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Monster Highballs and Righteous Pizza at Japanese Laowai Yokocho
By Dec 15, 2017 Dining
There was always something off about naming a street "Foreigner Avenue", or Laowai Jie, but things have gotten even weirder recently, with a dedicated indoor food court type thing for a sub-classification of foreigners: the Japanese Laowai Yokocho Avenue.

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Tucked behind the building that used to hold a Xiao Nan Guo, opposite the entrance to Laowai Jie (now held by the wonderfully named Starsnail Wines), Laowai Yokocho is a kind of forlorn attempt at recreating a festive Japanese alleyway of restaurants, like Piss Alley in Tokyo. It doesn’t quite live up to its promise, but on a visit last week, I found two extremely righteous things: MONSTER highballs, the classic Suntory and soda combination served in ONE LITER glasses...

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...and Neapolitan pizza.

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The ramen was so so, the gyoza a toss-up and oysters had motor oil aftertaste that screams Qingdao (so I’m told; I couldn’t screw up the courage).

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But those mammoth whisky sodas, they crack like rams butting heads when they are cheers’ed, and the pizza – well, just chalk it up to things being weird out here.
 
The quick story is that a Chinese guy studied with a Japanese Neapolitan pizza master in Japan for several years, and now he’s come back to Shanghai to… I don’t know why he came back. I didn’t get in that deep with him. In fact, I didn’t get too far past “one margherita, pizza, thanks, and we’re sitting over there” and then a “thanks, thanks, you’re too kind” kind of thing when he brought over a little Nutella calzone, on the house. But he makes a lovely pizza with fresh mozzarella and nice burned spots on the crust and a sweet tomato sauce, for 49rmb.

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There are other stalls doing weird attempts at Chinese-Spanish food, a yakiniku joint that cooks over portable gas canisters but more importantly is the source of those highballs, and four individual glassed-in karaoke boxes, which is sort of indicative of the entire place: if you want to enjoy it, you’ve got to bring the party spirit yourself. The default setting on atmosphere, at least the weeknight I went, was melancholy and a touch desperate, perhaps because a bunch of tried-and-true Japanese restaurants have moved in next door: Ajiya, Monbei, Bankura. Any of those would outclass the food at Laowai Yokocho, but if you’ve got a thirst for whiskey sodas and appreciate the quirkier side of this city, then you might enjoy Japanese Foreigner Avenue as much as me.

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Laowai Yokocho Avenue is at 3337 Hongmei Lu. Open daily, 5pm to midnight, and until 2am on weekends.

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