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It's The Willy: Willy Trullas Moreno

Mar 2, 2018

My name is Willy and I’m from Barcelona, Spain. I moved to Shanghai early 2007. Currently, I’m in between Shanghai and Bangkok. I’m a chef. In Shanghai, I opened my first restaurant, el Willy. I’ve been in the kitchen all of my life, since I was a kid, but in Shanghai is where I had the opportunity to open my own restaurant.

El Willy, it’s a Spanish restaurant, you know. In Shanghai for 10 years already. We started in Donghu Lu — we were at that location for some years and then we moved to The Bund in 2012, and we’ve been there ever since. We do contemporary and traditional Spanish cooking — but with our fun and sexy style!

Shanghai"

For dishes over the years, I think, we’ve had some classics there. We’ve had a few that have been there since the beginning, like the beef cheek, bananas and passion fruit, which has been with us since day one. Also we have the scallops tiradito which is with avocado and relish, which has also been there since day one also. Those are basically a part of the landscape of the restaurant. We also have the lobster juicy paella which is also from day one. In terms of more contemporary dishes, I love the chicano, the crispy pork skin with cauliflower and caviar. That’s really, really nice. And then of course the famous, explosive smoked salmon, with sour cream and truffle honey. That’s a good one!

Oh man. Shanghai restaurants, over the 10 years, it’s changed a lot, you know! I doubt anywhere in the world has changed as fast in these last 10 years as Shanghai. When I came to Shanghai 11 years ago it was like… well, there were a lot of restaurants but not even one-third as many as there are now. It was also hard to find foreign-chef restaurants, but today the culinary scene is pretty much at the same level as an international capital.

Shanghai"
El Willy on the Bund

I would say maybe we’re not at the level of London or New York yet but we’re almost there. It’s getting very, very close. Super, super close.

So a really, really quick improvement. At the same time, I think with all the shopping malls, popping up like mushrooms in the city, there is an over-supply of restaurants. All these shopping malls are focusing more and more square-meters on F&B, to bring people in on top of people there for the retail and cosmetics, so now we have all these shopping malls with 30 or 40 restaurants in them each. That's a HUGE supply of restaurants in the city and I don’t think the demand is there — or it’s not growing as fast. So definitely, I think the market is over-supplied right now.

Shanghai"
El Willy on the Bund

For Shanghai itself over 10 years? The first time I was here was in 2004 and then moved here in 2007. It was still a “developing” city, you know. Like still in the jungle, a little bit. Today, it feels like you are in a fully developed city like a Seoul or Hong Kong. Back then, it was like anything is possible because we’re in the jungle but now, you know, we are in a mature city. And that’s good and bad at the same time, of course.

For me, my favorite parts of Shanghai have always been what is remaining of the Old Shanghai. Like the old architecture of The Bund area, and of course Jing’an and Xuhui — I like that old, charming Shanghai. The little left that is remaining, that will always be my absolute favorite part. Unfortunately it keeps on getting erased and erased but that will always be favorite Shanghai.

Shanghai"

My favorite places to eat and drink? Yeah, yeah of course. I really enjoy, of course, Chinese food. I go to Guyi a lot on Fumin Lu — that’s an all-time classic. In terms of bars, I still like the classics like Constellation. What else do I enjoy…actually I don’t go out that much anymore! What else do I enjoy recently. Well, I always go to Din Tai Fung. I guess I am a little bit stuck on the oldies, you know.

For the future for el Willy we are keeping on going and developing. We have also Tomatito and el Ocho, so we’ll focus with three venues, and focus on expansion. We’ve been opening in the past year in the Philippines and in Vietnam. In addition to Hong Kong, where we’ve been for almost 10 years already. Basically, focusing in new markets. Manilla, Vietnam, and Taiwan, and then Malaysia and Indonesia, in the next years. So, basically, in Shanghai we’ll keep what we have and keep it exciting. We’re open to doing something else but not in a rush.

It was sad to close Elefante, especially at the Donghu location because that was where I started and spent a long period of time. And that’s where the food started. It’s sad to see it go, you know, but at the same time it’s like a cycle. We’re always looking to new opportunities. But defiantly it was sad.

