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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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  • A year or two ago, an Urban Thai visit meant a queueing session or an advance reservation. Last weekend, we got a same-day Saturday reservation for 8:15pm, and we were the only people in the restaurant when we left around an hour later. Slightly harder times for this tiny Thai spot on Changle.

    The food’s alright, but there’s an ever-growing list of competitors in the city now – plus I’ve fairly recently been to Thailand, and UT didn’t make for a great comparison. Starting with the good – the curries are bomb. We had a veggie red curry with a little portion of their rice, and we ate every last scalloped carrot slice.

    A lot of what we had was average, though. The pad see ew was okay, but I forgot we’d ordered it until I looked back at my pictures to write this review. We ordered a papaya salad, too, and it was so sweet. There wasn’t enough lime or heat in anything we ordered, which left it all feeling a little flat. They’d also run out of Singha, which should be a fineable offence for a Thai place. We had to drink Chang instead. The horror. In total, for three dishes and two Changs, we paid 245rmb.

    Despite its boutique size, Urban Thai’s food feels a little impersonal and perfunctory. The whole place is a little shabby, too – badly-covered bench seating and a kitchen-side bathroom to cringe at. It’s worth a trip if you’re craving a good Thai curry, though.

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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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  • Passed by this little shop and the colorful graffiti caught my attention. Inside it’s cozy and decorated with trendy elements like skateboards and posters.

    I ordered a fried chicken omelette rice and my friend had a normal curry plate. Fired chicken was crispy on top, and the rice was soft and tender. They also fried the rice with curry sauce so it was flavorful and warm. But with the mayonnaise sauce on top of the chicken, catchup, and curry, it gotten very salty and I ended up couldn’t finish the dish. The omelette was also a bit overdone for my taste as I like it to be running and soft. The normal curry was good and my friend actually loves it.

    The price is around 75 RMB and there’s no lunch set options, which is quite expensive for what they’re offering. Overall it’s acceptable but not impressive enough for a second visit.

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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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  • As it was Friday and date night, I looked forward to venturing to another new venue in town “The C-House” I have not come across many restaurants that tout their Group Vision on their menu’s, in this instance CP Group offers you a “new high-end western restaurant”. The C-House restaurant “from farm to table” tagline (yawn)

    This new restaurant took over the former Capo location on the 5th floor Yifeng Galleria off of Beijing Dong Lu, the venue is adjacent to what was Muse night club, with a total revamp, looks like they kept the Bull and tarted it up somewhat.

    The table was booked for an early dinner, upon arrival there did not appear to that many diners, in fact pretty bare I would say, however, escorted to a table for two, right next to another couple who were halfway through their meal, there were plenty of other open spots, but no can do lah!  Low and behold not ten minutes into our meal, another two pax were seated next to our table, whilst there were at least another 8 tables vacant and remained so for the entire duration of the dinner, so much for a cosy dinner.

    When I say table for two, one had a seat at the correct height to table ratio, the other seat a bloody banquette arrangement, no back support, much lower seating, fortunately, some rather large thick scatter cushions were lying about, I took one, and sat on throughout the meal, I also had to pull the table away from my regular dining partner, so I could be comfortable, “so much for the CP Group offering you a “new high-end western restaurant”.

    Generally speaking, one wants to be seated in an area of the dining room, away from the banging of the kitchen door, side stations, and away from the din that goes on. Our table was directly opposite the open plan kitchen, where one could see the cooks go about their business, with the main man barking the orders that came in, we could have done without this.

    As is our regular practice, we start off with wines by the glass, the list has a very limited selection and opted for the following wines:

    Eden Valley Riesling. Now Eden Valley is one of Australia’s premier cool climate wine regions characterised by its rugged beauty and varied topography, sadly a typo from the CP group, as they list the wine as coming from Umbria in Italy.

    Which brings me on to the second choice of white wine ordered from the wine list, a glass of Podernuovo a Palazzone nicollo 2017 Umbria, when in fact the wine comes from PoderNuovo, which sits in the southern corner of Tuscany, splitting hairs perhaps, but damn well get these details correct.

    On to the rather limited food menu, three pages which included a page of summer specials, which frankly were not that special.

    The following dishes were ordered

    I am always game for a terrine or in this case a French Pie, listed as Duck meat and wait for it, fioe gras, yes, a spelling mistake, and sadly the dish was not available, one assumes this was terrine, but one will never know.

    So, went for the French Classic Beef Tartar, that arrived with what looked like a nuked heavily coloured egg yolk, nothing to write home about I am afraid, sort of odd colour and mushy with a distinct lack of seasoning.

    Spanish sardines that are listed as a dish from the snack menu, why would you have a snack menu listed within the three pages of a “new high-end western restaurant” menu, I don’t know, despite being tinned sardines the overall dish was fine, lacked some seasoning though.

