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  • There are over 350 restaurants in Shanghai serving up Italian food and taking a line from Michael Caine…. "Not many people know that."  

    Some have Michelin stars, some even have celebrity chefs’ names over the door, that though is where it ends in my opinion, a name over the door. Slight oxymoron here with my recent encounter at Lago, which is touted as modern Italian fine dining from acclaimed Spanish chef Julian Serrano "Small Plates. Bold Flavours." is the tagline. 

    Well, I am sorry to say, taglines are one thing, snapping of the dishes and the presentation thereof is another, but overall don’t forget to season the damn food, for the majority if not all of the dishes lacked depth and adequate seasoning, some covered with dollops of a heavy sauce.

    Before we get to the actual dishes, lets speak about the 23 pages of wines offered, or in this case not, the plan was to start with a couple of bottles of white wine, something affordable as prices were and are astronomical, with ridiculous markups, after the 10th white wine from the listing being unavailable, tells us what you do have and bring two bottles, this went back and forth for some 15 minutes or more, in the end we settled for Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC 2017 at 658RMB a bottle, palatable but not outstanding I would say.

    With some understanding of the menu and style of service, we opted for the following dishes which were shared.

    Vitello Tonnato: supposedly veal loin with tuna dressing and capers, not seen veal as dark as this before, along with smidgens of tuna dressing, and a couple of white anchovies. 

    Tuna Tartare: on this dish, there were small spherical balls of gazpacho, “redesigned” to taste better than the real thing. This is a technique invented by Chef Adrià of El Bulli, a classic and often used as an example of spherification where a liquid is shaped into a sphere, causing it to burst in the mouth. These balls were difficult to pick up, perhaps a little more thought in the presentation, and execution. The Tuna meat was quite dark, overall lacked adequate seasoning, oh and a little liquid run off?

    Risotto Frutti Di Mare Scallops, Clams, Squid and Prawns: The texture of the rice, grains should be cooked al dente, with just the right amount of chew when you bite into them, sadly this was not the case, and served in a soup plate rather than the traditional way of serving Risotto which is generally a flat plate, again needed just a little oompf here to bring out all the flavours.

    Ravioli Ripieni di Manzo Stufato: Handmade pasta stuffed with a short rib of beef and mushrooms, for me this was the highlight of the meal, all the ingredients came together here, well balanced and seasoned.

    Branzino Livornese: aka grilled Seabass served with a tomato, onion, caper and black olive sauce, or in this instance more like a spoonful of thick tomato concasse, not what I had in mind. 

    Grilled Asparagus….Well it’s asparagus you can’t go wrong here.

    Whipped mashed potato aka creamy spuds, containing the ever-ubiquitous amounts of truffle that one finds in Shanghai of late.

    The setting on the terrace is superb, one could not ask for better with the backdrop of the bright lights of the Bund and skyline of Pudong on this balmy September evening, the service was friendly and efficient, music a little loud, and had to ask to have this turned down a notch, the evening whilst lovely to catch up with friends, overall let down by the inconsistency in the dishes served, and frankly speaking would have expected better from this celebrity restaurant.

    Dishes are not outrageously priced, but then again versus taste is a little disappointing I would say.

    Price per person 870RMB

    Whilst one has to rate in terms of full stars, a pity one can’t give half a star here, I would say no more than 2.5 based upon the food.

     

     

     

     

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  • At a recent Friday date night, we ventured to the very far south of Shanghai in the vicinity of the Longhua Pagado to dine at the global French Cookie cutter style brassiere called Entrecôte – Steakhouse à la française, to what we thought was a promotional deal on at 190 RMB for two pax, we were certainly hooked, line and sinker.

    Upon entering the restaurant, one is greeted by the typical style of a French brassiere, with all the background sounds that you might find in the Montmartre, accordions playing with the occasional sounds of Charles Aznavour or Edith Piaf wafting through the airwaves.

