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Here’s Where We Ate (and Drank) in 2021

Bistros, wine bars, cocktail lounges, Italian fusion - oh my!
2021-12-31 12:00:00

2021 was a year of upheaval in Shanghai F&B.  Despite losing some established, long running, and seemingly indestructible venues, for every shocking closure there were at least five more new restaurants and bars opening up to take their place.  In our 15-plus years covering F&B, we can’t remember a year with so many new places opening up.  I guess we’ll see in 2022 if these investments turn around. 

***Cue ominous music***

Anyways, we didn’t get to nearly all of the venues that opened in Shanghai in 2021.  We did get to these ones.  Here’s a look back on where we ate and drank this year.

Roll on with that newness. 



Blaz - January 14

“By its own description, Blaz is a "canteen and wine bar". But the word "canteen" may conjure in some of your minds the industrial lunches served at your school or workplace. So, let's call it a bistro because that's basically what it is. This is the latest concept from restaurateur Simon Briens and the team behind RAC. It remains very much on brand: subtle twists on classic French and an eclectic selection of natural wines. “

Cellar to Table - January 20

“A wine bar and bistro that stands out for its better-than-average pricing on quality wines, with a selection extensive enough to appeal to drinkers representing a pretty wide spectrum of wine knowledge and appreciation — ranging anywhere from ‘what's wrong with Family Mart wine’ to ‘whenever I'm in Bourgogne…’."

Atelier Izakaya - January 26

“The name itself sums it up rather succinctly — it's an izakaya by Atelier. Headed by cocktail specialist Daniel An, these are the same people who brought you Taste Buds Cocktail Palace, Taste Buds on Xiangyang Lu and Atelier by Taste Buds. “

Mavis966 - February 2

“Mavis 966 is part of a Shanghai trend of contemporary bistros. No gimmicks, no culinary in-jokes, no deconstructions or re-imaginings, just straightforward classic French and British food, with the occasional subtle twist.”

Green Common - February 7

Green Common is a popular Hong Kong import that focuses on plant-based food. There's a café, a small market downstairs and a proper dining resto upstairs. The market downstairs has a decent selection of take-home meat-substitute products, including OmniPork patties, Luncheon meat, Beyond Beef patties, Just Egg replacements, and a whole refrigerator dedicated to plant-based milk and yogurts.”

Sheng Yong Xing - February 9

“The first Shanghai outpost of one of Beijing's better-known roast duck restaurants. Though it began as a casual, froufrou-free place, Sheng Yong Xing has, in recent years, repositioned itself as a luxury "nouveau Beijing restaurant" known for being very, very particular about its ducks.”

Ottimo - February 20

Ottimo is the latest wine bar and bistro from the team behind SOiF and Vinism. It's not exactly "new". A restaurant named Ottimo has occupied this space since at least 2014. It was an Italian-inspired eatery long popular with well-heeled locals for its imported oysters and steaks. But in December 2020 the new owners gave it a reboot with new staff, new décor and a new menu.”

Root Down - February 24

“Listening bars, also known as vinyl bars, got popular in Japan during the 1950s. Root Down follows that philosophy in spirit, but has classed up the concept for the modern Shanghai drinking crowd. The proprietor is Shanghai native Gary Wang, you might know him as DJ VNutz, formerly of The Shelter and The Grumpy Pig. The many years Gary spent living in Japan and working as a DJ shaped his vision for the music at Root Down, exclusively playing Jazz and Funk from the late 60’s to early 70’s.” 

KLAY - March 2

“A casual Indian restaurant located on Beijing Lu, KLAY is the new project from Hardeep Soma, who, besides being the former chef at Bull & Claw, has made a name for himself cooking excellent Indian food at various food festivals around town. KLAY labels itself as a contemporary Indian restaurant, which translates into tapas-style Indian fusion dishes, like a butter chicken taco or a lamb burger – all bite-sized portions.”

Glory - March 23

“Glory is a 3-floor café and lounge bar by Cross Yu. He had started his career working the bar at Laris (now Mercato) at Three on the Bund, did a big stint at M1NT and a few other notable positions, as well as winning several world-class mixology competitions. And all this before even opening his first solo project, E.P.I.C., which has become part of the bedrock of the Shanghai cocktail scene. He’s been mixing drinks here a long time, and certainly earnt his stripes.”

