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[On the Radar]: Hard Rock Cafe, Lil' Laundry, Strangas

Seeing some high profile openings in Shanghai to kick off 2017. Here's three for your careful consideration.
2017-01-05 19:35:39
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.

Hard Rock Cafe Shanghai

Quick Take: World famous and represented rock 'n' roll-themed restaurant chain returns to Shanghai. Classic American food and cocktails for people who wanna rock 'n' roll all night and party every day.

What it is: After a run from 1996 to 2004 in this city, the new Maoming Lu location of Hard Rock Cafe is the Shanghai return for the brand. Rock 'n' roll will never die, maaaaaan. One of several planned venues for greater China, this one is on the heels of their newly opened Hangzhou outlet, which is already up and running. Assuming a space on that rapidly expanding section of renovated art deco-ish houses on Maoming Bei -- a couple doors down is the under-construction Goose Island brew pub and at least three other restaurants are also currently being built -- Hard Rock Cafe Shanghai is two floors: dining, bar, and boutique on the first floor; and stage, bar, and audience seating on the second floor (currently still under renovations). They've got their formula down from close to 200 of these in almost as many cities around the world. American diner-style eats on the menu (burgers, ribs, steaks), party hearty drinks on offer (a section of mojitos and margies, along with beers and their signature cocktails), the boutique selling the shirts that your dad used to paint his boat in, and the walls of pop music memorabilia.

Among other things they have: a guitar signed by ACDC; a guitar singed by TOOL; a thing signed by the Stone Temple Pilots; Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath's jacket; a microphone and a knee pad from Jerry Only of The Misfits (I know, right?!); Britney Spears' bodice; Justin Timberlake's necklace; and... the trombone dude from No Doubt's shoes.

For Chinese rawk representation they've got the dude from Tang Dynasty's guitar. Not Kaiser Kuo, the other dude. Nice to see a little Chinese rock representation. Hmmm... what else could they get? Dan Shapiro's mustache? (Oooof, one for the Shanghai lifers.)

As of this writing, Hard Rock Shanghai is in super duper soft opening mode with only the first floor open for dinner hours, 5pm to 10pm. That should ease up in a week or two. The second floor with bands on stage is something that's coming in the next couple months. For live music expect a populist focus. Pub rock to keep the party going. Cover bands. School of Rock bands. Overall, price-wise it tilts upwards. Their burgers are around 120rmb. Main courses are around 150rmb. Cocktails around 75rmb or so. That's the price you pay for basking in the glow of Jerry Only's knee pad.

First Impressions: For those about to ROCK. FIRE. WE! SALUTE! YOU! It's the Hard Rock Cafe -- they're dealing in a light cultural tourism, easy nostalgia, and straightforward gastro food.

-Morgan Short


Quick Take:Greek dessert chef Nikolaos Strangas brings the exact same recipes and ingredients from his acclaimed Copenhagen venue to a small shop on Yongkang Lu.

What it is: Opened in December last year, Strangas Dessert Boutique is one of the first new tenants encouraging away from its seedier earlier incarnations. The name on the sign is Greek pastry chef Nikolaous Strangas', a dessert specialist who used to work at the Michelin-anointed restaurant Era Ora. The Strangas Dessert Boutique in Copenhagen enjoys a good reputation in the Scandinavian city and is regularly featured in European media.

Its Shanghai counterpart is like a tinier version of it. From the the black and white, minimalist Nordic interiors to the all-organic ingredients that go into the recipes, even the pricing is similar -- pastries are from 15rmb to 20rmb, macarons are 18rmb, mousses from 48rmb to 78rmb. Pastries and desserts are arranged neatly from savory to sweet. They offer Danish scones, croissants, brioche and Danish rolls; the main features -- macaron and mousse, in six flavors so far. Aside from classics like raspberry and chocolate, they also have some unconventional combinations such as strawberry & basil, lemon & jasmine tea, milk chocolate with yuzu. As for drink selections: a few roasted specialty coffees, teas, and hot chocolate. The Strangas afternoon tea set is 380rmb for two, featuring handmade desserts, sandwiches, and scones, plus coffee or tea.

First Impressions: It's a nice little place to chill with a friend, enjoy some sweet treats or do a bit of light work by yourself -- when the shop is not busy of course. It's pretty small. Food is creative and distinctive. Strangas himself visits the shop every once in a while as well, bringing new updates and new ideas to the menu. Overall, Strangas Dessert Boutique is a safe choice for some quality pastries and sweets if the words "boutique" and "Michelin" don't leave a sour taste in your mouth.

-Jin Qian

Lil' Laundry

Quick Take:Shanghai really likes that Liquid Laundry place so how about another? Craft beer, comfort gastro fare, cocktails, and more in a more condensed package at The Portman.

What it is: Lil' Laundry is the sequel to Liquid Laundry, a stand-out success story gastro pub and lounge among the several success stories from serial restaurateur Kelley Lee. This one's smaller -- maybe one-fourth the size of the original -- and although there're a few new items on the food menu (more seafood in particular), it's basically the same sort of deal. A bunch of Boxing Cat beers on tap, a list of cocktails, idiosyncratic pub grub, and lots of expats enjoying themselves, the yuppie bastards. (Just kidding.) I went down last night to check it out at night and it was already boasting a sizable crowd of after-work drinkers and revelers enjoying 40rmb pints.

Went back for lunch today to see a pretty nice lunch menu with lots of burger and sandwich options for around 100rmb. This is the "Ode to In and Out".

Pretty serious thing.

During the daytime, it was also seemed like a pretty decent place to get some laptop work done.

First Impressions: Seems like a dependable place. Staff and service was already on point, which is nice. Overall, maybe less of a nightlife, lounge-y sort of vibe as the other LL and more like a cafe-by-day, pub-by-night kind of thing. Think it fits in best with people working in the area looking for lunch or after-work drinks. And people staying at The Portman of course, which, incidentally, looks like a friggin' Ewok village of F&B stuff these days.

-Morgan Short