    The set Table d'hôte promotional menu deal consisted of a choice of the following dishes

    Traditional French Frisee Salad

    Mushroom soup

    Sirloin steak aka Entrecôte with French fries and their secret sauce aka ‘Café de Paris butter, there is no real secret to this rich herby garlic butter sauce, that's been spread over Entrecôte steaks the world over.

    Looking around at other diners, it was evident that the portions were somewhat small, so we order the following additional dishes

    Escargots in garlic and parsley butter....a night for garlic lovers.

    Purée Maison granitée aux Fromage et lardons – or in plain speak, scooped out baked potato with grilled cheese and diced bacon.

    Sautéed French beans.

    Followed by the classic crème brûlée for dessert, I have had better, and had worse, this was acceptable.

    We had a couple of glass of French Chardonnay, along with a couple of glasses of non-descript red house wine, also French, both wines were decent pours and affordable prices.

    There was a cross-section diner's, dining on this Friday evening, young and old, along with several Europeans enjoying a night out.  The service staff were friendly, not always on the ball though, and had to flag them down at times to draw attention to the table at times, but overall a satisfactory meal and experience for the amount paid and can recommend for an off the beaten track, no-frills affordable restaurant, damages came to 600RMB

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  • I have been a frequent diner at Ginger over the years, the restaurant is not too far to walk for a late lunch to escape both the monotony of work, and of course the searing heat for a while, and to catch up on the current book I am reading without interruptions.

    Arriving after the main rush at around 13h45, I was shown to a corner seat and offered a glass of water, no hard sell here which is a pleasant change.

    I had seen a recent posting of a dish that I had not eaten in a while, gazpacho, Ginger excelled with a blend of Summer Tomatoes, Watermelon, and Green Curry Sorbet in this Gazpacho, what a combination and what a treat this was, so refreshing on a sticky summer’s day.

    I followed on by ordering the Vegetarian Hanoi Rolls, which came with an abundance of leafy greens, butter lettuce, the deep-fried Hanoi rolls, were not laden with oil nor left a bitter taste of old cooking oil on the palate.

    I finished off with the Freshly Baked Perfect Lemon Tart, I was told that I had to wait 15 minutes for this to be baked, the lemon curd was amazing, as was the smooth pastry crust, now I consider myself to be a dab hand at baking pies, crumbles and tarts, including the making of lemon curd, particularly since Marks & Sparks left town,  I  have also had many a tart in Shanghai at various restaurants, but must say this was the best lemon tart ever.

    The service this Monday lunchtime was efficient and friendly as ever, I finished off with a glass of freshly made Ginger Ale, all for a total of 255RMB, going slightly over my budget for a lunch.

    Do go and visit this amazing restaurant, you won’t be disappointed.

     

     

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  • Friday night meet up with an old friend from down south, along with my regular dining partner, as the weather was pleasant we all decided to meet up at the rooftop terrace of Dream Brewers at 758 Julu Lu, and what an experience it became.

    As it’s a brewhouse, started with a selection of their 330ml IPA’s, and ordered a glass of Laughing Bird Chardonnay for our friend, whilst going over the menu.

    We chose the following dishes:

    Pork Trotters Carpaccio: Deboned pig’s trotter which is pressed into a cylindrical shape, or forced back into the skin and poached, somewhat like a terrine. Must say this was the most standout out dish of the entire meal, and something not seen before in Shanghai.

    Deep-Fried Crab Cake: That in effect was oversized and over deep-fried, extremely salty dry crab cake, why not make then smaller and offer, say three and more delicate and pan-fry instead.

    Baked Snails Pie: The snails must have been Greek in origin, as they were a little shy and were somewhat spartan in number, meaning there weren’t that many to be found under the rectangular puff pastry case, which had green drips everywhere.

    Char-Grilled Ibrico Pork Rib: which I believe should have been spelt as Ibérico!! this dish was dry and tough.

    Hand-Cut French Fries: more like machine cut and frozen jobbies.

    Roasted Red Beetroot:  nice touch with the pumpkin seeds, but just dam salty.

