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  • Date night along Tongren Lu, is certainly not what it used to be, most of the facades along this stretch of Tongren Lu have had a facelift more than once over the years, and that's just the buildings.

    Tucked away at the top end of the street and almost hidden from view is the entrance to Bloom, which I am told has been open some six months now.

    One enters along a long narrow strip, that has tables for diners placed along next to shrubbery, and in the background the glowing spire of the Russian Exhibition centre, which makes for a great backdrop for all the Millennials out there taking selfies.

    One is initially greeted by a host, at a stand which is in fact not near the entrance to the restaurant, you pointed in the general direction of the opening of the sliding glass door where you enter the main dining area of Bloom, which reminds me of a potting shed  with all the plants surrounding the walls, there is an open bar and open style kitchen, you also greeted by a cacophony of noisy diners, perhaps due to all the hard design elements, coupled with service staff rushing around like worker ants, finally we are spotted and shown to a table for two, along a side wall with a montage of greenery, the area is far too dark to read the menus, thankfully ones all-purpose smartphone is to hand, it would have helped had restaurant staff seen that a number of the spotlights were blown.

    Started off with looking through the drinks list, normally it’s a couple of glasses of white to start, followed by a couple of glasses of red would have been our norm.  I stopped at just the one glass mediocre non-descriptive Spanish Sauvignon Blanc and minuscule serving at that, it’s what one would have at a wine tasting event if studying for a WSET exam, and an exorbitant price, I was nowhere near Waitan, quaffed the sample and moved on to a couple of bottles of Pilsner Urquell.

    On to the menu, like so many places of late that have opened in Shanghai you are offered a menu without any form so to speak. After reading several other sites where punters have posted comments, we thought that we would go the same route, what could go wrong, if this were elsewhere one could be in breach of the trade’s description act of 1968 as to what was actually served.

    Wild Sour Dough Bread: Actually, baked with whole wheat flour, not a hint of springy sourness to be had, whipped butter nothing sour about the butter as described either.

    Pulled Pork Head, Purple Sauerkraut, 5 spice: more like a mini scotch egg minus the egg, and the purple sauerkraut was nothing more than red cabbage, nothing sour about this dish, slightly underwhelming.

    Wagyu Beef Tartar Nasturtiums Emulsion: nothing special about mush that lacked seasoning which is served on a very impractical wobbly plate.

    Charcoal Beef Tongue, Lemon Grass, Spicy Tomato sauce: Chewy cubed tongue, served with what I would say was more a Harissa style thick tomato sauce which overpowers the taste of the tongue.

    Aged Venison, Heritage carrots, Sherry Glaze:  aka silvers of soggy venison, and a bitter dressing, the venison reminded me of the stage where one has just marinated strips of beef to make Biltong.

    If one reads down a menu, then one expects the dishes to be served in that particular order, sadly not the case.

    Service was slow and erratic, certainly not offering any advise of what to eat, may I suggest you have this or that dish. Had to keep waving to get attention when the beverages were getting low, no upselling of beverages and served tepid tap water, no offer would you like to see the dessert menu.

    For four meagre dishes, a plate of bread, three beers and a sampling of wine which was over chilled, all yours for 763RMB for two pax.

    Shanghai diners must have more money than common sense, but then common sense is not very common these days, the venue is for the masses.

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  • For that sudden, special time of the year when you have a sudden craving for spicy bullfrog, Jin Xiao Guan on Anyuan Road has you covered. A Dazhong Dianping hero, the interior design aesthetic is simple, clean, and covered with stuffed frogs. It begs you to take pictures and plaster them all over your Wechat moments. 

    The specialities are crayfish and bullfrog, with enough variations of each to keep you trying new dishes for a long time. 

    We grabbed a lineup of classics from the recommendation section and found little to complain about. The 泡椒牛蛙 (bullfrog in spicy chili oil) was flavorful, fragrant and appropraitely spicy, with the meat ample and tender. The salty egg yolk corn 蛋黄咸玉米was crunchy, savory, salty and thoroughly satisfying. The cold noodles 冷面 were served with peanut sauce, chili oil, cucumber shards and bean sprouts. They were slightly spicy, savory, fresh-testing and excellent (and a huge portion to boot). Finally, the shreds of spicy seasoned beef stomach with cilantro were flavorful, delightfully chewy, and sufficiently different from the rest of the spicy flavors in the meal to add interest. 

    The only lowlight of the meal was the blue gelatin dessert - it was pretty but essentially flavorless. I think it was supposed to taste of blueberries but I only tasted the raisins on top. 

    Overall damage was about 160 RMB and we were stufffffed. The cold noodle portion was about 2x what we expected...definitely could have dropped a dish or two. A real winner in the value for money category. 

    I'm not always in the mood for Sichuan-style bullfrog, but the next time I am, I know where I'm going. You should too. 5/5

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  • Imagine if you asked an eight-year-old to design a mall. It would probably have a theater with a huge movie screen, VR arcades, a toy gun shooting range, slides and playgrounds, and maybe even a horseback riding track on the roof. That eight-year-old is probably hiding a secret life as a Chinese property tycoon because this mall actually exists in downtown Shanghai, and it’s called Greenland Being Funny Mall. I am not making this up.

