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

    The Beef: Owned by the Popolo group, Gemma maintains the same standards held to the group. Italian staples and standard fare such as cold cuts, pizzas, pastas, mains – and let's not forget the gelato are all featured on the menu. Can’t complain about the food, although the price point is slightly higher than some of its sister restaurants (Bar Centrale, Alimentari). Pizza is a standout, with a thin and chewy yet still crispy crust. The other staples are solid but did not feel particularly unique or inspired. Perhaps in line with the group philosophy of just doing simple things decently well, which seems to be a concept that works.

    The restaurant itself is more grown-up than its other sibling restaurants, with darker wood and a dimmer setting, giving it more of an intimate feel. There is also semi-outdoor seating where you can get the best of both worlds – covered roof but still open air – while sipping on an ice cold Spritz. There is also a bar upstairs, which will open shop if there is a bigger party upstairs.

     The best part of this whole set-up however, is Buco – the resident gelato store, which feels like artisanal gelato made with down-to-earth natural ingredients. They do also takeaway by the pint if you just want to pick one up to go.

    The Gang: More geared towards laowai, suitable for both smaller groups (1st floor) and larger parties (2nd floor).

    The Damage: Dinner for 2 @ 600rmb, including drinks.

    The Down n’ Dirty: On the 2nd floor, pretty immaculate.

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

    The Beef: It’s no news that a smattering of shutterings had befallen the DongPing Lu area a while back. But this one remains a great go-to option for a cozy neighborhood restaurant. No fuss comfort food at reasonable prices. If you’ve been around long enough, you might vaguely recall that the there was a minor relocation (literally meters away, from DongPing Lu to TaoJiang Lu) a few years back but the current Abbey Road 2.0 got a major space upgrade with several sections– outdoor: terrace & garden; indoor: front room/bar & main dining area in the back.

    Rosti (75-90rmb) is my must-have dish here. It’s a hearty comfort dish I haven’t found anywhere else around town. What is it? Breakfast heaven in a bowl. Think potato hash, ham, bacon, onion baked in a stone pot, loaded with melted cheese and topped with a sunny side up egg. Perfect for brunch, dinner, or a hangover cure.

    The menu is European/Swiss(?) Popular dishes also include schnitzel of all varieties, stuffed with ham and cheese (Cordon Bleu, 100rmb), or just straight up with mushroom bacon sauce (Jagerschnitzel, 100rmb). You can also get spaetzle here as a side, which is a traditional German/Swiss egg pasta. Portions are generous, service is friendly and fast.

    The Gang: Casual crowd, pretty even mix of laowai and Chinese.

    The Motive: 50% off food on Mondays. Daily happy hour before 8pm. Options for indoor or outdoor seating. TV screens for sports. Dogs allowed.

    The Damage: 600rmb for 4 at brunch with mimosas & bloody marys.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Clean and well-maintained. Can’t complain.

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

    The Beef: The Reuben! It’s fantastic. This place does the smoked meats, and they do it well. Granted, competition for the Canadian sandwich category in Shanghai isn’t the most intense and tbh, my go-to sandwich is a gooey grilled cheese anyday. But if I were to crave a deli sandwich, this is the spot. Offerings also include smoked beef, duck, and chicken. And incidentally, a grilled cheese.

    Sandwiches come in two sizes, meaty or overload. Huge fan of the fact that they also let you choose your cholesterol levels – lean, medium, or fatty cuts. Bring on the melt-in-your-mouth lardiness! Nestled among slices of nicely dense grainy bread. Sandwiches come with a handful of thin-cut fries, a sauce-saucer serving of slaw, and an emaciated sliver of pickle.  

    The claim to Canadian fame dish, poutine was anticlimactic. The fries maybe weren’t great to begin with, slightly stingy on the gravy, and the desiccated Reuben crumbs didn’t add much to the dish– maybe stick with bacon bits for this.