Will I stay in Shanghai forever? Well I spend a lot of my time traveling, but yeah hopefully our restaurants are forever. It’s a great place to be and I’m not in a rush to leave…

VENUES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:

  • Replaced by Ekeko

    Elefante

    • Dining
    • Mediterranean
    • Deli
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      20 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Lu
      东湖路20号, 近淮海路
    • Phone
      5404 8085

    With el Willy off to greener pastures on the Bund, chef/restaurateur Willy Trullas Moreno has opened Elefante at his flagship restaurant's original Donghu location. The concept is a broader than its predecessor: Mediterranean with a focus on Spanish and Italian... Read more

  • el Willy (Bund 22)

    • Dining
    • Spanish
    • Design Standout
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      South Bund 22, 5/F, 22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, near Xinyong'an Lu
      中山东二路22号5楼, 近新永安路
    • Phone
      5404 5757

    This is the newly-relocated mid-range Spanish restaurant by "Willy" Trullas Moreno. Willy's cooking is more contemporary than traditional Spanish--he does "juicy rice", not traditional paella -- but stops well short of molecular fine dining. In a nod to the local... Read more

  • This venue has now closed

    el Willy (Donghu Lu)

    • Dining
    • Spanish
    • Mediterranean
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      20 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Lu
      东湖路20号, 近淮海路
    • Phone
      5404 5757

    el Willy is the eponymous restaurant of Guillermo "Willy" Trullas, and it's a wildly popular, mid-range Spanish joint. Willy's cooking is more contemporary than traditional Spanish -- he does "juicy rice", not traditional paella -- but stops well short of molecular... Read more

  • Bar Constellation (Xinle Lu)

    • Nightlife
    • Japanese
    • Bars
    • Address
      86 Xinle Lu, near Xiangyang Bei Lu
      新乐路86号, 近襄阳北路
    • Phone
      5404 0970

    Constellation was a "hidden gem," prized among expats for its finely conceived and exhaustive selection of cocktails -- but now everybody "knows about it" and it has "lost its charm" apparently. Take that for what you will. Basically everything ever mixed since the... Read more

  • Guyi (Fumin Lu)

    • Dining
    • Hunan
    • Popular Chinese
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      89 Fumin Lu, near Julu Lu
      富民路89号, 近巨鹿路
    • Phone
      6249 5628

    Guyi is an institution of a Hunan restaurant in Shanghai, among both foreigners and locals, for its upscale environment and excellent fiery food, unaffected by local tastes. It's a step up from almost all other Hunan restaurants in Shanghai, and though quality has... Read more

  • el Ocho

    • Nightlife
    • Bars
    • Lounge
    • Address
      Zhangyuan 99, 3/F, 99 Taixing Lu, near Nanjing Xi Lu
      泰兴路99号3楼, 近南京西路
    • Phone
      6256 3587

    The second cocktail lounge from the team behind el Willy, el Ocho occupies the third floor of a heritage building on Taixing Lu. It's a gorgeous, spacious property with vaulted ceilings and exposed brick and timber. The bartenders make an eclectic and inspired mix of... Read more

  • Tomatito

    • Dining
    • Spanish
    • Design Standout
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      Zhangyuan 99, 2/F, 99 Taixing Lu, near Nanjing Xi Lu
      泰兴路99号2楼, 近南京路
    • Phone
      6259 8671

    The latest concept from Willy Trullas Moreno, Tomatito is a casual, colorful and quirky Spanish tapas bar. The menu comprises mostly Spanish classics, like pork and chicken croquetas, patatas bravas, tortillas and albondigas all done with Willy's personal touch, of... Read more

  • Din Tai Fung (Xintiandi)

    • Dining
    • Shanghainese
    • Xiao Long Bao
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      Xintiandi, South Block Plaza, 2/F, Lane 123 Xingye Lu, near Madang Lu
      新天地南里广场2楼, 兴业路123弄, 近马当路
    • Phone
      6385 8378

    Din Tai Fung is a Taiwanese chain, but don't hold it against them. Their versions of Chinese snack food -- dumplings, noodles, steamed buns, and simple vegetable dishes -- are impeccable, as is their highly-trained service. You pay for the luxury of all of this, of... Read more

[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a weekly SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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