    Located about halfway between old Xuhui and the West Bund, this mall boasts one of the best imax movie theaters in Shanghai. We went to catch the latest Avengers movie and afterwards decided to have dinner at Hokkaido Crab Premium Restaurants Okadaya. Apparently, this is a famous chain of crab restaurants in Japan and there are multiple locations across Shanghai.

    You cannot miss this place because there is a monster crab guarding the front door and you have to walk through its legs to get in. We went with the 998 rmb set menu which included wagyu beef rolls, sushi, appetizers, a cod dish, and culminated in a whole king crab to eat in a hot pot. There was also ice cream included for dessert. It was altogether way too much food, but the quality was good and the service was over the top good (the waiter grates wasabi tableside for your sushi).

    Given how expensive restaurants in Shanghai can be, I think this is a great deal, and I would go back again.

    Did I mention you can ride a horse on the roof of this mall?

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  • Even though in Shanghai there are around 5 restaurants per block average, it is yet hard to find healthy spots all over. Organic and healthy cuisine concepts are getting more and more developed in the last year but still is hard to see.

    On Xiangyang road you will find this little place -no more than 10 seats aprox- called Banana GG, a healthy and pet friendly place to go for a fit meal. If you go in the rush hour you might have to wait a bit because it’s gone popular. The staff is very friendly and the menu has salads, wraps, pokes, yogurt and more. You have all the proteins and veggies in different dishes presentations, which is a very smart decision.

    We went with our lovely dog and had the salmon salad, the falafel wrap, the chicken quesadilla and the granola with yogurt. As usual we order more than we should and we ate it all. The dishes are fresh, the portions are perfect (you won't feel hungry afterwards) and everything is very tasty. My fave is the granola and the size is pretty big! Prices are fair: 300 Rmb aprox for a big meal.

    The only thing I would change is the garnish salad in some dishes since it is the same one in all the menu, but other than that Banana GG is definitely a good spot when you want to take a healthy break.

     

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  • RAC has opened up a new spot and it's even more Instagram friendly than the last one. Sitting on Shaanxi Nam Lu, the two –floor lanehouse is gorgeous and picture-worthy at every corner- light and bright industrial-chic embellished with playful tiles design laid from the floor all the way to the bar, greenery around the corner, and natural light from the windows and roof window, creating the right mood and settings for your favorite brunch place.  

    Let’s get into the action. Sautéed mushroom, earthy tomatoes, cheese and an egg in the middle, the Veggie galettes is crispy, rich, and moreish. I can understand why people are crazy about the galettes and crepe here. While galettes is the focus here, don’t miss out the avocado toast. Bread is crispy by edge and soft in the middle, topped with a generous scoop of avocado spread and followed up with sliced avocado, half boiled egg and handful of walnuts for the crunch. It might be the best avocado toast in the city.  

    The place is quite small with limited seats on the second floor. First floor is an even smaller space serving coffee and drinks, so a line should be expected when visiting. The well decorated dishes are just as beautiful as the surroundings. Another spot for the brunch lovers!


    Price: 140 RMB for 2 dishes
    Summary: RAC’s second location is just as great as the first one. Serve with delicious galettes, crepe, coffee, and sandwich, brunch is the best time to be at RAC for a sunny afternoon.

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  • Seve is a gem of a restaurant tucked away along Hua Shan Lu, serving consistent homestyle Italian fare.

    Four hungry chaps caught up for a quick meeting over dinner, we were able to sit out on the street-side veranda of Seve this past Monday evening.

    The meal consisted of the following dishes:

    Italian Buffalo Mozzarella and cherry tomato salad, combined with giant Apulian black olives and asparagus, dressed with extra virgin olive oil.

    Crispy eggplant, topped with cherry tomatoes, San Daniele and Buffalo mozzarella.

    Octopus carpaccio served with sweet and sour vegetables, a lemon dressing and black pepper.

    Traditional home-made ravioli, filled with pumpkin.

    Pizza Formaggi, one of the better and consistent pizza’s I feel in town.

    A dessert plate for three, that had the following classical Italian sweets to finish off the meal, with a glass of complimentary limoncello Tiramisu, Semifreddo Zabaione, Pannacotta al Caramello.

    To accompany the meal, we had three bottles of wine, two Sicilian whites, and a Nero d’Avola, all these wines were of quality and at an affordable pricing structure.

    Could not expect any better family style Italian food, everything from atmosphere, warm and friendly service, from the greeting by Severino, the Patron who goes around the tables giving a personal touch to the restaurant, along with Cherry who served at table, who was proactive in recommending dishes, and clearing away plates when needed, not obtrusive in any way.

    The menu has a variety of options to choose from and changes with the season, no doubt you will find something of your taste, positive comments all round on the pumpkin ravioli in a white truffle sauce. Can highly recommend Seve for a casual night out, damages came to 576RMB per person.

