Yifeng Galleria. This is the luxury retail annex of the Rockbund
, that recently restored cluster of buildings at the eastern tip of Beijing Lu. Capo shares the fifth floor with the new Muse
. Right across the street is the Peninsula Hotel
. Just around the corner on Yuanmingyuan Lu is 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana
, which is probably a direct competitor.
What it is:
Capo is the second project in just over five months by Issimo
executive chef Enzo Carbone. This time, Carbone is applying his Neapolitan pizza expertise to steak. Apparently, Neapolitans have exacting standards for their pizza ovens. There is an even a regulatory body, which I've already written about here
. Once again, Carbone is following the rules down to the letter. He's had all of the construction materials, the bricks and even the sand for the mortar, shipped all the way from Italy to Shanghai. He also commissioned an Italian artisan and his apprentice son to come build the thing. When it was finally done, the oven had to be conditioned, which requires continuous heat for several days. Beaming with pride, Carbone tells me that his kitchen staff volunteered to take shifts to stand vigil and keep the flames stoked.
The end result is a twin oven with a wood-burning compartment for pizzas and a charcoal-burning compartment for steaks and chops. He's got a line on premium organic grain-fed beef from Australia, and he's also roasting chickens, lamb and veal. Cuts are placed on small cast iron grills, and shoved into the oven, where they control the heat by shoveling embers underneath. They come out with their juices sealed perfectly inside a smoky, carbony layer of char.
Steaks and chops are the centerpiece of the menu, with pizzas following a close second. But there is also a huge selection of antipasti like roasted beef bone marrow chopped-to-order steak tartare with black truffles. There are also plenty of pasta options like linguine tossed with olive oil, garlic, sea urchin and bottarga, or salt-cured grey mullet roe. Then there is the raw, or, as they like to say in Italian, crudo
bar serving freshly-shucked imported oysters and other assorted shellfish.
It's been a good year for Neri and Hu. Their stamp is on Capo as well. The design firm has departed from the post-industrial aesthetics of Table No. 1
. The theme, as Capo's regime describe it, is a "basilica." To me it feels like the kitchen in a renaissance princes palace. Almost the entire space is constructed of brick. Lighting is sparse. The dining room is a series of rows of communal tables whose terminus is the twin ovens, which radiate the orange glow of smoldering embers. Spurring off the main room are several narrow corridors that lead to private dining rooms.
Ocean freight is priced according to weight. Bricks and sand are heavy. You can expect some of that cost to be absorbed into your bill. Imported beef raised without hormones and antibiotics usually isn't cheap either, nor, for that matter, is Burrata cheese when it's flown in fresh from Italy. In short, expect to spend some cash here. Oysters from the crudo bar are 48 kuai a piece, and shellfish samplers go all the way up to 888rmb. Antipasti start at 78rmb with dishes like roasted beef bone marrow and end up 188 for a large serving of steak tartare. Pizzas range from 88 to 168. Primi plates of pasta and risotto are anywhere between 88 and 248; two portion sizes are available for each. Steaks are a broad range too. A 200g tenderloin will set you back 198rmb while a 300g top sirloin goes for 588rmb. Considering that this place ultimately is a steakhouse, though, none of these prices are out of the ordinary or unreasonable. If that's too rich for your blood, they're offering everything on the menu at half price until September 30. After that, they're closing down for the national holiday and will re-open on October 4, at which point they'll be up to full price.
On my visit it was all industry folks and friends of the owners. Judging from the location, though, they're clearly trying to go for Shanghai's luxury hungry denizens. The place also shares a door with neighboring Muse. They're hoping to be a pre-party spot for the posher echelons of the nightclub's clientele.