    Ordered the Crispy Bullfrog, I have had many a Bullfrog since living in China, these were more like smaller Frogs legs in a batter, dunked in a rich parsley sauce, extremely tasty and highly recommend.

    For the main course, not much to choose from so went with a Wagyu Beef fillet with correctly spelt foie gras, but not the Waygu…..Need I say more, ordered this rare, came more medium-rare, total lack of seasoning on the fillet.

    Grilled Red Snapper, served with a nondescript white wine sauce on the side, nothing to write home about I am afraid.

    When I see Homemade French Fries on a menu I am always curious to see what these are, as I have this vision of hand-cut potatoes, parboiled, then blanched in dripping and finished off at 190c, I know a glutton for punishment, I ordered a bowl, these fries were nothing more than frozen chips, which were served before any of the above dishes, with a small bowl of ketchup.

    Ordered additional wines, again by the glass. The Fix, a Shiraz from Jeanneret Wines from South Australia, for an Australian Shiraz this was pretty dire, rather weak, certainly not what I was expecting. Whereas the Twinwoods Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River was delightful, and finally a glass of Aspirant de Beychevelle Saint-Julian 2016 from Bordeaux, generally speaking, I give Bordeaux wines a miss as they just don’t travel well, this was actually pretty good, a bit pricey, all wines were of a decent pour, and served at the correct temperature for a change.

    To end the meal, wanted something sweet and par for the course the usual Shanghai chocolate dessert portfolio was offered, with one solitary lemon tart breaking up the choice, there’s Lemon tarts and Lemons tarts, and this was not one of them I am afraid, I should have quit whilst ahead.

    From the days of the previous incarnation of Capo, I recall that the venue had an outside terrace, not a great skyline to view, but nevertheless an area where one could smoke, and to round off the evening ordered a margarita, which came in a champagne saucer, the drink its self was rather weak, for myself I was looking at a malt whisky, however CP Group list’s wiskey instead, so ordered a Tom Collins the first of which was spot on, the second-order, as if water was served with gin, what irks me of late is this nonsense and fad these days of saying I’ll have the mixologist make you this or that…..what happened to having a bloody good barman of old, who knew what they were doing.

    Whilst a great way to spend a Mid-Autumn date night, the waitstaff were friendly and smiling, not the most efficient though, more reactive than proactive, the overall dining experience from a food perspective and the cost was a let-down, damages for the evening 1,982RMB, for two pax.

    In closing the CP Group need to get someone who knows what they’re doing to operate this venue, otherwise, another white elephant, for the devil is in the detail, which is sadly lacking here.

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  • When was the last time you played Rock, Paper, Scissors for something that mattered? When’s the last time you played for any stakes at all? If you can make it to Kanpai before 7 and order a draft beer, it’s your choice to challenge one of the waitstaff to RPS. Lose and you have to chug your beer (hence the name Kanpai). Win and you get a free beer. So really, it's pretty win-win.

    Kanpai is in the newly opened North section of Grand Gateway (aka the lipstick towers) in Xujiahui. Even only partially opened, this is a pretty sweet mall. There is a Starbucks that serves alcohol and baked goods on the first floor across from a rad Jordan store. Twinkle, the super nice, but still overpriced, kid’s playground/café also opened an outlet here, and there’s a really nice movie theater.

    Kanpai’s other location is in Xintiandi and there is almost always a line there. They are also in the same group as Kanpai Classic on the Bund which is a fine dining version (probably sans RPS). With this new location, it is still easy to walk in and get a table on a weekday.

    The food is pretty standard Japanese style BBQ done well. The service is excellent and the waitstaff can do the actual cooking for you tableside which I think is the way things should be when you eat out. There weren’t any really amazing dishes, but there weren’t any bad dishes which is sometimes even better.

    The main attraction is probably still the entertainment. One of the waiters is also the MC and works the crowd intermittently throughout the meal. About half an hour after the RPS ended, the kissing contest began. The rules are simple, hold a kiss for 10 seconds, and get a free dish of meat. In the traditionally anti-PDA, but pro-free stuff Chinese culture, hilarity ensues. There is a whole wall of photos by the entrance of past kissing contest winners.

    After about another half hour, it was time for the 8 pm social cheers. The MC collects messages from each table about what they are celebrating or happy about leads the entire restaurant in a collective chug (Kanpai!). Some messages were standard birthdays or just getting a table, others reunited old friends or celebrated getting off long or tough days at work. The rules are that everyone who finishes their drinks gets free refills. The reality is that everyone’s a winner and they basically bring everyone a free beer of highball regardless of how much you chugged.

