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[On The Radar]: Cannery, Madison Kitchen, Shanghai Dim Sum

The Nest swims to the Westside. Madison finally reopens. Shanghai street snacks get a nice new home in Jing'an. It's a big one this week.
Last updated: 2016-06-01
On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places we find interesting. Sometimes we stumble upon these places, and sometimes we are invited, but in both cases, we are never paid to write an opinion, rather, these are our honest first impressions, and not a formal review.
On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile 2-3 new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.

1. Cannery


Quick Take: From the makers of popular upscale fusion success story The Nest, comes the Canadian cousin, Cannery on Yuyuan Lu. They're dishing up lots of seafood and even more bourbon, rye, and Canadian whiskey, along with homemade specialty products and canned foods. Cannery racks up points for sleek and lux upscale design, the ingenuity of the fine dining-plus-deli-and-specialty-foods concept, and very fair price points on well-executed plates.

What It Is: The Canadian beachcomber's cousin of The Nest, on Yuyuan Lu, serving lots of seafood and even more bourbon, rye, and Canadian whiskey, along with homemade specialty products and canned food. But hold up, tadpoles -- this place deserves some backstory. It's the opening of the month. So, back in Jan 2015 this place in Rockbund called The Nest -- a collaboration between club group Muse and alcohol giant Bacardi -- blurred the lines between restaurant and club, with enormous success. The place became popular immediately and it's still hard to get a table there at night.

As the story goes, according to their Managing Director, Mark Klingspon, a guy involved with redeveloping historic Yuyuan Lu started visiting The Nest. He liked the spot so much that he approached Mark about having a Nest on Yuyuan Lu. Bacardi already had plans to expand into other cities, but Muse, Mark, and a few other partners were down to do this second venue in Shanghai on their own.

Then came Mark's concepts: Canning! Fish! Seafood! Whiskey! Mark is from Vancouver, where they fish and then put fish in cans to enjoy at a later time. So, they've got proper canning equipment from Canada, which they use to can steamed oysters, goose liver, pate, and lots more. So within a month or so, you'll be able to eat there or take cans of food home. Going along with the general store concept, they've got their own coffee roast, courtesy of Sumerian, and their own whiskey, courtesy of Hood River Distillers. On the whiskey topic, they're looking to have the biggest selection of rye, bourbon, and Canadian whiskey in Asia.

Atmosphere: If Jacques Cousteau minored in interior design…

Just like The Nest, there's crazy attention to detail, from the perfectly photogenic lighting to the chairs to the big steampunk fish on the wall and the Neptune on the bathroom door. There's 150 seats inside, with more on the patio coming soon. Then there's a huge fire pit where they'll smoke whole salmons, Canada style. Waiters wear fishing boots. I could go on, but you should just check it out.

And like Nest, music is bit more eclectic than most places. Last night's selections drifted from Julian Casablancas to Lenord Cohen to… "Whipped Cream" by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Band.

Tuna jaw is the new roasted bone marrow

Damage: So reasonable. A dinner last night consisting of canned duck liver mousse and toast, a smoked blue fin tuna jaw (gotta get that), grilled octopus, two good draft beers, and water came out to 362rmb. Mains run a bit more, like 198rmb for the catch of the day (always grilled) or the Canadian lobster, and 188rmb for steamed mussels. From the raw bar, where they weigh up bivalves with an old-school fishmarket scale, oysters are 108 for six or 198 a dozen. Signature cocktails run 58-98rmb, and all draft beers are 48rmb.

First Impressions: It's The Nest team. They do good work and this place is gonna kill it. Here's two big pluses -- they serve really high-quality food at totally fair prices, and they're opening in a part of town that might be the next frontier, as high rents and license issues plague the city center. Not completely sold on the canning concept though. There is some potential for slicing a fingertip off while wrestling with a can of goose liver after throwing back a few glasses of Mellow Corn or Wiser's Rye. But maybe that's the goose's revenge. Would be nice to see a China craft beer on the taps too.

-- Ian L.