Cheesecake Factory - April 13

“Cheesecake Factory has an almost mythic reputation for its giant portions. ‘American sizes’ is the term that gets thrown about a lot but another way to describe it could be ‘Immorally large’. They’ve had a location in Shanghai since 2016, but it’s down at Disney. That spot does roaring business. At 12.38pm today (April 13), they opened their first in Shanghai proper at the Taikoo Hui mall on Nanjing Xi Lu.”

Les Elites - April 22

“Baisheng group, otherly known as Yum China Holdings, is the conglomerate responsible for the food brands KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut in the Chinese market. Headquartered in Shanghai, Yum’s first foray into upscale dining was in 2015, in the form of Atto Primo on 5 on the Bund. While the venue tries to distance itself from its corporate background, the newish French resto Les Élites proudly sports the “By Pizza Hut” tagline on the venue signage.”

Something - April 23

Something is the latest project from veteran Shanghai and restauranter Craig Willis. You probably know Mr. Willis, his eponymous restaurant on Anfu Lu, Henkes, Bang and his work with Wagas.  You'll find a bit of Italian inspiration here, some Thai there, maybe a bit of Korean, some Spanish. The food is better described by style — eclectic, curious, subtle.”

Five Guys - April 30

“The latest American fast-food chain to make a splash in Shanghai has been Five Guys. It opened at the beginning of this week and has been the cause for queues around the block. They are known for the customizability of their burgers, the light crunchiness of their fries, and their milkshakes. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a while for one of those; Five Guys' milkshake machines are stuck in customs. Read more of this new franchise here."

Le Daily - April 30

“Open for just a few days but already busy, this new sandwich spot on Wuding Lu right next to SOiF comes from the dream team of Andrew Moo (Taste Collective, Two Hands Burger), Michael Chen (mixologist at the Cannery), and Francois Seguin (SOiF). They do a small menu of four sandwiches, 3 salads and some snacks. There is draft beer and natural wine to accompany, and from a window onto the street they sell coffee. It’s small. It’s simple. And it's damn good. More on this place here."

Zodiac - April 30

“Aforementioned Geo Valdivieso of The Broken Dagger and Klay has just opened a new bar called Zodiac. The guy is big on the Shanghai cocktail circuit and really knows what he’s doing behind the bar, mixing up well-crafted, often very stylish drinks. As you can probably tell by its name, this new bar is astrologically themed. The drinks are inspired by star signs from the western zodiac calendar. The big thing here though is a DIY cocktail station where you can try your hand at designing and then mixing your own cocktails, with the help of professionals of course.”

Mikkeller Xintiandi - April 30

“Danish microbrewery Mikkeller has also expanded out of Jing’an. They’ve opened a new two-story place in Xintiandi. The concept is much the same, they are still serving their usual array of hoppy beers in typically-Nordic under-decorated setting. This new bar adds a kitchen to the mix though, where a Danish chef will be serving up elevated food from his home country. The kitchen will be open from May 2.”

Bisou - April 30

“In the same building as Botanik used to be  - In case you don’t remember that was the famed forager restaurant by chef Elijah Holland, that ran a menu made almost entirely from plants picked from the garden terrace – Bisou, two floors below is a bistro concept with a cellar full of wines serving a menu of traditional French food. They’ve put their own terrace to use good use, apparently, it’s dog friendly. Rumour has it a well known Shanghai food blogger is a shareholder in this place.”

Caminetto - May 27

“One of the higher end restaurants to open in that big new red building near Xintiandi, Caminetto is a concept by Kelvin Chai, former executive chef at Mercato who also had a hand in Shinpaku. Caminetto means ‘fire place’ in Italian and for a venue that’s essentially in a shopping mall they’ve done a decent job pulling off the warmth that the name implies Chef Chai is serving from his open kitchen – rustic Italian with Shanghai-inspired flourishes.“

LatinLand - May 27

“The team behind LatinLand festivals have partnered with Bourbon Group to open a venue in Wheelock Square, right above Shanghai Brew House and round the corner from KoR, in that space that used to be 10 Corso Como. They’re doing south American food lunch and dinner, and then clearing the tables away to turn the place into a club by night. The music will be – you guessed it – Latin. Décor-wise it gets beachy. They’ve got umbrellas, and some outdoor furniture painted in simple primary colors, and leafy plants hanging from the ceiling.”

