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

    The Beef: OMG.

    First let me ‘splain…Japanese cuisine tends to stick to a specific dish and work it to perfection. When visiting Japan, you’ll have noticed that they are purists - ramen shops only serve noodle soup bowls, yakitori shops only do grilled meat skewers, sukiyaki places….you get the gist. So when you roll up to a restaurant doing don(g) ("don"= short for “donburi”, literally “bowl”. Don't know why they put the extra "g" in there. For the sake of dirty jokes?), expect a menu limited to oversized rice bowls.

    This is why, being someone who likes to order an array of dishes, i.e. massive fan of Chinese style dining, the menu felt too homogenous for my taste. However, eventually amongst the beef, chicken, and pork selection of don(g)s, I honed in on the Dafu combo bowl which offered a sampling of all three types of meat (as I said, I’m a stickler for variety).

    The lineup of master meat grillers started to prepare my food, and it only took about 8 min before my set tray arrived – includes kimchi, chicken soup, onsen egg, and meat bowl! Oh, and garlic butter dip for meat (yaassss!). The first bite was heavenly - the beef was grilled so good and perfectly pink on the inside (no dirty joke here either). Refer back to first sentence about working things to perfection.

    Every single bite was sinfully rich in buttered meatiness. And to top it all off, when I finally mixed in my gooey runny onsen egg with the rice…you know what I’m talking about.

    The Motive: Located in the B2 level of the XTD plaza, and 4 locations across the city inside higher end mall food courts (Reel, IFC, MetroCity). Which means I’d most probably make it here if I’m within close vicinity. And alone – this is perfect for a one-person meat-glutton type of meal. Still, wish they had a bit more variety on the menu, maybe a side salad to balance out the richness of the meats.

    The Damage: 206RMB for 2 bowls and 2 beers. Bowls range from 68-98RMB and come as a set meal.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Actually the B2 restroom is located pretty much right next to the restaurant. This is one of the fancy mall bathrooms that provide nicely scented soap and hand lotion. Do I smell like BBQ meat though?

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  • I often go to Currify by West Nanjing Station for lunch during the work day. It’s a reliable lunch spot. On this particular day, the staff seated me quickly, and I had my food within 10 minutes. The vegetable curry is RMB 42 and the salt lassi RMB 28. This is a typical quick and friendly service experience. It’s not the kind of place you’d go for a hungover curry as the chairs aren’t something to sink into and the music is a bit loud, but with normal curry needs, they hit the spot.  There were plenty of other lunch-goers eating alone, but I could see it being a nice place to grab dinner or even a few drinks after work with friends. I’m sure loads of people do.

    They do have those QR codes on the table that I like so that you can just pay and leave, but I’m not sure if I did it wrong because I couldn’t get them to work. Again, though, the service was fast, so this wasn’t a problem. Cell service inside isn’t great, but they have fast wifi for customers anyway. They’ve got curries available from all over Asia, and they give you the option of white rice, brown rice, or naan. What more could you want?

    Price per person: RMB 70

    It’s good to know about because when the craving hits, they’re fairly priced and fairly quick.

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  • The famous French pastry shop had opened in Shanghai, and clearly everyone is excited. Went there on a freezing Sunday, and it seemed like all the foodies in Shanghai gathered in one spot. The line was too long so I decided to take out. When it’s my turn to pick out the flavors, pretty much everything ran out (of course), and there’re only three choices left. I took all three flavors and here’s how I feel.

    The éclair, like they said, are all beautiful and look amazing. I understand the camera-eat first- rule under this circumstance. Priced at 48 RMB, the éclair comprised of perfect sized dough filled with cream, covered with shiny icing, and delicate decoration on top according to each flavor. Almost too cute to eat. While it is sugar, spice, and ever thing nice, I found that they are overall prettier than they taste.

    I had vanilla topped with chocolate, Jasmin (Shanghai edition), and passion fruit. I liked that the passion fruit flavor had a well-balanced sweetness and sourness, and the raspberry on top added a bit of freshness. I also liked the high quality chocolate on top of the vanilla/chocolate flavor éclair, and the creaminess of the custard inside. Not a big fan of the Shanghai edition flavor, it tasted sweet and salty, which I found weird. I found they all had a strong fragrant that I don’t like, and the éclair was tiny which made me wonder if I’m just paying for the Instagram photo.  So yes, it’s a work of art with luxury branding, but I probably won’t re-visit.

    Still, if you’re a fan of dessert and want to keep up with the trend, they have lots of options other than éclair. Some looks very over the top but people seem to enjoy it.

