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

    The Beef: Yunnan cuisine is one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, so I never miss a chance to try a new spot that serves up the sour and spicy flavors. Yun Hai Yao has been around and has quickly expanded – with more than 20 stores in Shanghai alone and even more nationwide, and can be found in most malls and mid-range dining establishments.

    I’ve been to a few within Shanghai and the quality of food and service has always been consistently good. Sit down, scan your table qr code to order, and your dishes are served up rather promptly.

    Offerings include the typical open-faced grilled fish (one of my favorites, pictured), Yunnan style mashed potatoes, stir-fry pork belly, and the rice noodle soups (mi xian). They also have some interesting combo dishes like pu-er tea leaves stir fried with tofu, jasmine flower with eggs, you can’t really go wrong here. It pays to be adventurous here, especially if you have been in SH for awhile and are used to lot of the typical Chinese dishes.

    The Gang: Popular with local Chinese diners, in either smaller or larger groups.

    The Damage: Group of six came out to 120rmb/pax with a few beers each. Definitely good for groups if you’re looking to switch it up from the requisite Lotus Eatery.

    The Down n’ Dirty: In the mall…’nuff said.

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

    The Beef: Bird has a loyal flock of fans in Shanghai, and it’s not hard to see why. The creative, not to mention insta-worthy dishes seem to be updated to make use of seasonal ingredients. A girly brunch date was made, and off to Bird it was.

    The place itself is small and intimate – bar seating, window seating, and a single long table for groups, in total you can cram in around 25ppl. Upon entering on a 12:30 weekend day, the kitchen was already bustling and servers were busy scrambling behind the bar, and shuttling in and out of the door (sending food next door to sister café/bar Bitter next door).

    Without anyone to greet us, we sat ourselves by the only available seats along the window. It was a nice view of all the activities on Wuyuan Lu on a slightly drizzly day. Maybe it’s the old age, but instantly I felt the backless high stools were not doing it for me. No place for my bag either, where were the hooks under the table? This forced me to place my bag behind me, giving my ass even less comfort and space.

    The food menu looked great, however. Our appetizers. The kidney bean dish was carefully composed with dollop of smooth-as-butter hummus. The broccolini was roasted and charred perfectly, each bite so intense. I was not as much a fan of the two mains we had, however. The crab was rather too much flavor, too briny, too umami, too seafood-y (which I’m usually not put off by). It was also logistically challenging to eat as a benedict dish, so I ended up eating the crab on its own then dissecting the bottom part separately. The double sliders tasted bland and way less interesting than they looked, even with the two pretty green sauces. Squash fries were oily and soggy, could have been easily be mistaken for avocado fries without the nutty flavor. Portion sizes on the small side.

    The Motive: This place seems more of a girly date spot, although not really a brunch place where you can plop down and leisurely chat through the afternoon over drinks (a la seating situation). Suggest popping into Bitter after your meal.

    The Damage: 118rmb for brunch set (1 app + 1 main). Select mains require additional+20rmb.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Free (and clean) as a Bird splattering in the garden birdbath.

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

    The Beef: “Eat and Drink Like in Italy” – those are the words boldly etched onto the wall for all patrons to see. For better or for worse, it’s a promise for authenticity, and zero compromises on the finest Italian ingredients and cooking. Sorry, you won’t find any Peking Duck pizza here.

    The Italian welcome is evident upon entering – with warm greetings and smiles while you make your way to the table. Francesco, the manager is as hospitable as ever, sharing his recommendations for food and drink based on our preferences. The wine and cocktail list was extensive, but we stuck with Spritzes (“misto” – mixture of Aperol and Campari, which is slightly more bitter and less sweet than the classic Aperol itself). Drinks arrived shortly, along with a bread basket filled with grissini (Italian breadsticks), olive focaccia (baked fresh every day), and wheat bread slices.

    As I understand it, traditional Italian food is true to simple roots, focusing on the ingredients to bring out the most “clean” and natural flavors. Well, it must then be said that Seve serves the freshest pizza and pasta we’ve had in Shanghai. The Strozzapreti alla Norcina, a “twisted” pasta with mushrooms and pork sausage in a creamy sauce, was an OMG dish. The pasta was both delicate and resilient in texture at the same time. The sauce was thick but not overbearing and clung to the “twists” in perfect adhesion with each bite.