Lenbach - May 27

“This German chain opened a second restaurant on Fumin Lu in the space that used to be World of Beer a month or so back. They serve a menu of slightly-elevated German fare that was consulted on by Chen Shi Qin a Shanghainese chef from a two-star Michelin restaurant in Italy. You’ll find all the usual German fare – except pork knuckle for some reason – and a fridge full of butter dry aged steaks that are probably the most exciting of Chen’s contributions. They’ve got a well curated wine selection and range of German and global beers wide enough to keep the spirits of the previous tenants happy.”

Hidden Thai - June 21

Hidden Thai Bistro has been open for nearly a year and is already popular enough that it doesn’t take reservations and still requires a wait during dinner service on most nights. Why write about it now if it isn’t “news”? Because it’s good and seems to be -- for one reason or the other -- largely overlooked by this city’s foreign community.”

The Smokehouse - June 26

Smokehouse is The Camel with a radical and quite welcome menu overhaul. Ultimately, they decided to wipe the slate clean and partner up with Matty Waters, an independent pitmaster who has spent the past few years buiding a reputation for his brand of barbecue through pop-ups, private parties, cross promos, and catering gigs around town.”

Dada Shanghai 2.0 - July 7

“It's been several hundred thousand years since Dada Bar opened on Xingfu Lu 12 years ago.  Along with two or three other notable Shanghai alternative dance clubs — cringey DJ magazines like to call these places "institutions" — Dada staked a reputation on pulling off a simple but elusive formula: play good and / or interesting music in an environment that it is not impossible to drink and dance in. They lost their original Xingfu Lu location and spent the past year or so looking for a new spot. This is what they've found.  It's basically a smaller and brand spanking new Dada bar.”

Pici - July 7

“An Italian-via-Hong Kong import, Pici has a solid rep in HK for their creamy, handmade-daily pasta dishes served at affordable prices. That's not earth-shattering stuff but it works just fine: decent food, good service, good value. Their "straightforward" — their word— approach to traditional Italian food has seen the restaurant grow to three in number in the super competitive F&B environment in Hong Kong. This is their first location off the island.”

Centuono - July 7

“This is the new Italian fine dining place in the J Hotel AKA The Hotel in the Shanghai Tower AKA The Highest Hotel in the World. Expect traditional Italian, filtered through giant-white-plate fine dining, served on the 101st floor of one of the tallest buildings in the world, against a gorgeous panoramic view of Shanghai that could only be enhanced with the addition of a giant mushroom cloud.”

The Drinkery - July 7

“The Drinkery is like a 15-square meter store-front converted into a bar, opened by a bunch of friends. You can tell because they have those wooden, break-your-ass bar stools. That’s a huge we-just-opened-this-for-fun-with-friends indicator right there. Those damn wooden bar stools. But there lot's of elements that show thought, creativity, and care. Home-made ginger beer, for one. The light switch shot thing another. And the drinks are super cheap. And really good, too.”

Azul Italiano - July 13

“Azul Italiano was the event space at the second location of Colca -- the Sinar Mas Plaza location -- relaunched as an "Italian inspired"eatery.   Now you've got the Peruvian on the one hand and something a little more ecclectic and tweaked: A version on pan-Italian that Vargas and  Chef Willmer Colmenares have put their own spin on, as well as made approachable for local tastes.  “

Planet One - July 29

“Planet One is an esports venue, bar, and restaurant. In the simplest terms, beyond the neon lights and state-of-the-art hardware, an esports bar is basically a sports bar for esports. The main attraction is the “Spectator Arena”, which you see right when you enter, and the Virtual Reality Gaming it's set up to screen. Organized like a lounge-y movie theatre, you’ve got a gigantic screen at the back, and five, floor-to-ceiling transparent LED walls on either side.”

Crush - August 6

“A classy but casual New York-ish wine bar on Shaanxi Bei Lu. Crush is not reinventing the wheel here in this genre but it’s the bedrock principles done right. Careful quality on the mod-ish wine list and careful quality on the fusion-ish menu. It’s been open for about a month serving up a hefty and varied wine-by-the-glass and bottles list, and a la carte accompanying plates.“

ROOF P.M - August 18

"Roof P.M. is a modern dining place that occupies the rooftop at the new Museum of Art Pudong. It’s got big glass windows and offers a 360-degree view of the Bund and the OPTV Tower. The venue is café by day for the museum guests, and restaurant and event space in the evening."