2. Madison Kitchen


Quick Take: Madison Kitchen is Shanghai-famous chef Austin Hu's return to the game. He's keeping it humble with a simple sandwich shop and deli concept on a very high profile corner on Huaihai Lu. Great location catering to the neighborhood, creative sandwiches (i.e. a ham and cheese with kim chi), and a clean, trendy environment. Madison Kitchen: a cost effective option for eating interesting things between two slices of bread.

What It Is: That new sandwich shop and deli on Huaihai Lu, between Charmant and Cotton Club, by notable Shanghai chef, Austin Hu (Madison, Union Trading Company, consulting / cooking everywhere), his friends, and an Old English Sheep Dog. They're serving gourmet sandwiches, salads, and a few other deli items at fair prices. We'll probably never know why the original Madison closed, why some of the staff are having a "Reunion" without Austin, or why it took so long to open in this space (an article on this website from 2014 predicted March 2015). But who cares. They're in the sandwich game now.

Atmosphere: Sunny neighborhood deli vibes. The place is tiny -- just a few counter seats facing Huaihai Lu -- so it's mostly for takeaway. No dining on the second floor -- that's the lab. Depending on the day, YouYou the dog might be lounging on the floor. She's friendly.

That ham and cheese with kim-chi

Damage: For sandwiches in this town, damn cheap. We're talking 50rmb-60rmb. That's cheaper than Market 101. Cheaper than Wagas, even. And they're huge. Expect slightly higher prices for sandwiches like pastrami that require a bit more love and time. Lobster rolls are 100rmb. Coffee starts at 25rmb.

First Impressions: Looking good, especially once they get their own sourdough bread in there. If they don't raise the prices too much after the soft opening, this is gonna be the sandwich joint for a lot of people. The only potential problem is the size of the kitchen, which could see some traffic jams at lunchtime if long lines form.

-- Ian L.

3. Shanghai Dim Sum (蒲石小点)


Quick Take: Shanghai Dim Sum does classic Shanghainese snacks and street fare a cut above the local guy on the corner. Elegant, modern-ish environment, a big, two-floor seating area, great selection of delicacies on the menu, and, most importantly, solid food safety. 1000-year-old cuisine in the 21st century.

What It Is: Last year, this cheap, clean, and good Shanghai snacks restaurant Pu Shi Xiao Dian (蒲石小点) replaced a tired congee shop on Changle Lu. Apparently they did well enough to open a second branch, in Jing'an, right next to Crystal Galleria. Like the original, the place looks trendy but it's double the size, with two floors plus an outdoor seating area, and more details, more plants, more books, and fancier furniture. In addition to traditional Shanghai breakfast food such as guotie, youtiao, sweet and salty soy milk, xiaolongbao, and cifangao (rice hash brown), this Yuyuan branch serves more coffees and teas, as well as Jiangnan-style desserts like pastries filled with green tea, walnut, and jujube, and mooncakes.

Bonus: The place opens from 7am until 2am. 

Atmosphere: Casual and trendy with an open kitchen, though a bit noisy for a place with calligraphy hanging on the wall and white orchids around every corner. Like their Changle Lu spot, lunch time gets really busy. Staff are friendly though a bit green. The crowd is diverse and local, with everyone from elegantly attired ladies enjoying their delicate desserts to middle-aged men with less dainty table manners.

Guotie & Friends

Damage: More expensive than the Changle Lu branch but still cheap. Pork guotie are 30rmb for six; guotie lunch sets (six guotie plus two  cifangao and two veggie rolls) start from 40rmb instead of 30rmb at the Changle branch. Desserts are around 10rmb. Soy milk is 8rmb, and coffee and tea prices are similar to Starbucks. 

First Impressions: It's great to have a properly designed, clean, and thoughtful restaurant dedicated to traditional Shanghainese small eats in a highly commercialized and westernized part of Jing'an. Some might complain about the relatively high price (for street snacks), but the rent, food safety, and the attention to details here totally justify the slight increase in price.

-- Jin Qian