     

    * 144 RMB for 3 éclair.
    * L’Éclair de Génie by Christophe Adam’s just opened and is the wanghong place to be. They offer beautiful desserts and luxurious ambience to dine in. Éclair is nice but pricy to compare with. Great place to have cute pictures and afternoon tea with group of girlfriends.

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  • Let me begin this review by stating my awareness for the fact that my photos literally do this place zero justice (except the one of the burger for RMB 98, which probably does the burger too much justice). But I also feel like every publication in Shanghai has reviewed Rye & Co with some seriously gorgeous photos, so I’m just here to balance things out. Honestly, it wasn’t bad food-wise, but it wasn’t so special that it was worth eating in a mall. The red cocktail bar upstairs is for drinks only, so we ate in the restaurant on the first level… where we were very aware that we were in a mall. But the service was friendly and the prices not extortionate, so it was an alright experience. We did see some people eating upstairs, so maybe there’s a menu for nibbles, but I’m not sure. The bar does feel very separated from the mall, and I think the outside will be very nice in the summer.

    The biggest bonus is that brunch runs all day. My friends and I couldn’t pull it together to get over there in the morning, so we went in the evening and weren’t restricted by Shanghai’s usual 3pm brunch cut-off. When we were there, they were out of Fish and Chips (RMB 88) and Swedish Meatballs (RMB 108), but I’ll give them time to work out the kinks. I had the Nordic Breakfast (RMB 42), which was basically just eggs benedict with smoked salmon, and felt pretty good about the portion size.

    Average price per person (no alcohol): RMB 92

    Overall, Rye and Co is nice enough for those who live in the Xintiandi area, but it is very much so still in a mall.

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  • On the small, bougie commercial street that runs between Xingfu and Panyu Lu (it's called Xingfu Li) there’s a badass Boulanger & Glacier called Luneurs that is putting out some of the best baked goods in Shanghai, and what I think is perhaps the best ice cream in town. It does that at super fair prices and in a stylish space, too.

    The store has a very shareable centerpiece – everything from the bakery menu set up on a stone counter, presented like a plundered artefect at the British Museum. Good for photos. It gets busy, but the line moves quickly. Regardless, there isn’t much seating aside from a bench along the left-hand wall and some outdoor tables, so be prepared to wait a little to perch, or to just grab and go.

    The baked sweets and treats are all excellent, from the croissants (RMB 14) to the French apple pastries (RMB 20). They have a couple of savory croissants and sandwiches too, which I’m yet to try.

    The ice cream, though, is seriously top-notch. It’s not even worth explaining too much – it’s just really, really good ice cream. My go-to is the vanilla and blackberry, but everything in the limited, occasionally rotating selection – from chocolate to salted caramel and biscuit to Earl Grey tea – are killer. Also, they make the cones fresh.

    It’s the best I’ve had in town, and it’s not even close. Get some.  

     

    Price: RMB 20 - RMB 30 for ice cream, RMB 14 and up for baked stuff  

    Summary: Stellar, stylish and popular independent bakery and ice cream parlor. Serves up a limited menu of exemplary baked treats and a rotating selection of ice cream flavors – the latter is some of the best in town. Seating is limited and it can get busy, so don’t go expecting to hang around.

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  • This was my second visit to Together for dinner. The first time was during the soft opening and it was not disappointing at all. I was amazed how perfectly every detail was planned and how smooth was the service in such an ambitious culinary project, preceded by the people behind The Commune Social.

    This time the experience was different. The seating plan changed, the tables are much closer to each other. The service wasn't smooth and the food was't astonishing like the previous time. Went with my partner in crime and had the braised octopus, the tuna tartare and the oxtail bone marrow for starters. For mains, we shared the roasted truffle chicken and the grilled salmon on miso sauce. I have to highlight that you can choose half or full portions of the mains which is very convenient so you get a taste of everything.

    The verdict: not awesome not bad, a sort of 马马虎虎 in Chinese –so, so-. The tuna tartar was a little savorless, the homemade gnocchi’s that come along with the bone marrow were overcooked and the chicken and salmon average. The sides - potatoes and brussels sprouts- were slightly dry as well. The desserts were okay, homemade gelato and a blueberry tart -you can choose any portion of tart/cake you would like from the desserts table.

    The place is really well designed since you have several options for seating: a bar facing the kitchen, the general salon and a private one -although now the tables are much close in the general area. The style is minimal, the lighting is very appropriate but a bit noisy.

    I guess Together is a successful restaurant as you may see is always full, but don't get relaxed guys, keeping the quality of the food –specially the flavors- and the service, in a long term basis, is the most difficult task in the gastronomic world.

