Some things to get excited about out there in this roundup of new bars and restaurants. There's a new (huuuuge) South African restaurant in town, a new wine bar has us rethinking Tianzifang, and finally — FINALLY — there's a new place that serves cocktails for 168rmb.
If the lifesize Nelson Mandela statue simply exuding posi-vibes at the entrance was enough of a tipoff, La Burg is Shanghai's first, only, best South African restaurant and bar, opened earlier this year in a massive rooftop space in Yuexing Furniture Plaza, the furniture mall directly across from 1000 Trees in Moganshan Lu area.
In a city with such a deep, vibrant, and active African expat community, it's strange there aren't more restaurants in Shanghai showcasing the diversity of cuisines from the continent, but here's a step in the right direction with La Burg. On the menu: classic South African dishes. And more than that, It's also a bar and nightlife destination. After dinner, on Saturday nights, the DJ takes over with heritage and the latest sounds coming out of South Africa (and West Africa, of course) for parties that last late, late, late. The opening hosted over 400 guests and they went until 8am. Damn!
The interiors are done up like a huge hunting lodge, with a massive open communal dining space, bar, semi-open kitchen, full stage for DJs and bands, two banquet-style private rooms, and a wrap-around patio with outdoor seating that spreads around the entire venue. It's crazy huge. South African cultural artifacts comprise the decor, with streets and cities represented on signs around the venue and... suits of armor?
The venue comes from importers of La Burg wines as a way to showcase their line of South African grapes. The food menu is specifically South African and you won't find these dishes anywhere else. Several national classics are represented — Springbok Venison Tartar, Bobotie, Boerewors Roll, and even their rendition of Nando's Chicken — but anyone looking for pan-African flavors will find something to like. The pap from the "Pap & Chakalaka", for example, is the S.A. version of ugali maize meal that you find in virtually every African cuisine.
Nando's Chicken! Flame grilled and served with the full line of Peri-Peri sauces.
On Saturday night, the guest DJ comes in and the bar takes over with parties anchored around South African and West African sounds — afrobeat, kwaito, and, even amapiano, the latest "new thing" in South African music. (Like a synthy, bassy house music kind of thing, maybe?) Definitely want to come back and check out the scene on a Saturday night.
Pro-tip: They're serving springbokkie shots! Minty! This is like the national shot in S.A.
Damage: Really reasonable. Like, they've got a 30-centimeter sausage roll for 99rmb. The chicken thigh curry dish is curry in a whole loaf of sweet bread for 68rmb.
So yeah, huge portions that will stuff you out and splitting a bill with friends is maybe in the 250rmb-350rmb range.
If you talk to the venue owners in the neighborhood, you get the impression that Tainzifang, more than other places, has been hit pretty hard by all the COVID stuff. It's not difficult to imagine why. It's a tourist trap, oriented towards guests who are never going to be repeat customers. It's all souvenirs and gimmicky street foods, so if you live here it's not really offering you anything. It's tucked out of the way a bit and constitutes a "trek" to get there.
Making the case for people who actually live in Shanghai to return to the back alleys of TZF is Alors, a new wine and contemporary Chinese sharing plates venue from an experienced French wine importer and a young chef on the rise. They've got ties to a few of the new-generation upstart venues in town: Yaya's (see their opening party this weekend) and Bastard. And those two other venues are a pretty good reference of what you'll find here, which is younger restauranteurs/chefs coming from polyglot culinary origins, mixing up a bunch of influences, and serving it in a breezy and hip environment to next-generation diners who are maybe looking for their own experiences reflected back at them on their dinner plates.
Alors is at Entrance 1 of TZF. Just walk in about 50 meters and it's on the right. It's a small one-room operation, with a larger banquet-ish table and then seating for smaller groups. It's concrete with a few DIY artistic flourishes, signifying it's coming from a personal kind of place.
Nice wood floors. (Hey, we just like nice floors.)
Talking with the owners, they're emphasizing the food more than the wine, but the wine has a lot to offer. It's French for now with obscure labels separated by region -- lots of representation from Alsace and Roussillon. Natural wine makes up the bulk of it but they're not showy about it. They are repping Champagne pretty deep, also, with a sizeable collection of obscure bubbles. It's a venue to check out if you're looking to explore labels you probably haven't tried yet and don't mind shelling out 480rmb to 880rmb a bottle to do so.
