On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.
Lots of openings around Shanghai these days but here're two of the biggest projects we've seen in a while. Massive, palatial undertakings this week: new Sichuan at The Peacock Room and Shanghai gets another mega-club in Taxx.
What It Is: Sichuan fine dining, ‘nouveau Sichuan’, a reimagining of what Sichuan food can be? It’s hard to describe because it’s the first of its kind, to my knowledge, and it’s massively impressive, not least because of the design, a real tour de force by Caesar Song, the owner of the Yu Ba Xian restaurants (see our Designers on Design article with him here), and Andy Hall of MQ Studios, who has designed The Nest and The Cannery, among many other restaurants (see our Designers on Design with him here).
Song also owns Maurya, the Tiffany blue Sichuan restaurants, but this has nothing to do with those, except for a shared love of peacocks. No, The Peacock Room is an iconoclast, a highly glamorous and very inventive take on what Sichuan food can be. The restaurant is an homage to The Peacock Room, a historic and storied masterpiece of Anglo-Asian design that sits in a museum in the US.
The food… the food… on my visit, the food was neverending, and it was a tour through the outer limits of Chinese food, served course by course, as if it was fine dining. I can’t recall everything we ate, but there were more courses than I have fingers or toes. Some hewed quite close to straightforward Sichuan cuisine (but done better), like the chuan chuan, a jumble of skewers of tiny pieces of vegetables and meat in a spicy and numbing broth, to guoba, the crusty and crunchy rice crackers (traditionally the crust of the rice in the pot) covered in a very Cantonese and thoroughly delicious gravy, to much more inventive things like mapo doufu with foie gras, a tea-smoked pigeon, crab and pumpkin soup served in the pumpkin, and trompe l’oeil “chicken” dish, in which the chicken is made into a firm blanket, like an egg white omelet, and covers a stir-fry of vegetables. After 20+ courses, and being completely stuffed, the pastry chef then loaded our table with no less than seven plated desserts that looked pulled off the table of any modern western fine dining restaurant, and a gigantic silver leaf laden with chocolates and macarons and black sesame balls and coconut rice balls and… and… and…
First Impressions: Stunning. Both Song and Hall are absolute sticklers for design, and they have both outdone themselves here. The space is an L-shape, and dominated on one wing by a single, super extended row of marble tables – if you gave them just a little push, they’d turn into a single table for 50+ people. The other section of the “L” is a dramatic entry way. The dining room is lined with a copper shelving that extends onto the ceiling, holding thin bone white china vases that echo the original Peacock Room (Wikipedia it). Look at the pictures. It’s a lot to describe. The details are really more than I can fit in here, and deserve an article of their own. I guess you could say I liked it.
There are two catches. The first is that menu comes as set, which I like, because it forces you to try things you might not have ordered on your own, but are not cheap. Prices are going to be around 1,000rmb per person. The second is that it’s not actually open yet. They are still in the friends & family mode while they make adjustments to the lighting and the chopsticks and all these other little details, but they plan to have a soft opening sometime before Christmas.
-Chris St. Cavish
What It Is: It claims to be the biggest night club in Shanghai, but MYST might have a bone to pick with them about that. TAXX is an abbreviation for “The Angle of X”, and it’s a newly opened two-story night club in Found 158. It's right next to Arkham but it feels towards the other end of the nightlife spectrum.
This 3,000-square-meter space is built to host indoor electronic music festivals. Even though it’s very likely most of the audience will be sitting and enjoying their champagne. The design is minimal and industrial, with a big stage covered by large LED screens and hologram projections, where the DJs work their magic and dancers move suggestively and blend into the light shows. Of course, there are also leather sofas and VIP rooms where you can immerse yourself in the visuals and epilepsy-inducing flashing lights shooting from above.
TAXX is owned by Shanghainese actor Zheng Kai. He’s a pretty high profile television personality especially popular with young Chinese females. And TAXX most definitely looks attractive to wealthier young locals who like to hangout or hope to hangout with local celebrities and micro-celebrities. Rubbing shoulders with them at the 12-meter long bar serving cocktails with Shanghai-pricing (around 80rmb for classics), taking selfies with the “secret menu” drinks, and gossiping about the entertainment industry in their VIP private rooms. TAXX doesn’t have a fixed theme for what kind of music they are going to play, but it will mostly be Top 100 DJs and some local underground acts. For the music, TAXX plans to feature both underground and international DJs -- a different genre will be featured once a week, be it techno, trap or "experimental". Bass Hoodie, Emily, Mansun... dig these names? Then you’ll want to check out TAXX.
First Impressions: The VIP rooms aren’t ready yet, and everything else seems to need some polish, too. It does have the hardware to host a decent indoor electronic music festival, although to surpass its competitors like MYST or Fusion, Taxx might need some time to catch up.