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Shen

May 6, 2015
by Ian L.

Area: The Bund. New cocktail bar / rooftop Shen sits right in the center, upstairs from Goodfellas, next to Lost Heaven, and across the street from Atanu, that lighthouse that used to host Antidote / S.T.D. / TICT parties. Just around the corner are spots like Unico, Jean Georges, Chi-Q, and lots of luxury shops, scammers, tourists, lovers, laser beam hawkers, and giant lion statutes.

What it is: A chill, 7th floor patio to enjoy a drink and some Bund views without getting too fancy, and a menu of cocktails and tapas with Chinese characteristics, like a Chongqing Mala-garita and smoked fish wrapped in cotton candy. Shen is a collaboration between San Francisco native Michael Ohlsson, he of Dada bar / The Antidote party crew, and Sichuan-born Brain Huang, another partner in Dada who also bartends, manages, and DJs there, along with some silent investors. Bar direction comes from Jerry Chen, who used to work at HOF, Yuan, Fennel Lounge, and Starling, amongst others.

This place took eighteen months to complete, with tales of construction delays, re-builds, issues with the copyrights of Chinese characters, and not getting permits for solar panels due to aesthetic concerns. There is no Chinese name for this place. The name Shen comes from the Chinese character 申, which means Shanghai, as in the Shanghai Shenhua football team. Well there's another Shen in town -- the media magnate who runs Sheng Newspaper (申江服务导报), who has recently opened several lifestyle centers around town. Apparently they did not like the idea of another business using this character in their name. And, there you go. No Chinese name -- just pinyin, even on Dianping.

The 6th floor is a private kitchen, which Shen manages as part of the deal with the landlord. The chef, coming straight out of Anhui with some Sichuanese kitchen tendencies, has a background in those kind of tuhao banquet dinners that include rounds of abalone and other rare gems of the sea, so there is that, if you want. At Shen, he cooks up small plates of items like ma la fish and spicy chips, green string bean hand rolls, and hot and spicy Sichuan chicken. While Shen is not a dinner destination, you could piece together a meal with the plates.

Atmosphere: Minimal decor, maximal Bund views. Mellow. San Franciscan. You could walk in here in a suit or some shorts and a T-shirt. Wood floors, black chairs, beige Euro facades (required by zoning), Red neon strips, and some green from the mint plants in the potters on deck, to push the mojitos and push away the mosquitos. There's 110 seats, most of them outside. Until recently, the Bund lacked a middle ground between, say, Bar Rouge, and Captain Hostel. Then The Nest arrived early this year, with great design and food but without the pumping music and clubbing atmosphere so common on The Bund. Shen is closer to The Nest in vibe, but much more minimal -- this is simply a rooftop on which to enjoy a drink and some views.

Music policy: No DJs -- this is not in any way Dada on the Bund. Music is just playlists, curated by Ohlsson and Huang. Expect indie rock and chill electronica. Definitely no pounding EDM or techno. On a recent visit, Talking Heads and M.I.A. played on the modest soundsystem.

Damage: Reasonable for the Bund. You're looking at 60–70rmb for decent draft beer like Vedett or La Chouffe, 55rmb for standard pours, and 88rmb for signature cocktails. Small plates of Chinese tapas are 38-88rmb. Wine list looks good too, with light selections that compliment the atmosphere.

Who's going: Right now, just friends of the team and a few walk-ins, but they've already booked several private parties. Expect a big grand opening sometime in June. And sparing any unexpected obstacles, this place will be popular.
Opened:
May 2, 2015

Address:
7/F, 7 Yan'an Dong Lu, near The Bund

Reservations:
6316 9119

Prices:

House wine: 55rmb

La Chouffe draft: 70rmb

Chongqing ma-la-garita: 88rmb

Smoked fish in cotton candy puffs: 48rmb

Fish & ma-la chips: 58rmb
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