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  • After several visits I can say Barbarian is one of my favorite bars around Jingan. Good drinks, great food, and lovely atmosphere. 

    Let's start with the cocktails here. It's versatile and fun to drink here as they make cocktails according to your flavor of choice. Simply choose a base, your preferable taste and flavor to get your customized cocktail (Around 60 RMB), and base on experiences it’s always with delicate decorations like dry fruit and sweets that make it pretty and tasty. They also have some innovative drinks like frozen popcorn, looking crazy and totally out of my imagination.

    They have good food and it’s very good for a bar. My favorites are baby potato (32 RMB), eggplants with cheese (28RMB), and all the meat skewers (30-70 RMB accordingly) are spot on. They season them very well and it’s juicy with rich flavors, and the sauce on the side is my favorite. Portion is good and perfect for sharing, and is served with wooden platers that looks pretty and unique. I love the chicken skewers and they also have sets for easy options. I never tried dessert there but it looks very tasty.

    The bar has a chill vibe but also great for a date. The little Christmas lights get me every time. Upstairs terrace is great to enjoy during warmer months and is always crowded too. The place is always busy book ahead if you can, but the service is quite fast and the staffs are always helpful. You definitely see me there again!

    *260 RMB for two.
    *Barbarian has great food, nice drink, and warm atmosphere. Always fun to get a customized cocktail that fits your flavor of choices, and the delicious barbecue food is just impressive for a bar!

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  • Visited the newly opened Red Lobster this past Saturday following an event in Pudong. I've been to other Red Lobster's establishments all of which were in the USA, Roswell in Georgia, Times Square NY and Miami in Florida and they were all pretty much of a muchness in the way the operated and offering of food geared to North American tastes, deep fried food, large portions with lots of doggie bags to go, a concept I have never quite understood.

    Red Lobster's recently opened incarnation in Shanghai could be viewed as the best one so far, but then again, it’s operated under a JV partnership with a company that does business in Asia that already knows the ropes somewhat.

    The restaurant is tucked away down a corridor next to the Butchers Club, that had a couple of diners in at 17h30 on Saturday, whereas Red Lobster had plenty of families dining, we were seated in no time, offered the menus and away we go.

    Started off with some tepid water, so no upselling of fancy waters at Red Lobster ordered two glasses of Santa Mia Sauvignon blanc, great price points and not a bad drop for your average Chilean Sauvignon blanc.

    Ordered the following dishes:

    Lobster Bisque: Sadly, lacked punch, to my mind just a creamy soup with bits of lobster inside.

    New England Clam Chowder: what can be said actually not a bad drop of soup, I have had better and worse, despite the image on the corporate style colourful printed menu having saltines crackers these were not served as a worldwide standard accompaniment.

    Golden Calamari: I am glutton for punishment, and on a continual quest for the holy grail of deep-fried calamari, there are only a couple of places in the world that my travels have taken me that I have actually had consistently good calamari, and Red Lobster Shanghai was not one of them, it seemed as if the remnants of the deep fat fryer were shovelled up onto the dish.

    Chesapeake Crab Cake: Blue swimming crab cakes, never knew crab cakes could swim, these non-swimming crab cakes lacked depth, not golden enough nor crisp either rather bland in flavour.

    New England Roll: Warm, sweet live lobster meat served in a toasted brioche bun, made from live Maine lobsters. The dish was actually decorated with the carcass of a Spiny lobster part of the Palinuridae family, nothing to do with a clawed lobster species that frequent the waters off of Maine.

    Overall the food ticked the boxes off the cookie cutter style of menu, however, if this food review were a school report three dishes definitely require work and remedial attention needed.

    The service from the waiters that served the food was friendly and efficient even if the dishes were served out of ordering sequence from the initial order that was placed, the corn biscuits (soda bread) were served the same time as the New England Roll, surely, they should have been served with the soup.

    The background music was a little too loud for what was supposed to be background music, and certainly the wrong mix of music for the venue and time of the evening.

    Damages for the evening for two pax with four glasses of very reasonably priced wines by the glass came to 632RMB in total

    Would I return, definitely not, would I recommend I would have to say yes, just to say you have been to a Red Lobster restaurant, even on the Dark Side of the city, and in a basement shopping mall?

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  • Pin Wei Chuan Cui is a crisp, functional operation in the basement of one of the newer mall developments on Hubin Road. They serve up a full menu of Sichuan classics that, while inoffensive, feel watered down for Shanghai palates. There’s way worse “Sichuan” food out there on the streets of Shanghai, but you won’t leave here with your mind blown or your nose running.  

