When you talk about French food in Shanghai, it won’t be long before you hear the name Le Bec. It’s perhaps one of the best options in town for rich, authentic French bistro food with the ambience to match (not to mention a perfect summer courtyard). It’s split into two, Villa le Bec and the cheaper, more relaxed Bistro 321 Le Bec, which is reviewed here. At around RMB 250 to RMB 350 for a main it isn’t cheap, but it’s well below fine-dining prices and more than worth what you get.
The place is probably just as well-loved for its design and atmosphere as for its food. It’s set in a villa on photogenic Xinhua Lu, a cozy French bistro that already feels as authentic as any other in town before they’ve even set down the bread basket or asked you to have a sniff of the seasonal white truffle they’d like you to try. It’s small enough to overhear another table’s conversation, homely enough that you won’t mind. It’s a place for dates that you’re trying to impress, or for small groups of friends to stuff themselves to contentment and linger over bottles of wine.
There are light Asian accents here and there, but it’s mostly classics through and through. Think pâté en croûte, expertly cooked slabs of meat smothered in rich, delicate sauces, and pillowy mashed potatoes so smooth and buttery you want to spread them on toast. On our visit we ordered a light, zippy herb salad to share along with veal slathered with truffle, mushrooms and melted comté cheese with mashed potato on the side and a beef tenderloin, served with onion, more of that mashed potato and a sweet, smoky sauce. All were simply excellent. You get the sense that you’re in safe hands here, that anything you go for will probably be a home run.
Price: RMB 350 – RMB 800 per person
Summary: Storied bistro serving up perfectly executed French fare in a cozy, picturesque environment. Probably one of your best bets in town for authentic French cuisine in a romantic environment without going for stuffy fine dining.
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