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[On the Radar]: Cobra Lily, Mercado, Highline

The city's most talked about restaurant openings since... the city's last most talked about openings.
Last updated: 2016-11-16
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.

Lotsa heat in this week's OTR. Shanghai F&B industry bigwigs spreading their empires. How many restaurants is enough for you people!

Cobra Lily


Quick Take: The latest offering from partners Lee Tseng (Boxing Cat Brewery) and Kelley Lee (a lot), combining pan-Asian flavors with craft beer.

What is it: Cobra Lily, a mysterious young woman, is the fictional personification of the restaurant. Supposedly, the restaurants dishes and decor are experiences through her eyes. That aside, the big draw here is combining Asian cuisine with local brewed craft beer. Seven of Boxing Cat Brewery's beers are on tap, plus three more guest taps that rotate periodically. The soft opening menu has interesting fusions like foie gras sticky rice, smoked duck pastrami salad, and beef tartare served with chips and pho soup in sake cups. They also do cocktails -- there's one with coconut milk that makes you think of Thai curry, but it still works. Yes, there's some pretty clever stuff going on, yet it feels casual, like you could go in just for a beer by the bar. Those are 50rmb a glass. Dinner will run you around 300rmb a person.

First Impressions: The soft opening's dishes are nice and the cocktails are excellent. They've got a unique, modern design with different styles in different corners and the right lounge music. And they've got spy profiles of Ethan Hunt and Jack Bauer (probably Cobra Lily's old pals) written out on the mirrors of the bathrooms. That seems weird, but it's actually the right balance of trendy and tacky -- and be sure, you need a touch of the tacky if your primary clientele are Xintiandi tourists.

-XZ Palmer

Mercado de Waima


Quick Take:Secret Chilean wagyu beef butcher south of the Cool Docks. Dine in or take-away huge slabs of meat and cheese.

What is it: An apparition really. A mirage. A phantasm. Mercado de Waima is a butchery and deli a block or so south of the Cool Docks (remember those?). It's tucked away against a DHL delivery depot, a few dusty vacant warehouses, and half a block of stacked temporary housing for migrant laborers. It appears out of the night, ghost-like, like a Steven King short story -- a haunted deli staffed by the cursed specters of James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, and Marilyn Monroe. I'm going overboard. It's a butchery slash deli with a really iffy location. They do specialty meats, cheese, oysters, wine, and miscellaneous.

Their main thing is Chilean Wagyu beef, a relatively new development in the world of red meat. Mercado de Waima stocks striploin, chuck, rump cut, karubi, and more at M6,M7, and M8 standards -- the good stuff -- for between 78rmb and 110rmb for 100g -- as well as Iberico pork tenderloin, foie gras, and a host of others. For price points comparison, I went down to the City Super where they do Australia and Tianyi Wagyu for 1.5 and 2 times the price, breaking 200rmb for 100g at the same standards. Big Jo talked up his Chilean Wagyu. It's quality for a significantly reduced price.

First Impressions: ...And so we got him to cook us up one. And it was pretty damn fine, for sure. We ending up plopping down 300rmb and saying, "give us as much as you can for 300. Bunch of different stuff." We got enough Wagyu M7 steak for two, 4 generous slabs of brie, and two bottles of Estrella Galicia Spanish beer. It was a good first impression. At the end of the day, Mercado de Waima -- it's in an inconvenient location but if you're serious about your red meat and want quality for less, it's worth checking out.

-Morgan Short



Quick Take:All-day drink and dining from a dream team of Shanghai restaurateur and clubbing types. With a Cali state of mind.

What is it: You already know, I bet. All the food scene people are talking about this Highline place. Highline is the new contemporary American and cocktails place from John Liu (Coquille, Scarpetta), Cody Allen (Le Baron), and Michael Sun (Muse). Which is probably what they should have just called it -- just that whole last sentence. Up on the 6th floor of The Ascott at Huaihai and Huangpi, Highline has been soft open since September with a pared down food menu which is entirely going away. They've newly secured the culinary services of Anna Bautista (Jack London, Coquille) and Sean Jorgensen (Maya, ATTICA, a bunch more) -- it's basically a Shanghai Ocean's Eleven, this thing -- for an as of yet unformulated final menu, angling towards an early December proper opening. The plan: All-day and late night California classics cuisine. The look: Mid-century Miami-fornia minimalist chic sunken living room batch pad realness -- remember that season when Mad Men went to LA? -- with the mise en scene of Wong Kar-wai's 2046. The crowd: People comfortable at any of the afor-linked venues in this paragraph and people very comfortable with that whole The Nest thing but perhaps looking for something a little less clubby and austere. Something more Cali '70s than New York '00s. The price points: Cocktails from 68rmb to 128rmb. Food TBD. But none of that hotel service charge tomfoolery so that's nice.

First Impressions: OMG Highline! OMG have you heard about Highline? So buzzy. Soooooo buzzzzzyyy. Sure, man. I'm down. Feels like the people involved are taking their experience in Shanghai F&B and pushing it in new directions. Good for them. Will have to wait and see what the food's like and how it all looks when the dust settles, but the patio is really nice. Nice view. Brunch, anyone? As a whole, it's a really big space, so they're going to have to get some people out there to fill it up. Probably all those industry luminaries mentioned in the first paragraph know a few people though.

-Morgan Short