    The Pizza Principessa was so simple- topped with rocket, mozzarella, and parmesan only after the pizza dough was baked (no sauce). The cold crispness of the fresh toppings and the hot crispness of the crust made this dish entirely worthy of its royal title.

    Dinner ended with dessert – tiramisu, of course. Creamy and airy. If you’re looking for something heavier, try the cannolo millefoglie, a more saccharine choice that is sure to satisfy the sweetest tooth.

    The Gang: Couples and small groups – but no matter who you go with, it really feels like you’re dining among family and friends.

    The Damage: 500rmb for two on a lovely dinner date, complete with salad, pizza, pasta, and dessert to share. And what Italian dinner would be complete without the complimentary limoncello, the ultimate digestive, to cap off the meal.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Business as usual, no complaints here.

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

    The Beef: Ok, this review title probably wasn't the best choice of words. What I meant: Mi Thai is owned by the Mr. Willis group serving up fantastic Thai food in a beautiful space- similar concept open-dining room-kitchen, as well as an additional room outfitted with an elongated bar.

    The food – must order the crunchy winged bean salad. I agree, papaya salad is the gospel of Thai food dishes but this winged bean salad is just so unique, and simply divine. Or get both. For apps, shrimp cakes (I prefer the donut-shaped ones over the moon ones) and satay platter (both beef and chicken). Admittedly, the fried spring roll is less than stellar (not a fan of the plum sauce).  Green curry chicken here is more a thicker sauce than some other soupy Thai curries which I prefer. Pad Thai is a solid dish. Can’t go wrong with stir-fry shrimp paste morning glory. End with mango sticky rice.

    The Motive: Favorite “fancier” Thai spot for a night out, whether it’s date night, girls night, or a big group dinner. Define “fancier”: I’d feel just as comfortable walking in with heels and a dress as I would in jeans, but probably not in workout gear like I would a Wagas (which incidentally, also serves up a nice green curry bowl. Oh right, also same family).

    The Damage: Very reasonable prices. 550rmb for 2, including wine.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Shared within the family abode, in between Baker & Spice (1F) and Mr. Willis (3F).

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

    The Beef:

    Have you ever thought to yourself, I just want a nice home-cooked Portuguese meal in Shanghai?

    If your answer is no, that’s probably bc you’ve never been to Viva!! (yes, double exclamation…the first one is part of the name so I’m only singly-!-shouting).

    Preface: My first (and what I swore to be my last) Portuguese meal in Asia was a distantly unpleasant memory – in Macau where the food was overly salted yet managed to be bland (boring) at the same time. Extremely unimpressed. But this place has since reversed my distaste.

    In Shanghai, the F&B competition is fierce, which is generally a good thing for diners, because it ups the bar on quality, service, the works. Yet, the fact is that even though there don’t seem to be many other contenders for Portuguese cuisine here, Viva! really does deserve that exclamation mark. The proof is in the Dianping with a near 5-star rating although we discovered it though a highly enthusiastic WOM (word of mouth) from friends.

    Highly recommended dishes: 1) Burrata Cheese salad w/roasted eggplant – a wow! dish I’d order every time. Less a “green salad” than a “cold dish”, the creaminess of the burrata perfectly complemented the balsamic tangy roasted eggplant. Amazeballs. 2) Stuffed baby squid with ink dish (not exact name) – you won’t stop once you pop one of these into your mouth. Just don’t scare anyone when flashing your ink-black smile.

    The Gang: A rather measly crowd on a Wednesday evening, but stimes a quiet night out is just what you need in this city.  

    The Damage: Happy hour deals from 5-8pm. We barely missed it. In the end, dinner & dessert plus a reasonably priced bottle of wine for two: Approx. 700RMB. You could also just as easily get away with a 150RMB/person bill depending on what you order.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Pretty clean, in light of the number of patrons :)

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

    The Beef: Definitely come for the caipirinhas. These are probably some of the best in town, not the mention the variety – classic, pineapple, ginger & cloves, chili pepper, coffee…and more. Also the music – latin beats that will instantly make you feel sexy and uplift your spirits.

    We also ordered some bites to go with our drinks, as you can see from the photos, not the most photogenic plates.

    The good: Cheese bread (pao de queijo) – warm and chewy, almost the consistency of a mochi.  Fried tapioca cubes – very interesting texture, crunchy on the outside and a gummier consistency than the cheese bread. Paired well with a red spicy sauce.