    Service was friendly, and food was served quickly. Cocktails took a bit more time though to the point where we thought they had forgotten the Bloody Mary. Indoor seating and half indoor/outdoor seating both available.

    The Gang: Small groups of locals and laowai.

    The Motive: Casual hangout to grab a quick bite. Friendly tip: walk through the Fengshengli side and into the opposite alley for some wallet-friendly outdoor drinking at the pop-up bars.

    The Damage: 80/100rmb for a Reuben; 68rmb smoked meat poutine. 

    The Down n’ Dirty: Inside the mall and up a level on the 2nd floor.

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

    The Beef: Firstly, loved the vibe. Casual yet still upscale with an open kitchen and wood fired oven. Service was exceptional, not like Michelin 5-star level, which can be overbearing but just a friendly smile and warm attitude.

    The food – wow. So down-to-earth, with no need to be ostentatious (as are the prices)- just simple, good quality ingredients done well. Definitely my new go-to Mediterranean spot.

    Complimentary bread, a perfectly puffed pita, was served while we waited for our cold and hot starter. Mixed mezze platter (68rmb) consisted of hummus, tzatziki, and a tomato salsa dip served with ample carbs for dipping. Amongst the trio, the tzatziki was the standout as you could really taste the richness of the Greek yogurt. Zucchini pancakes (55rmb) were the lightest, fluffiest, and yummiest we’ve had in recent memory.

    Another must-order dish that made us go OMG – Minced Beef & Lamb Pide (76rmb, they have several options on the menu). This one was oozing with such melty-cheesy-doughy-meaty goodness with just the right amount of crispy crust.

    And to top it all off, you’ve not fully experienced Turkish cuisine until you’ve washed it all down with a cup of salty yogurt water (literally the 3 main ingredients)– aka ayran (38rmb). So refreshing and good for your gut bacteria.

    The Gang: We got there for a late lunch the weekend with only a few tables – small groups and families, mostly Chinese with a sprinkle of laowai.

    The Motive: Extremely well-executed Mediterranean food in a simple yet lovely setting, which would be befitting for a casual lunch or elegant date night. Specials on most days of the week – Tues: 50% off main dishes after 5pm; Wed: BOGO Burger; Thurs: Rib eye steak & glass of wine for 198rmb (dinner).

    The Damage: 299rmb for 2 for a late lunch. Did not order alcohol, but we did manage to overstuff ourselves with food.

    The Down n’ Dirty: The loo here is shared with the office building next door, so you have to exit the restaurant and take the flight of stairs – a modest post-meal exercise. Cleanly kept on the weekend, not too sure what the weekday situation might look like when the office bees are around.

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

    The Beef: Owned by the same group as Professor Lee and Jeju Izakaya, Belloco is the OG spot that this “Korean Fusion” empire was all built upon. My first visit was perhaps as far as 7 years ago, and left an indelibly positive impression. It had fallen off my radar for a few years in between until a recent visit. Expectations can be a dangerous thing – I went in with high idealized hopes but they were slightly dashed, perhaps off-put by the most minute of details.

    To start, we ordered a bottle of white wine before perusing the food menu. After placing our food order, we waited for our wine...then waited some more…until the food started arriving. Where was our wine?! We were told that it was taking longer bc they “were polishing the glasses”. Ok but there are glasses on the bar, where is the bottle? It is extremely frustrating when you can “almost” see your order and meanwhile the other half of it is just “chillin” there (pun intended). Finally the bottle did appear and was served to us…a tad cooler than lukewarm. As suspected, 25 minutes of “polishing the glasses” was most likely the wet paper towel in freezer trick. Nevertheless, an A for effort.

    Another nitpick, and this is probably a positive for some. I see what they’re trying to do with this, but each place setting got its own bottle of water in place of the requisite “free” water. It’s indeed a thoughtful hygienic touch but feels rather wasteful/unfriendly to the environment. Didn’t actually ask, but…are refills free? I’d like a case of Belloco water to take home with me.