    The vibe is one of a spruced-up canteen, clean and simply decorated with an entirely open storefront facing out onto the mall floor. It’s light on atmosphere, in other words, but its bright and open with good service. They have a handful of private rooms for larger parties, if for some reason you’re heading here but looking for something more intimate. Prices are friendly for this neighborhood, too.

    The small selection of Sichuan staples comes out looking the part but leaving a little to be desired. The mapo tofu, always an important indicator of whether a Sichuan spot is up to snuff, is muted with just a hint of numbing ma and not much else besides, the sauce lacking any real complexity. Their shui zhu niu rou (beef, cabbage and other vegetables cooked and served in hot chili oil) is better and richer, but still doesn’t linger on your palate the way you’d want. Broccoli served in a salted egg yolk broth is fine, but maybe try another dish if you’re looking for something green.

    Maybe this is all good if you like these flavors but are squeamish with heat. I like to sweat when I eat this stuff. Sichuan food isn’t all about spiciness, but it is very much about bold flavors. It should be exciting, and these versions feel pretty workmanlike.

    They get extra points for doing a pretty great bing fen, a kind of ice jelly common in Sichuan cuisine as a kind of cooling snack or dessert. They push it hard on their Dianping page and it is indeed pretty good, topped with flower petals, crushed peanuts and raisins with a pool of rice wine at the bottom. It does, however, kind of make you wish that you’d just eaten something spicier, that your mouth actually needed cooling down.

    It’s worth stopping by Pin Wei Chuan Cui if you’re in the area and feel like some solid enough, reasonably-priced Sichuan staples, but not worth travelling for or using as an introduction to the cuisine. 

     

    Price: RMB 139 for 2 people (3 dishes, 1 bing fen)

    Summary: A clean, serviceable mall spot near Xintiandi serving up all the greatest hits of Sichuan cuisine, toned down for local palates. Nothing terrible about their renditions of the favorites, but the spiciness and flavors aren’t quite there. Prices are good, especially for the area.

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  • I was at a loss where to eat and what to eat this past Lantern festival evening, and being in the neighbourhood of Tai'an Lu, stopped by at Aloe as the lights were on. Aloe is in the old Daga Cafe and Brewpub location on Tai'an Lu, same owners I believe, frankly speaking, they should just have just kept the Brewpub going, for the food sampled on this Lantern festival evening was dreadful. The menu is somewhat limited, as is their range of wines by the glass.

    I was the sole diner in the place for the time that I managed to dissect the dishes until I left, I can assure you it certainly felt that I was dissecting the dishes set before me.

    When is a Scotch Egg not a Scotch Egg? Well you can order one at Aloe, the meat surrounding the egg was beef and what tasted like overcooked chicken livers ground together with the beef, I was led to believe this was foie gras, the breadcrumbs surrounding this ball of mush were dark and unlike any breadcrumbs I had seen before, this was served upon a puree of carrot, with dots of mint sauce. From the time of placing the order to the time, it arrived at the table was 25 minutes, obviously, the restaurant had not heard of the phrase, here’s one I made earlier or had mise en place to hand.

    I must say there was not much else on the menu that took my fancy and chose the daily special of Pork Shank Confit & Teriyaki sauce, which sounded pleasant enough. I have eaten Duck Confit before, but never Pork Shank Confit, Confit comes from the French word confire which means literally "to preserve," a confit being any type of food that is cooked slowly over a long period of time as a method of preservation.

    I have eaten traditional Schweinshaxe or Pork knuckle, so expecting somewhat similar without the crisp skin. What I actually received was a full-on shank full of fat, no taste whatsoever, the dish surrounded by a selection of field mushrooms, a sprig of rosemary, dollop of Dijon mustard and some sort of mashed potato, I picked my way through this, and have got to say this is one of the most unappetising dishes that I have eaten in Shanghai in a long time.

    I could not finish the dish, and if fact left the majority of it to be taken away, not by me. I paid up and left the restaurant after spending just over an hour and twenty minutes in the place was offered a dessert which I declined, damages for a table of one 344RMB. I don’t know how they have the nerve to concoct or think that the dishes on the menu blend together, the only saving grace was the decent glass of Malbec at 58RMB for a standard pour.

    The word Aloe is a noun, a succulent plant with a rosette of thick tapering leaves and bell-shaped or tubular flowers on long stems, native to the Old World…. There was nothing succulent about my dining experience at Aloe, lastly, there is a very large painting which hangs upon a wall, the smell from the painting permeates throughout the restaurant and rather off-putting.

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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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