    The not-so-recommended: Chicken empanada – too dry, the filling was almost like dried chicken floss. Also could have used a sauce to spice it up. Spinach and cheese croquettes – the crust was a bit too dry, even paired with the “Thousand Island” sauce, the flavor just felt unusual.

    I’ve heard great things about the beef dishes here, as that is what the Latin Americans are known for. Will have to come back for a full-on steak.

    The Gang: Locals and laowai alike enjoying the chill vibes. Until the floor is cleared for some sexy Latin music later in the evening (9pm on a Fri night).

    The Damage: 250rmb/person for drinks and a sampling of nibbles. ~60rmb for cocktails and caipirinhas.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Shared for all establishments in the Found158 complex. Can be clean or gross, depends on your luck – and the time of the night.

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

    The Beef: From the guys who brought us Nest, Rye & Co adds a Nordic twist to the Shanghai food scene. Given the fuss made about this place, my lunch date and I thought we would be in trouble when we forgot to make a reservation but in fact when we arrived at a bit past noon, the place was only partially filled and peacefully quiet. Maybe not the best value for the regular lunch rush crowd, even with the lunch specials on the menu.

    The most notably Nordic dish was the smorrebrod, an open-faced rye bread topped with cream, cheese, smoked salmon, and micro-greenery. A rather small portion but delicately constructed. The scallop risotto (specials vary daily) was richer and heartier, a satisfying dish – highly recommend! Generally, the food is simple but well-executed. 

    Service was just ok although I expected more – the server could not tell me what the soup of the day was, and he also did not know the pasta/risotto special.   

    The Gang: A smattering of the work lunch crowd and leisurely ladies who lunch (on their day off)

    The Damage: Lunch deals starting from 68-128rmb. Soup+Smorrebrod+Drink=98rmb. Burger or Fish&Chip+Drink=98rmb. Soup+Pasta or Risotto+Drink=128rmb.

    The Down n’ Dirty: In the mall, but no complaints in a high-end mall like this one.

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

    The Beef: The original Tomatito’s erstwhile charm was its intimate yet eclectic setting nestled within the historic Zhangyuan. So I’ll admit I had some preconceived notions of how this “sexy tapas bar” could reinvent itself in a sterile mall setting while staying true to its spirit. Yet they have managed to transform and update the space – it’s bigger, sexier, and more modern, complete with open kitchen and lovely terrace.

    As for the food…our party of 8 was not overly impressed. A few signature standouts like the Salmon TNT (w a smooth cream cheese filling) and Tosta de Tomate (w avocado and watermelon salsa) were favorites. However, the rest of offerings were rather disappointing. Gambas al ajillo - shrimp did not taste fresh (it was soft & mushy). Black angus striploin - the beef was tough and overcooked (they never did ask how we wanted it cooked), although points for the fried garlic accompaniment. Patatas bravas – well seasoned but not crispy enough. Free flow wine/sangria/cava was 150rmb for 2hrs (Note: you can only pick one of the above and stick to it).

    Service was extremely friendly – although honestly could have been a bit more attentive in refilling of free flow glasses. Still, lots of food and drink – but the most jarring part of the evening circles back to the “mall setting” issue – when we had to go to the bathroom (see below “The Down and Dirty”).

    The Gang: With the more spacious layout, it felt a bit more empty than before but there were a good number of smaller groups and couples.

    The Damage: 450rmb/person including free flow

    The Down n’ Dirty: They do not have their own bathroom so you have to venture out to the mall. All fun and games until the mall actually closes. By 10pm, the mall is pretty dark and deserted, except for the handful of other restaurants still open. The ladies room was actually BLACKOUT DARK (was it just a bad night?). Certainly I looked like an idiot (not that I’d know, as I couldn’t see myself in the mirrors) but I clapped, jumped, and stomped in the hopes it was sensor-activated but I was SOL. Friendly tip: do remember to bring your cell phone/flashlight. Or maybe just come back for brunch.

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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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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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    Michael Russam, from Leeds, England, first arrived in China to live in Wuhan, before coming to Shanghai to work in copywriting and marketing. He is particularly interested in regional Asian cuisines, and when he can, travelling to find them. Other hobbies include debating the merits of Shanghai dive bars and burger deals.
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