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[On The Radar]: Bird Ryu and UP

Reverent yakitori and good-time nightlife vibes in this week's edition.
2018-11-28 14:38:23
On The Radar: On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places you might like to know about. Sometimes we stumble across these venues and sometimes... we are invited. As such, these are our first impressions and not a formal review.

Yakitori with a higher purpose and drinks that'll blow up your feed are this week's picks for what's new out there in Shanghai Town.


Bird Ryu

1196 Shiji Dadao, near Dongfang Lu View ListingTaxi Printout


Quick Take: Shanghai’s fanciest place yet to eat grilled chicken

What It Is: Bird Ryu is a sleek house of worship for those whose god clucks, pecks and tastes delicious grilled. It’s grilled chicken of the highest order and pushed out to the farthest extremes, with a menu that travels beyond breast, leg and chicken meatballs to the outer limits of kidney and undeveloped eggs. Along the way, there are stops for highly precise parts of the chicken anatomy, like that round-ish nugget tucked under either side of the backbone (called the oyster) and “white liver”, which is a grossly oversized chicken liver that has achieved a certain degree of fattiness.

The setting for this bird worship is a reverent U-shaped bar where all seats look on to the pulpit, a thin charcoal grill. It’s here that the single man in charge of all grilling, from chicken parts to cheese, conducts services seven nights a week to a thus-far sparse congregation.


First Impressions: Unconverted. Bird Ryu does a faithful job with the food, professing their seriousness in every medium-rare chicken breast skewer and creamy bite of liver. Nothing goes on the grill for a moment more than absolutely necessary. A serious man in chef whites who works the grilling altar makes sure of it, deftly converting the raw ingredients his junior chefs fetch from a back kitchen into tiny studies of the application of heat and fire, and laying them down in front of you at your bar seat.


It is proper.

But the atmosphere is just a little sterile.


My platonic ideal for a yakitori restaurant is cramped, smoky and noisy, elbow to elbow with the table next to you, everyone just a little bit drunk, appreciating but ultimately just eating the food. In that regard, Bird Ryu can’t match my old favorite, Toriyasu, or even the obvious comparison (because of the menu of rare parts), the relatively new Yakitori Torishou. Being in Pudong is also, for me, a hindrance. Those factors and the skewer-worship, at the cost of a soul, make this a destination only for those whose sins have banished them from Toriyasu, Yakitori Torishou or Gubei in general.

— Christopher St. Cavish

UP Shanghai

2/F, 688 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near... View ListingTaxi Printout


Quick Take: The latest addition to Shanghai's good-looking bar/club/lounge scene.

What It Is: They're hesitant to commit to labels, so let me throw some at it. It's a fast-paced cocktail bar, an urban-chic nightclub, it's got the determined party-vibes of a Latin lounge minus the soundtrack, and it has a terrace. And a kitchen that stays open till 2am. And Sunday brunch. It's a barclublounge. A loubarclubnge. A baclounubger.


The team includes, among others, Geo (Unico, The Captain) and Carlos Sotomayor (Elefante, Ekeko), though the driving force is an ex-Revolucion Victor. He seems to have Frankenstein'd bits and pieces from his experience of Shanghai's nightlife together, creating this chimera.

It's above the now-bustling 688 Shaanxi Bei Lu complex, a stone's throw from Roxie and a longer stone's throw from Wuding/Yanping and all that entails. Visually, it's got a movie-set street feel, with interiors by MTM Design (who did Tomatito, and many others), wall graffiti courtesy of Siu & Co. from The Orangeblowfish and neon-piped writing in the bathrooms. It's very photogenic. It's how non-Americans raised on satellite TV might envision a retro NY hiphop bar. A looong bar. Seriously, hundred people hanging over that thing no problem.


The booth silo is the domain of Filipino DJ Frac Attack, hailing from near Cebu, and his eclectic set of mixtapes. His remix of "Thong Song" was playing while we visited. The booze menu is a short list of cocktails between 70-90rmb, designed by Geo and executed by half a dozen bartenders. They're bright, fruity and they look good. They've got bottle service for the by-reservation-only couches, natch. The late-night "bar bites" menu are Carlos Sotomayor's gluttonous, flavor-heavy dishes like Upper East Side Take Away Box (68rmb), which is fantastic, and Brooklyn Calamari (62rmb), which has lao gan ma aioli in it, making it as divisive as Vegemite.


Brooklyn Calamari - Spiced flour, dukkah, green onions, coriander and lao gan ma aioli (62rmb)

First Impressions: Not for the dour motherfuckers I mostly drink with. This is for vibrant, enthusiastic nights out with vivacious, luminescent beings who gleefully plan out what they're going to wear based on who they've heard might be out tonight. It's... I dunno, "sexy"? The drinks are sugary and not so strong, the music program's upbeat, the lighting looks like a Sevdaliza video, and the bathroom cubicles are lit with pink and purple neon. That's like shorthand for "here okay bone-zone," isn't it?


Real Talk - Pineapple infused Bombay gin, Midori, lemon juice, homemade raspberry syrup, egg white, activated charcoal (70rmb)


Candy Crusher - SKYY vodka, Skittles syrup, fresh strawberries, light cream, cranberry juice, lemon juice (90rmb)

Apparently I'm the first person to say it looks a little 80s? Maybe it's just the neon lightning bolts and the entrenched food-truck being named "The Kitchen." Feels like the thirty-year cycle is hitting its stride in Shanghai. Maybe what I mean is that it feels like a good spot for a fun night out with friends and the people who follow your Moments.

— Alex Panayotopoulos