    I’m sure there are some party poopers out there that find this type of restaurant annoyingly akin to the TGI Friday’s of the 90’s where waiters in flare belt out Happy Birthday (which they also do here). This is definitely not a place you want to come to all the time as I’m sure the schtick is the same every day and gets old quick. But despite the constant interruptions by the overly enthusiastic MC and the cheesiness of the whole thing, everyone I saw left smiling. What’s not to like about free beer?

    About 250rmb per person with lots of food and beer/highballs.

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  • Crafted is on that little Yong Ping Lane near Hengshan Road station, and it's surrounded by other places to eat and drink. In that crowded F&B complex, you need to be at the top of your game to tempt customers away from all of the other bright lights and happy hour deals. Considering this, it's inexplicable that Crafted has been going since 2009.
     
    Crafted, from the people behind Bistro Burger, doesn't exactly have a USP to give it an edge, unless you count buy-one-get-one lobsters on a Tuesday (400-450rmb for your pair, in case you're  tempted). It's a self-proclaimed 'refined bistro' with the standard, slightly over-priced offerings you'd expect from that description. There's a set menu for two which isn't terrible value (520rmb), but it doesn't include any veggie mains. Steaks are either 258rmb for a small or 888rmb for a whole kilo. Their lobster mac and cheese is 188rmb.
     
    We ordered the 'glazed' black pepper ribs (98rmb), which arrived with a distinctly matt finish and a portion of fairly satisfying, crispy, skin-on fries. Look - the ribs didn't make us ill or anything, but they were so sad. Ribs should be an unctuous, gooey, tender mess of joy. These were bland. Disappointingly easy not to finish.
     
    We also tried the porcini risotto, one of the very few veggie options, and a zucchini salad. The risotto had a pretty good, rich flavour, but it was half cold when it reached the table (as were the ribs, actually). The salad - my word. Someone get that chef some salt, or anything acidic, or just... anything. I could vaguely taste the advertised truffle oil, and that's the best thing I can say about the dish. In total, we paid 254rmb for two people - no drinks and no service charge, which is lucky, because the service was impossibly slow.
     
    Crafted is an overpriced and underwhelming bistro, with lovely, warm lighting but disappointing, half-cold food. I imagine that few readers will be upset by this review, either. If it sunk beneath the tasteful paving of Yong Ping Lane, I doubt many people would notice - including its owners, who don't seem to be paying it much attention.

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  • This Malaysian dessert place is so good and there isn't anything else like it in Shanghai. They serve cendol, which is shaved ice with coconut milk, green rice flour jelly, and palm sugar, plus toppings like grass jelly or red bean. This spot uses actual palm sugar, which makes a huge difference. Their menu is one page, including pictures. The staff are super nice. They have a few table games and a large painting of a tropical bird on the wall. Very rare.

    Next time you want ice cream or milk tea, consider Cendol instead. Get the Penang shaved ice, maybe add some ximi and the 10rmb Durian ice cream. This shop is doing something unique and that's tough in Shanghai so show some love and keep the cendol around.

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  • Eating in a grocery store has, in my lifetime, never been a fulfilling experience.  Disinterested staff preparing mediocre food that’s nearing fine-inducing temperatures.  Needless to say, I was much too hesitant to try the seafood at HeMa, Alibaba’s supermarket that’s popping up all over Shanghai.  But hey, different country, different experiences, right?

    Things start off with a bang.  HeMa’s seafood section is as fresh as can be.  Large tanks display copious amounts of sea creatures: fish, clams, mussels, shrimp, big lobsters and giant crabs barreling over one another.   Choose your victim, the helpful staff bags it up, and walk it over to the register by the kitchen.  Select your cooking style and choice of flavor, find a seat, and wait patiently until your number is called.  Then just devour the goodness.

    Dinner started off with razor clams coated in a spicy sauce consisting of five different kinds of chili peppers.  I couldn’t help but lick the sauce off the shells.  Next came the plump mussels which were covered in a thick ginger and scallion sauce.  Pluck out the meat, then use the shell to scoop the sauce onto your bowl of rice.  It’s that good.  The showstopper is the fresh Boston lobster.  Split in half, plentiful meat steamed to perfection, and topped with a slightly sweet vinegar sauce.   

    It’s fresh, messy and extremely budget friendly.   Razor clams, mussels, and a whole Boston lobster cooked to order all for just under 150 RMB.   Your Alipay account won’t even feel a pinch.  HeMa is not your typical grocery store experience.  You definitely want to eat here.

     

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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.

  • OUR TEAM
  • British

    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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  • Shanghai is the 10th city that Ting has called home. She works at a Chinese social enterprise and loves immersing herself in new cultures and chasing new experiences, particularly food.
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  • American

    Emily has lived around the world in Ecuador, Chile, Indonesia and Tonga. She enjoys rooftop cocktails and showing up to events on time.
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