fuxing Park, not only have you lived here for too long, you clearly didn't listen in history class. Rather, we're talking Eastern Europe, the countries that spent the latter half of this century behind the Iron Curtain. It's a good fit for Solovey; he's of Ukrainian extraction. He grew up eating this stuff. Prick his finger and beet juice comes out.
Right now, Solovey and Co. are serving a smallish soft-opening menu that hits all of the major culinary bullet points of this region. Think hearty Hungarian classics like beef and lamb goulash served in a bowl of wheat bread, or chicken paprika over rosemary spaetzle. Chicken Kiev, of course, is on the menu. He does quite a delicious borscht. There are pierogies as well, stuffed with a choice of sweet potato and goat cheese, four-cheese and potato, or blue cheese and bacon. Another dish you'd do well to have on your table is his whole smoked trout. All of it is made in house, even the rye bread that comes with the borscht. And as Bloc gets its footing, Solovey has plans to bring on a few other interesting additions, like knishes, a savory Ukrainian pastry stuffed with potato and smoked beef brisket, and even a few exotic drinks like kvass, a sweet Russian malt-based brew.
There is an adequate wine list to go with all of this, but the more interesting hooch is without a doubt the five Czech beers they've brought in. Beer is quite a point of pride in that country. They did, after all, invent
the Pilsner, arguably the most popular style of beer in the world. In addition to Pilsner, they carry a few darker maltier varieties as well. If all of that's still too weak for you, they offer a fairly comprehensive selection of vodkas.
On the first level, the decor is simple, spare, and understated. A stained-glass motif here, a wall of wood blocks emblazoned with the restaurant's logo there. Most of the tables are two-tops, so the place can accommodate dinner for two or 12 very easily. Upstairs, the place takes on more of a minimalist 70s bachelor pad aesthetic with its backless block stools of purple velvet and plush walls. That then leads to an outdoor terrace that puts you eye-level with the trees that line Changle Lu.
Soups and salads will set you back anywhere between 35 and 85rmb. Pierogies are 40 or 45rmb for five, 75 or 85rmb for 10. 45rmb will get you a plate of three latkes. Mains start at 88 for stuffed cabbage and top out at 198rmb for the smoked trout, which is quite reasonable, seeing as how it serves two. At the time of writing, there are two desserts at 40 and 50rmb. Wines by the bottle never venture past 750rmb, and they pour them by the glass for 45 to 60 rmb. At 50rmb, the beers seem a tad steep until you realize that most of them are 500ml bottles. 300ml bottles are 40 to 45rmb.