    Lastly, the food. We ordered the Denjang Porkneck Pan Steak, fried chicken with sweet & spicy sauce, and ricotta cheese salad with sweet balsamic. The salad was so-so, on the puny side and stingy on the ricotta and balsamic. The porkneck was a sizzling platter of grilled meat, a head of baked garlic, raw spinach, and kimchi – the accompaniments were a bit unconventional (thus fusion) but the other sides overpowered the porkneck so I preferred the dish deconstructed. Fried chicken was a winner, the perfect-sized nibbles with just the right amount of crunch and flavor. Food feels slightly more sophisticated and beautifully presented vs what you would get at a typical Korean restaurant, would def return for slightly more upscale Korean fusion although it honestly doesn't feel that "creative".

    The Gang: Mostly Chinese diners in smaller groups and dates.

    The Motive: No fuss Korean dinner with a few friends, could also be good for bigger groups. When you’re in the mood for Korean/BBQ dishes but don’t want to get hands-on the grill or leave the restaurant smelling like smoked meat.

    The Damage: ~450RMB for 2, including a bottle of wine (reasonably well priced bottles starting at 128RMB).

    The Down n’ Dirty: Decently clean, can’t complain or further elaborate.

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

    The Beef: This restaurant has been around for a few years but I’ve only been here a handful of times. Yet every time I do visit, I wonder why I don’t eat here more often.

    First, the restaurant only has a few small tables which ensures service is friendly and attentive (actually, not always a given). The space is well-decorated and clean – and never seems to get too rowdy or crowded.

    More importantly, the food is simple and well-prepared with quality ingredients, and feels a bit like home-style Thai cooking (although I have yet to find a really “authentic” Thai restaurant in Shanghai). Staples like the papaya salad and stir fry morning glory were on point. The green curry was fantastic, with the perfect spicy kick. The pad thai was a bit too flavorful (overpowered with too much sweet & spicy sauce) in my opinion, as was the salmon “salad”. The name was a bit misleading, as the dish was actually composed of cooked salmon bits (nice and hot) mixed with parsley, slightly swimming in sweet & spicy sauce. Still good dishes, and we left nothing on the table, scraping those plates clean.

    The Gang: Small groups of 2 or 4. There’s not space for big groups as the space is tiny (ahem, cozy). For bigger groups, go to their Dagu Lu location.

    The Motive: Intimate dinner w a gf, maybe a date if you don’t mind your date convo being overheard by the other diners.

    The Damage: 300RMB for 2 - lots of food, no drinks which significantly lowered the total. Still, great value and extremely well-priced for quality Thai food.

    The Down n’ Dirty: High points for cleanliness, but the toilet flush wasn’t fully functional then (perhaps some downtime in between flushes is required).

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

    The Beef: I’ve probably passed by the Green & Safe in XTD a few times on my visits to the infamous fountain/square but I had not noticed or paid attention to it. Probably because I never really considered going grocery shopping in the middle of a tourist hotspot. As we walked in through the entrance, the space seemed tiny…how could there be a supermarket, restaurant, and bar all tucked inside? Until you get to the second floor, up the third, and then all the way back down to the basement. Yes, its confusing at first but it’s an impressive and cool space to explore.

    Inside the “bunker”, the food menu (and prices) are the same as Green & Safe offerings. So you know the food is reliably fresh and top-notch. Except the beverages are off-limits. For drinks, you can only order off the bar menu – which is fair considering that’s the reason you’re at the speakeasy in the first place. But I was not allowed to order a juice/soda/tea to wash down all the food (stimes a girl just needs a soda with her burger!) on top of the cocktail I ordered. The wait staff were nice though and super attentive so I didn’t want to make a fuss.

    Can’t complain about the food. The chili burger was spot on (a bit stingy on the chili), the pizza was fantastic (mind blown with mini quail eggs on each slice), and the soba salad was actually a spring roll (unexpected but still fun).

