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.
Here we go: The Blind Pig -- it's what the Big Bamboo turned into; the newly relaunched Cut Rootop at the IAPM; and fancy authentic gelato in Xintinadi.
What It Is: The first The Blind Pig opened up earlier this year on Hongmei Lu. No one cared, because it was on Hongmei Lu. Which is a shame, because by all accounts (ours) it was pretty good. We ended our first take on it thusly;
For smokehouse and BBQ fans, it's worth the trip out to Cracker Street to try out, for sure. Or you can wait until it becomes a chain, fans out into the city proper, and moves closer to you maybe...
It was with joy and elation that we heard that place shuttered (just in time?) and instead moved into what used to be Big Bamboo on Nanyang Lu. Excellent.
Somewhere along the way, they've picked up some Asian things on the menu. Stuff liked Crispy Cornmeal Okra (38rmb), Pulled Pork Baos (48rmb), Shrimp & Mango Fresh Spring Rolls (48rmb) and Hot & Sour Pulled Pork Soup (38rmb). Upscale beer/bourbon snacks? Alternatives for people who want food cooked in a wok next to a BBQ pit? Is that a demographic? You decide.
But yeah, the brunt of the menu is still hyper-engineered burgers, ribs and steaks. MAN-in-a-white-collar food.
And yes, the bourbon menu has also made the move. It remains extensive. I didn't try any because I went in the middle of the day and I'm not 45 yet.
First Impressions: So, our original impressions on the smokehouse and bourbon aspect of the menu still stand. That part hasn't changed. Read that article.
For the new elements, the location and the menu additions; still looks like Big Bamboo. Same pint glasses, same seating arrangement, still a pool table upstairs, still TVs on the wall. Still that crack in the glass paneled ceiling. The Asian food was hit and miss. The smoked pork dumplings (pot stickers) were great. Must try. Really enjoyed them. The pulled pork baos were... not great. Steamed bao has to be eaten immediately or it goes stale, but time-to-stale on these was unforgiving.
Other than that... I mean, yeah. It still looks mostly like Big Bamboo, the menu is still Blind Pig, the bourbon list is still like 50 entries long. Blind Pig! It's closer to you now. Get some ribs and burgers and bourbon.
What It Is: After several years as the second floor of THE CUT, the powers that be (who be also behind Bar Rouge and Mr. & Mrs. Bund) decided this place needed to be its own thing. So, following a shut-down last winter, a nice paint job, a mural and some (different) neon strip lighting over the DJ booth, we have THE CUT Rooftop. We were informed the capitalization matters. THE CUT's rooftop is now THE CUT Rooftop.
The sit-down arrangements have been mostly replaced with high tables and stools or low lounge seating. There's a raised area at the back under their mural from which you can survey the space. The terrace is mostly the same. Still very nice.
The menu's taken a turn into "casual dining"; too big to be tapas, too snackable to be a sit-down meal. There're oysters, cold cut platters, the Pacific Salmon Tartar (80g/78rmb) has stayed on. Things like the Rock Shrimps Pomelo Cocktail (68rmb) and Wok Fried Clams (500g/78rmb) straddle the line between solo and shared dishes. Stuff like the Pork Meat Balls (58rmb) are clearly meant to be snacked on. If you're hungrier, there's bigger stuff, like the Angus Sirloin (250g/228rmb)
The drinks are 68rmb to 98rmb. The categories on the cocktail list are Signature, Seasonal, Fusion, Classics (with a Twist), and To Share. Those range from 288rmb for a Pimm's Cup to 428rmb for Night Club, which is like a spiced prosecco and campari sangria. They say you can probably get about 5 glasses out of those.
There's a happy hour every day until the end of September from 5-10pm, where you get draft beer for 40rmb or the cocktails on the Seasonal Tonic or Sour Fusion sections for 50rmb each. That, plus the live DJ nights they've got going every Wed-Saturday (including crowd favorite Super Attractive Ghetto Blaster on Thursdays) from like 7pm-2am means they're drawing in a crowd of disgustingly clean, young, affluent-looking professionals from those surrounding office buildings.
First Impressions: Seems like a really good spot for an after-work drink if a) you work nearby, b) you go for the happy hour. Prices are like 10% above what I wish in my heart of hearts for them to be, especially for the food, but if they're aiming for the yuppie financial types, it seems right. Plus they've got that happy hour. For now. The cocktails were excellent in a "I just need a decent drink after work" way. I really liked the Shisojito and for 50rmb a pop I'd have like... four, maybe. The vibe's chilled. Upbeat. Confident, well-dressed people making intelligent, laughy small-talk. Sometimes they danced. And the meatballs were super. Like a slightly firmer IKEA version with a tart Thai twist to it. Top-notch meatballs at THE CUT Rooftop.
What It Is: Just in time for the two weeks of the year when Shanghai has nice weather here's a new gelato place that you should try out if you're in the Xintiandi area. Good desert option capping off a fabulous meal at Wolfgang Puck, perhaps? Nice little treat before heading for some nice drinks at DR Bar? What's popular in Xintinadi these days?
Signor, the namesake of the Italian chef behind the concept deals in deep, rich, and siiiinfully delicious gelato, split into milk- and fruit-based options. They're working with mostly imported ingredients and a super expensive, super legit gelato machine on site. (One of these, if you're interested.) They've got a collection of lux flavors available by the scoop in cup or cone and then several more involved options for patrons looking for a more profound gelato experience.
Fior di Latte, Stracciatella, Vaniglia, Pistacchio, Cioccolato, and more. Single scoops 38rmb. Double, 58rmb. The Cappe Gelato menu (the more involved sundae-type options) are 14 or so offerings at 78rmb. They've also got a range of Italian coffees (pretty great espresso), and a plan for boozier items.
First Impressions: Very delish. Very guilt-inducing. Thumbs up. You should check it out if you're in the area. Great gelato weather we're having too, isn't it? That's Shanghai is predicting typhoon, so we're in for clear blue skies and unseasonable warmth for a few weeks at least.
Here's how you should do it: Next time you're around Xintiandi on a date or with some friends or however you do say, "Listen, I know this great little gelato place you gotta try. Real authentic Italian." And then you'll come across like a very plugged in, very knowledgeable and worldly person. You're welcome!