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  • As I walked past this small cafe not too far from Ruijin Lu, the exterior bar-stool seating beckoned me to come and take a rest on a beautiful spring afternoon. Having visited Paris not too long ago, I was hoping this cafe might transport me back to the gluttonous city. 

    The first thing that acknowledges Paris is the small display of five to six croissants by the register.   The menu offers up a simple selection of sandwiches, salads, smoothies and coffee.    I ordered the Le Parisian Ham sandwich, an espresso to get a pick me up, and the Paris smoothie.

    The sandwich is presented showing off all the layers of tomato, cucumber, lettuce, ham and oregano-seasoned fried egg drizzled in mayo.  The toasted bread quickly falls apart upon biting into it.  It’s best to resume eating it by scooping up the ingredients with the toast, Indian-style. 

    The smoothie looks like ice cream as it’s served in a blue-tinted mason jar.  Perfectly cold and refreshing, though lacking much of the strawberry-banana flavor promised from the menu.  The espresso is invigorating.  Dark, bitter, with a subtle fruitiness.  The perfect pick-me-up.

    While it may not make you feel as if you’re back in Paris, Meet in Paris does offer terrific seating for people-watching and a cozy atmosphere to pass time on a lazy afternoon.  The food may not stand out, but the espresso, brewed by an ever smiling barista, is on par with that of any decent cafe in Shanghai.   

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  • At this brunch spot the buzzy energy hit me as soon as I walked in. This place is constantly packed with the open space and tons of natural lights. As soon as I sat down, the staff came with water and menu, which I found very attentive considered how packed it was.

    I had a odelice brunch plate and a veggie mozzarella plate on the side. The brunch set came with a drink, and I went for a latte.  Scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, salad, croissant and a half of a avocado, the brunch plate was very pretty self explanatory with simple seasoning. The appetizer was delicious, slice zucchini and cooked cherry tomatoes with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar, tasting delicious and light. My friend also got a strawberry smoothie yet he found it quite sugary and unnatural. We stayed for quite awhile and the crowd didn’t seem to go away until late afternoon.

    In general, you may have to get a little cozy with your neighbors on the busy times, but it is overall a great place to have delicious brunch and to enjoy your afternoon with.

    Price: 200 RMB for two

    Summary: A cozy restaurant with open space and delicious food. Friendly and attentive staffs that’re always happy to help even with a full crowd.

     

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  • I’m pretty sure brunching is one of the top expat pastimes in Shanghai. The sheer amount of brunch deals can be overwhelming.

    I would judge brunch based on drinks, atmosphere and food. In most cases, you are lucky to get two out of three. Bull & Claw is the exception that does a great job across all metrics.

    Most free flow brunches are limited to some house wines and a standard beer. Bull & Claw’s includes those and a decent selection of cocktails and beers (even IPA’s).

    Located in an old villa, Bull & Claw has lots of outdoor space with large patios and on both the first and second floors along with a private party room on the third floor. Weekends are crowded with big groups, but with the high walls, it still feels like you are escaping the city.

    Lastly, the food is actually excellent on its own. The pancakes on the kids menu is basically every kids’ dream. They take two fairly typical pancakes and basically cover them in syrup, candy and ice cream. It is off the chains. 

    The brunch roast beef takes a traditional pub roast and elevates it by using wagyu chuck and goose fat roasted potatoes. It is a huge portion, but I left a spotless plate when I finished.

    Without drinks, you can have a good two course brunch for 168 rmb.

     

     

     

     

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  • Here’s the low-down on the latest action-

    The Beef: Kept it carb-friendly with pancakes! Plenty of protein on the menu as well naturally - eggs, bacon, burgers, etc.

    The first thing about the place is the vibe. Lots of buzz and energy with the weekend crowd. We had debated whether to go to this outpost or to the Xiangyang Lu location. Pros for Changle Lu: The décor is more fun/lively; outdoor seating is available; and the icing on top is that they have a full-on Gracie’s ice cream selection in the back. Pros for Xiangyang Lu: bigger space, more tables; apparently their bacon is better; also have Gracie’s but feels less “retro” without the ice cream parlor feel.

    I opted for sweet this time and gave the pancakes a try. These were dense and rich, more cake-y than fluffy (and extremely filling)! strawberry cheesecake pancakes had graham cracker crust bits which were delicious but could have had more sauce. By the second pancake (each “original” size order comes with three), the pancakes started to feel dry. I enjoyed them but had to order a soda to wash the rest of it down. The strawberry sauce was also a bit too “lemon citrus-y” for me.

    The Purgatory Eggs got a decent review. Seemed good but nothing mindblowing or “hellalicious”.

    The Gang: Cool kids (literally), there were lots of families as well as smaller groups of friends. A mix of Chinese and laowai although probably with a majority of the latter.

    The Motive: The brunch menu seems to be different than their usual menu with expanded offerings. But they do have all-day breakfast on the regular menu. Also, I would come by just for a scoop or two of Gracie’s.

    The Damage: 285RMB for three (coffee, no alcohol)

    The Down n’ Dirty: Single bathroom, although surprisingly no line despite the crowds. Spic n' span.

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SMARTREVIEWS

SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.

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