When El Willy opened way back when, it was almost universally praised by the expat community as one of the best western options in the city. I think it was one of the first western restaurants that was just plain good without the qualifier “good for Shanghai.”
The new Tomatito is like the grandchild of this tradition. It’s that rare restaurant that has such a unique character down to the details that you could probably guess where you were just by looking at the plates.
There aren’t many traditional dishes here. It seemed like everything on the menu is “Sexy!” and all the flavors are described “Explosions!” While I still don’t really understand what makes a tapa sexy, everything we ordered tasted really good and nothing went unfinished.
I really liked the air baguettes which is basically cheese inside a mini crunchy baguette that’s then wrapped in beef. The other favorite was the beef cheek and mushroom cannelloni with truffle. It was super rich and flavorful. I’m not sure if having to loosen your belt a notch is considered sexy, but that’s what happens when you stuff your face with these delicious tapas.
The decoration is fun and quirky and they have a huge sweet terrace that overlooks the park in Xintiandi. They also said they have a rooftop that they will renovate soon. We went at dinner, but I imagine this would be a great place for brunch.
The staff is mainly from the previous location so everything was on point. It’s located in the Hubindao mall which some people frown upon, but I think it makes it super convenient. This is also one of the best malls for families with the NBA Playzone and twinkle. This restaurant is also super kid friendly and one of the kids in our group said it was her favorite restaurant in all of Shanghai.
It was about 300 rmb per person
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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