    Baked Creamy Spinach: nothing creamy about this dish.

    All three of the side orders were extremely small portions both the Roasted Red Beetroot and Baked Creamy Spinach were over seasoned, well just too much salt.

    All of the dishes were decorated in green, or some form of green drizzle…Was this an attack underway of Soylent Green.

    Must say that the selection of beers on offer were interesting, slightly different from the plethora of recently opened brewpubs around Shanghai.

    The Laughing Bird Chardonnay:  a merge pour for the price.  I looked up the description of what the wine should have been, as taken from their website: This fresh Australian white has a ripe lemon hue with green apple and lemon rind aromas. Ripe peach and melon flavours mingle with a richly textured creaminess on the palate, leading to a fresh finish, the wine smelled like cheap nail varnish remover, my guest left most of it.

    I understand the main restaurant is on the floor below, which results in a disconnect with what is prepared upstairs on the terrace grill area, lengthy wait times for dishes, the waiters were mostly sullen no coordination, the foreign chap who was orchestrating the grill, avec baseball cap, was not conducting too well.

    I can put up, to a degree with children running around a restaurant as this is Asia, where parents have very little control or just don’t care, but to allow a poodle to run around a restaurant is off-putting and where I draw the line, and no it was not a guide dog, or to be more PC an “All-Seeing Eye Dog” what were they thinking, both the owners and the establishment for allowing this.

    As the night wore on, despite sitting directly opposite the bar, it was as if we were in a blind spot, cluttered by dirty plates, our glasses empty and with the pumping up of the music Gangnam style was becoming deafening, we decided to call it a night and pay, sorry we don’t take credit cards, only WeChat / Alipay, fortunately, I had enough of the readies, to pay in cash.

    I enjoyed myself in the company of two lovely ladies, it was Friday night after all, but I ask myself why I bother trying these new places that everyone raves about through months of social media froth, upon reflection I wished I had stayed at home and entertained there instead.

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  • I had dined at the Edition Hotel previously, but only at their Shanghai Tavern on the ground floor, as it was Friday and date night, my regular dining partner invited me to experience the much-touted Hiya, that’s been open for some 11 months now, you know the venue, the one with the waiting list for the table with the view over the bright lights of the Bund, our reservation was for 20h00, the table by the window was empty and not booked until much later at 21h30, of course, we would have finished by then.

    We were out of luck for that table, and got the dodgy table where the banquette to table to height ratio with the adjacent diners’ chair is out of whack, which seems in vogue at many of the restaurants in Shanghai, why can’t the interior designers of these high-end restaurants get this basic details right, diners need to be seated at the same level, and not slouching on an unsupported poorly designed banquette.

    We went with the idea of choosing the TASTE OF HIYA menu at 1388RMB for two pax, and an additional 390RMB each for the wine pairing which would consist of four 100ml servings of beverages again per pax, good job we chose the menu in advance, as the lighting at 20h00 was far too dark to read the menu, especially as one of the down spotlights, positioned above the table was blown, (see the image) the devil is in the detail, they don't offer menus in braille. 

     

    The menu consisted of the following

    House Made Snacks

    Chefs Selection of Sashimi

    Summer Sweet Corn Chanwamushi Fresh Uni, Dashi Jelly

    Tuna Termaco with Scallion, Tobiko, Sushi rice, Avocado, Fresh Wasabi 2pcs

    Spice Duck Broth, Seasonal Mushrooms, Fried shallots

    Brittany Monkfish Kaarage, Smoked Mayo, Citrus Salt

    Sanchoku Australian Wagyu Short Rib, Pickled Daikon, Kinpira Vegetables

    Pre-dessert

    Fuji Mount Blanc

    Whilst waiting for the food to arrive, we ordered a bottled beer and a glass of Skyline Chardonnay, the waiter served me first and my regular dining partner second, not what one would expect at this type of establishment, service was very much hit and miss, more on the missing side throughout the meal, the white wine was not served at the correct temperature, far too cold, I experienced the same at their Shanghai Tavern venue as well.