    The cocktails were also very good. As speakeasy cocktails. But didn’t pair well with dinner (back to my point about wanting a soda) – the flavors were too sophisticated and refined, which got lost with the heavy food.

    The Gang: Fewer tourists than the other XTD establishments nearby from the looks of it.

    The Motive: The overall experience was pleasant, the only thing I would change is to eat outside at Green & Safe for dinner first before heading to the Bunker for drinks separately.

    The Damage: Approx. 450RMB for 2, with dinner and one cocktail (~95RMB) each. Extremely reasonable, especially for the area.

    The Down n’ Dirty: In the Green & Safe area. I don’t want to get the ayi in trouble, but it was messy and unkempt– did not reflect well on the Green & Safe “image”.

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

    The Beef: Admittedly we arrived a bit late for lunch (2pm), but there were at least 3 items we ordered that were no longer available. Not a great initial impression.

    Food was mediocre, but I found the flavor pairing to be very weird and not traditionally Cantonese as I know it. The Pan Fried Crystal Shrimp was pretty much flavorless (it’s supposed to be a mild dish but not like this). What was even more odd was the pairing of red bean (savory) next to it, which did not complement the shrimp at all. On the other side of the flavor spectrum, the Eggplant with Minced Pork in XO Sauce tasted more Sichuan, topped with red chili and fermented soybeans – and overly salted. Super thirsty afterwards.

    Since they ran out of roast duck and crispy pork, we went with char siu and goose. Decent, but nothing to write home (or here) about. Same for other dim sum dishes.

    Service was friendly and apologetic but unorderly and frazzled. Not a horrible experience. It did the job of filling our bellies after lots of walking and sightseeing, but would not go back.

    The Gang: A few tourists here and there on the weekend, mostly Chinese. Probably a bit more of the work crowd on weekdays.

    The Motive: Decent food and value for a quick (but fancier than food court) bite if you’re touristing around the area.

    The Damage: 300rmb for a 4-person lunch.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Within the “mall”, not too far from the restaurant.

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

    The Beef: This place first caught my eye with its jewel-toned turquoise façade – amongst all the greys and beiges, it looked like a summer holiday vacation I wanted to dive into. The interior is also gorgeous, a stark contrast to the “90’s décor” of the neighboring Film Art Center, splashed with their signature bright blue and a bit of industrial lighting.

    Niceties aside, the million-dollar question here is…how is the pho (58RMB)? Short answer, not bad. The broth was decent, a bit on the salty side. The rice noodles were good. Side of raw sprouts and herbs, check (although on the puny side). But the long answer here – and the reason I would not come back for pho is that it’s served with beef balls and brisket. Where are my pink, tender, barely cooked pieces of raw beef?! To me, that’s a critical component of the pho experience, and cooking the meat in the soup adds some “bloody love” to the dish.

    The rest of the menu is moderately-sized, featuring Vietnamese spring rolls (fresh and fried), chicken wings, shrimp cakes, stir-fried dishes, etc. The cheery yellow Vietnamese pancake (58RMB) was a bit bland and rather difficult to eat as the bean sprouts and vegetables inside were not chopped so basically had to dissect the dish to eat it – also bc the filling was stir-fried it was rather steamy/soppy and rendered the pancake a bit soggy. The stir fry rib-eye steak and mushrooms (68RMB) surpassed my expectations, generous chunks of tender beef sautéed in a teriyaki-ish sauce and topped off with fried garlic bits.

    Still, overall service and experience was pleasant. Wouldn’t mind returning to try their other dishes another time.

    The Gang: Mostly Chinese, smaller groups of friends and families. Despite being open for 6 months, hasn’t seemed to snag many laowai diners from the Wagas across the street.

    The Motive: For a casual meal around the area. Or if you have a bit of time before catching a flick, it’s a slightly fancier spot to hang out and grab a bite.

    The Damage: Around 200RMB for 2, entrees around 58RMB/68RMB.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Have to go into the Shanghai Film Center – not the cleanest but decent as far as Chinese bathrooms go.

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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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