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.
New stuff to eat all over town...
Quick Take: A casual Cantonese fusion eatery inside 5 on the Bund. They're offering a nightclub vibe, pricey cocktails, and the almost ubiquitous presence of "Demon Chef" branding.
What is it: Daimon Bistro is Shanghai's most recent, and possibly most affordable restaurant under celebrity chef Alvin Leung's name. It's also where his upscale restaurant Bo Shanghai was hidden. Decor was inspired by the notoriously grimy Kowloon Walled City, with metal panels and bird cages hanging from the ceiling; graffiti, and green and blue lighting splays out on the concrete walls. Served on old school-style tableware replete with Demon Chef designs, the food is mostly Cantonese and Szechwanese staples with western twists. They have: Sichuan lamb xiaolongbao; foie gras guotie (3 - 4 pcs cost around 30rmb); ox tongues marinated in "Herb de Provence Sichuan green sauce" (68 rmb), and so on. The social media consensus seems to be that their versions of the Hong Kong egg waffle (138rmb) and Beijing duck (168rmb) are must-haves. Both fall under the Big Bite section but they probably can't be shared by more than two. Daimon Bistro also has a really extensive cocktail menu, featuring some classics options at 100rmb and their original cocktails for 120rmb. These are influenced by HK drinks such as milk tea and creme soda.
First Impression: This is not really the place to go to for the usual Cantonese fare, for sure. Overall, the food is greasy and sweet -- like their popular, limited availability dish char siu bao (CSB) for example. And apparently the recipes aren't from Leung but rather one of his apprentices. Cocktails are gimmicky and pricey, but you could do food at 300rmb-ish per head, so maybe that's reasonable for a meal on the Bund. (Well, arguably reasonable but nothing out of the ordinary.) The dim light, Bund view, mixed hip-hop / pop punk playlist could make for a suitable date for the young and the wealthy, as long as they don't mind a bit of novelty on their plates.
Quick Take: A multi-story French fine dining restaurant with a large selection of wines.
What is it: Dionne Wines is a European restaurant in Xuhui, popular with the local crowd. Their new sister restaurant Chateau Dionne offers French cuisine and wines from across Europe, South America, Australia, and California. The first floor features a bar and an open kitchen. The second floor has five balconies with seating for two, and a long row of wine coolers in the main area. The menu has Florentine eggs, escargot, foie gras terrine, and Gillardeau oysters. Mains include risotto, pastas, beef cheek, german pork knuckle, and tournedos Rossini. There's only one side dish -- fries. Dinner will run you 200-300rmb per person, not including wine, which starts at around 250rmb.
First Impressions: Chateau Dionne's prices are not bad for what they're offering -- possibly to encourage you to get a bottle of wine with your dinner, which yes you should do if you're going. However the location isn't great. The neighboring buildings are empty and the whole street seems deserted. But if you're looking for a new French restaurant to try, it could be worth a trip.
Quick Take: Dirt cheap "boutique-style" tacos from and for the rock scene with strong Chinese flavors. 30rmb shots of Patron. No frills. Zero Frills. Frills, meiyou.
What is it: Rastaco is a one-room taco restaurant hole-in-the-wall. It's bare bones: they do tacos, shots of Patron, Dos Equis, reggae jams on the stereo (Toots and the Maytals et. al), and that's it. The concerns behind the thing come from your Shanghai rock scene: Hai Jun of Yuncai was manning the stove and Li Wei Yu, a long time recording engineer out of Juju studio / practice space (he's done stuff for Duck Fight Goose among many others) is behind the thing. The menu is 8 varieties of taco, cooked by the order on the spot, for 20rmb each. It comes from that hip, boutique-style six-inch flour tortilla taco terrain and takes a spin through Chinese flavor land -- Mongolia Lamb (might be the best one), Soft Boiled Egg, Tuna, Cheese -- along with the standards (Carne Asade, Chicken Fresca, Carnitas, Chorizo, Garlic Shrimp etc.). Shots of Patron Silver are 30rmb and the only beer is Dos Equis for 20rmb.
First Impression: Hung out last night blasting shots of Patron (damn, that's good stuff), some very, very tasty tacos, and talking about which Shanghai bands sucked and which are even more sucky. What's not to like about that? It's very much a scene kids hang-out dive spot and very much not the "new Mexican restaurant you absolutely have to try." Which is great because Shanghai has far too few of the former and probably too many of the latter. That said, the tacos are super delicious. Really good. Maybe a touch on the small side. But still good. If I lived around here I'd eat here on the regular. I don't so I'll make it down sporadically, getting buzzed on the cheap tequila, catching up on scene gossip, and enjoying the tacos as a very nice bonus. Reggae got soul.