    Dishes that stood out for both presentation and their overall taste were as follows

    Chefs Selection of Sashimi

    Summer Sweet Corn Chanwamushi Fresh Uni, Dashi Jelly

    Tuna Termaco with Scallion, Tobiko, Sushi rice, Avocado, Fresh Wasabi 2pcs

    Sanchoku Australian Wagyu Short Rib, Pickled Daikon, Kinpira Vegetables

    The beverage package which accompanied the meal was nothing special, none of this Sake that goes with this course etc, the plates were not changed throughout the entire meal.

    The Fuji Mount Blanc dessert was akin to a mushed up splodge of a Jaffa cake and looked like a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    One realises that Shanghai at this time of year goes through tremendous change in the weather, with high humidity, but surely after 11 months I would have thought the A/C would have been balanced by now, it was not cool enough in fact very weak, the venue is very noisy, not just by the thumping club-style music which is hardly necessary through dinner.

    Following dinner, we took the circular stairwell up to the rooftop bar, only find that the upper section was dimly lit, with the glass door locked, no signage to say no entry, just some manager waving to go around so much for Fire Life Safety, we then took the route via the lift, and due to what appeared to crowding deciding against going out on the deck area, here several fans were positioned as you exited the lift (see the image) so the A/C needs checking overall.

    Several months ago, we dined at Anthologia this was a better bang for your buck than HIYA was on this dank evening in July.

    The table that was blocked for 21h30, the guests only showed at 21h55, all about customer service.

    Can honestly say I could not recommend, nor would I return at 2388RMB for two, a little over the top and certainly not value for the price paid all rather disappointing.

     

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  • Caught up with a long-time Shanghai mate of mine for a mid-week lunch at La Sosta on Cheng Jia Qiao Zhi Lu off of Hongmei Lu, well off the beaten track for me, I generally skip lunch, but Hanns was leaving town for the summer, so I ventured west for a spot of home-cooked Italian for lunch.

    As my mate had frequented La Sosta a number of times, we let the chef recommend what to have / order, which consisted of freshly made burrata along with a generous serving of Parma ham, followed a plate of meatballs and spaghetti, with freshly made bread, that seemed to be the dough of a pizza that was warm and crusty, with a soft centre, can’t get more family-style lunch than that, dipped in olive oil.

    Had a bottle of Italian rose wine, that went down easily, along with a delightfully soft tiramisu, for dessert and finished off with a couple of espressos’s along with the obligatory limoncello’s and a glass of Fernet-Branca, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but certainly rounded off a pleasant enough meal, and very much down to earth family-style restaurant, perhaps more of a Cantina, and to boot one could sit on a terrace on a balmy Wednesday lunchtime.

    The service was efficient and friendly, the food wholesome, the damages came to 650RMB nett for two pax, and if one was in the area would certainly recommend.

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  • I took the plunge and went along to the original Shake Shack outlet in Xin Tin Di this past weekend, there were throngs of punters as the rain had abated somewhat, and duly queued leading up to the bank of cash registers, the main menu board is listed in Chinese, you have a general idea what to order, well it is a fast-food burger joint after all. 

    My regular dining partner went to look for a seat/perch, whilst I meandered around the stanchions, upon reaching the counter an English version of the menu is whipped out and the following order was placed.

    1x Shack Burger single size

    1x Smoke Shack single size

    1x Shack-Cago Dog

    1x Crinkle cut fries

    1x Cheese fries

    2 x Brooklyn Brewery Seasonal beer.

    I love the following line taken from Shake Shacks American website….Prepare for a culinary journey, I  trust Shake Shack are not in the running for a Michelin Bib.

    The Shack-Cago Dog, had all the elements of a beef hotdog that you find on the streets of New York, the burgers however whilst tasty are small, after several mouthfuls were gone, the buns were soggy, and no one should have to endure soggy buns, the burgers reminded me somewhat of the fare on offer at a Wimpy burger bar back in the UK in the early 70’s long before the golden arches arrived, sort of cheap and cheerful, those at Shake Shack were not.