Korova - September 1

“From the movie Clockwork Orange and now from in your real life in Shanghai comes Korova, a new cocktail bar that opened last week in the United Valley mall thing off Changle Lu. If you will recall from the movie, the “Korova Milkbar” is where Alex and his “droogs” would go to drink milk laced with HARD DRUGS to “sharpen their senses” for the evening’s “ultraviolence”. It’s got a pretty distinct look. Furniture comes in the form of pristine white, naked manakins with crazy day-glo bouffant afro wigs and the milk libations themselves are dispensed via said manakins' breasts. The walls are decorated with the names of the drinks served.”

Mezcalito - September 1

“From the people(s) behind Espiritu, the “first Latin-style mezcaleria bar in China” — Really? Huh! I didn’t know. Well, congrats! — comes Mezcalito, a new tacos and mezcal bar on Changshu Lu. Simple and cost effective tacos and very nice mezcal and tequila drinks on the menu. Mezcalito is split on two floors, plus a little patio seating, with the bar and kitchen on the ground floor and table seating upstairs. It’s a nice, chill, welcoming, relaxed sort of vibe with great drinks and tasty, creative tacos to match.”

Sakaba Malabar - September 1

“Sakaba Malabar is a reinvention of the concept previously known as “Malabar” in the same space. With the renovations, they’re going for more of an upscale Spanish tapas wine bar, with a huge half-circle bar occupying most of the space. But that’s just the design. The food and drink follows a different path of Spanish-Japanese fusion. Chefs are brother and sister duo Juan and Ana Campos of RAW Eatery, creating something entirely new for Shanghai’s dining scene.“

Fenoli - September 1

“Located on Sinan Lu at Huaihai Zhong Lu, Fenoli is a modern bistro that mainly serves French and Italian along with other exclusive treats developed by their HK executive chef and his team. The restaurant is situated low-key between Café on Air and a Chinese place, so you will likely miss it out if you don’t know about it. They’ve got a tube-like interior with a minimalist decoration. Food is a mix of authentic Continental with some individual Asian twists.”

Forage - September 1

“A five-minute walk from IAPM, Forage is a funky eatery and wine bar hidden amongst the quiet neighborhoods and boutique shops off Maoming Nan Lu. The interior concrete minimal but relaxing and natural. The wine list is curated by William Zhu from SOiF, a place we're always hearing about these days.  So, how it works is you pick your glass or bottle from the front. Red wine, white wine, honey wine… you tell them your mood / preferences and they’ll hook you up with recommendations.”

Lounge by Topgolf - September 23

“Part sports bar, part cocktail lounge, part restaurant, part mini golf range, part space-age, Tiger Woods-approved golf course VIP simulator rooms, part private event space, part arcade — more than the sum of its parts. With 70-plus locations around the world, Topgolf is an American sports entertainment chain, specializing in golf and golf-inspired digital games, served up in a sports bar-meets-theme park atmosphere.”

Bella Vita Bistro - November 4

“Bella Vita might sound new (if a little… generic), but they actually started out as a casual Italian cafe and restaurant out in a shopping complex called Florentia Village by the Pudong Airport more than six years ago. Now, they’ve recently assumed a much more upscale restaurant orientation in a two-level lane house in Hengshan Fang. This is a good way to go about traditional Italian — slowly developing your craft and experience over time. As the name suggests they’re doing serving straight-up traditional Italian, bucking the Italian-but-fusion trend we’ve been seeing lately around town. (Read: Every new wine bar in the last 5 months.)”

Roma - November 4

“Roma is what we’ve been waiting for. An upscale, finely-wrought, quality and details-focused Italian dining experience we can splash out on for special occasions. Coming from Giampaolo (Zozzo Pizza and the very underrated Porcellino) and Chef Andrea (101 Centouno), Roma is casual Italian dining in an area of Jing’an that doesn’t have too many other options or personality in this vein.”

Chilis Tongren - November 4

Chili’s is Chili’s. Chili’s is America. Now there is one in Puxi. The important thing is the prices. You can have a nice rack of ribs with all the sides for 88rmb at lunch. As for dinner, you’ll be hard pressed to spend more than 120rmb per person.

So yes: Chili’s is in Puxi now.

Harrods Tea Room - November 18

“Hold on to your top hats and monocles, The Harrods Tea Room is open on Weihai Lu and it looks proper and brilliant and British AF. They're offering an "elegant choice serving afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, pastries & scones, plus champagne." Seeing as we just bought a Scottish lordship off of Facebook, we're INTO IT.”