The food menu is a one-pager of about 15 items, and you're assembling meals tapas-style arranging a few familiar numbers -- the fig salad and the confit duck rolls, maybe -- with the more singular stuff. Braised beef tongue with spicy tomato sauce and Jersusalem. Or the roasted chicken wing with meigan cai, water chestnut, and minced meat.
Not even properly open yet, Alors is already looking like it's taking off. Which is cool, seeing some energy in Tianzifang. It's still a neat part of town, just for the architecture. We dropped by the venue on a Wednesday and they were at capacity when we left. We got lost in the back alleys, buzzing into that good night, with a huge respect for their fried chicken.
(Seriously, if you're gonna check it out, don't miss out on the fried chicken.
Damage: It's not the cheapest that's for sure. Especially if you're trying to take advantage of some interesting wine and try out a range of the menu items. Maybe 300rmb per person and up.
Good for an experience you enjoy every few months or so when they add new stuff to the menu.
Tearoom by EHB
The Tearoom at EHB is the first-floor afternoon tea and cocktail bar in the same venue ashaute cuisine restaurant du jour EHB, and it's the closest you're going to get to the main event happening on floors two and three for a few months — even if you can even afford it.
If you've not been following, EHB, in two floors of weighty Nordic solemnity on the second and third floor of 11 Dongping Lu, is the restaurant of chef Esben Holmboe Bang, the co-owner and head chef at the three-Michelin star restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, Norway. EHB, in Shanghai, opened about a minute ago and is booked for the rest of this month and most of the next. In a small-yield dining room, they serve a single tasting menu at 3,688rmb-per guest, with an optional 1,688rmb wine pairing, or a 5,888rmb prestige wine pairing. (Plus 10% service charge.)
The food is a "natural extension and exploration of Bang's cuisine with hints and reflections of the thousand-year-old food traditions of Chinese cuisine."
So, that's its own thing. The Tearoom at EHB is separate but complimentary to it, inspired by the culinary maser working upstairs — in particular his purported fondest for Chinese tea — but operating as its own destination. It's open now, serving afternoon tea (upon reservations over their WeChat MiniProgram) and cocktails to walk-ins who pass the dress code. Smart casual. Guys, no shorts or open-toed shoes.
If you're a Shanghai-ren of a certain vintage, the location at 11 Dongping Lu will be familiar to you. This is the building expat hangout of yore Sasha's was in. Just next to it was Zapata's. Zapata's is actually a school now which is quite fitting because back in the day, it was definitely a place you could go to learn a thing or two.
The entire colonial-era building has been spruced up to welcome the city's elite and visiting dignitaries. It's classic. It's dignified. It is, yes, there is no other word: elegant.
The Tearoom at EHB is tucked into the drawing room on the first floor, past the gates and the parking lot occupied by shiny Bentleys. Past about four sets of valets, stewards, and manservants. Past several lesser tax brackets.
It's also elegant AF. Pearls and off-whites. Understated but expensive. Clean. Crisp. Not exactly chic. Maybe "graceful".
The man behind the cocktail menu and bar is Kinou, of Hong Kong Bar 001, the first speakeasy bar on that island. They closed in 2022. (COVID woes...) and he's the drinks person at Tearoom in Shanghai.
Kinou is bringing the Hong Kong bar's penchant for hard booze though. Like a silent assassin. In a lengthy signature cocktails menu, with innocuous variations of the tea that inspired EHB being the unifying ingredient, the drinks we tried were serious business. This is the AM:PM -- just a little tequila-absinth number to start off.
In about 10 to 12 drinks on the menu, there's a bit of a narrative going on with a single unnamed protagonist falling in and out of love during a night on the town. Life, love, euphoria, heartbreak. Or something. This is when it all came crashing down, we guess. Probably the deepest Negroni variation we've ever tried.
But not without some happy memories...
Oh, you saw the price tag.
Yeah, these are all 168rmb cocktails.
168rmb per drink, yeah! Hey, we're just here to tell you the facts. File that information how you will.
But, yeah, what can I say, the cocktails were amazing. They were complex, suprising, and damn excellent. What. I'm only human.
(Hmmm. Might just sell everything, get a corner seat at the Tearoom and drink cocktails until a little something-something opens up upstairs...)