    Perhaps the saving grace was the crinkle-cut fries, which remained crisp and something I had not seen at a fast-food burger joint for some time, not sure one can justify the price differential of 9rmb for a plastic pot of cheese dip for the same size portion of crinkle cut fries.

    I should point out that one had to wait for the order to be prepared, you are given an electronic pager, you then proceed to the counter and collect your order, and dispense your own ketchup and mustard, along with a separate Louisiana style hot sauce in a stand-alone, bottle where every Tom, Dick and Harry then unscrews the bottle cap…. hygiene not that great.

    If William Shakespeare were still alive today, and writing this review, I am sure this is where he would have coined the title from this soggy bottomed fast-food burger joint and written Much Ado About Nothing, for frankly, the place is overhyped for the price paid, 335RMB for two.

    Boxed checked!!!

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  • Despite the odd entrance and winding metallic stairwell that brings you up two levels, there you enter BOR’s large open space with high ceilings, with which one is greeted by a slightly industrial look and feel, a sort of cross between Muji and an Ikea show kitchen, that one would perhaps expect from a Nordic kitchen.

    This was our second outing to BOR, as we were impressed on the first night, and wanted to see what additional dishes were being served and must confess overall were not disappointed, more of that later, the menu is laid out in the traditional sense and listed so, with snacks, starters, mains, sides and desserts, unlike some of the newer Shanghai establishments that recently opened with their menus which are just a listing of dishes, and no indication of the portion size or frankly what to expect, here at BOR with their excellent and knowledgeable service, the wait staff guide you and  suggest dishes.

    As usual, we started off with a couple of glasses of wine.

    Franz Etz Grüner Veltliner from Austria, along with Delaunay rosé from the Loire, both served at the correct temperature, and a decent 150ml pour.

    Mini Danish Hot Dog topped with mustard, ketchup: these were offered as we sat down, as a sort amuse bouche, whilst deciding over the menu.

    Beef tartare with mustard, tomato, fresh herbs and sourdough bread: When I see this on any menu I have to give this a go, and it certainly passed the Globaltraveller acid test, as did the sourdough bread which accompanied the dish, perhaps the kitchen team from Bloom should stop by and check out what Sour Dough bread is really like.

    Fried Halibut with bacon, green peas, smoked butter sauce, butter lettuce and blue mussel: all the ingredients came together well, the bacon which is house cured and smoked was perhaps little too much for the dish, or perhaps the quantity served, no real fault though.

    Whole baked sole with chargrilled asparagus, garlic shoots: The Sole, whilst not your classic Dover Sole variety, this dish was delicate and just cooked to perfection with the flesh of the fish falling off the bone, no overturned fishing boats with this dish.

    BBQ Smoked Pork Ribs with sour apple, mustard seeds and shallots: personally, while the dish had flavour, the meat was slightly tough and chewy, and not juicy or succulent enough, a little disappointing.

    For the sides chose the following:

    Pelikan Beets, beets beets: chargrilled baby beetroot just wonderful flavours, along with a touch of sea salt and cracked pepper, just right.

    Gnocchi with onion cream, garlic salsa verde, dried duck shavings: delightful creamy dish.

    For the red wines we had Saint Cosme from Côtes du Rhône, personally a little flat for my liking and a Pinot Noir from Wairarapa Valley in New Zealand a better choice, again both served at the correct temperature, and a decent 150ml pour, and the price points reasonable.

    The service is sharp and the menu refreshing, we perhaps overindulged and declined the tempting dessert menu, will be back to sample other dishes, along with desserts some other time.

    The music whilst laid back and good selection, it can be a little too loud at times, and perhaps turned down a notch.

    I can only recommend BOR, damages came to 1050RMB for two, but then again, we wanted to sample as much as possible.

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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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  • 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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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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