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.
Homeslice leads the charge in Found 158; Bombay Bistro offers upscale Indian; and Sense 8 classes up Xintiandi. Dig in, Shanghai.
What it is: After the closure of his excellent but ill-fated fine dining restaurant Fulton Place a few years back, British expat restaurateur Nat Alexander took a winding road through a regular pop-up concept (Yang Jing Bing) before ending as the owner of Homeslice New York-style pizzeria. His partner is Ken Shi who boasts Maya, Fulton Place, el Willy Group, and Odelice! on his resume. Their mandate is simple: People in Shanghai like to eat. Then drink. Then eat again; and people in Shanghai like food delivered to them. They settled on New York-style pizza — big, oily slices served on paper plates that you fold in half like a sandwich to cram into your lovely drunken face. They've got six varieties available in shop by the 20-inch slice, the 20-inch pie, and, via third party delivery companies like Sherpas in late February, by the 16-inch pie. (Apparently, 20-inch pies are just too big to deliver and make delivery guys' bikes fall over.)
Their prices are sound. Per the slice: Cheese (20rmb); White (25rmb); Mushroom (25rmb); Pepperoni (25rmb); Meat (30rmb); Spicy Sausage (30rmb). For the 20-inch pies, it's 150rmb, 190rmb, and 230rmb. Expect a few switch ups when they get going in earnest but that's basically the core menu. For drinks, they're offering simple Italian-ish cocktails made quick (Negroni, Sprtiz, etc.), and Perona bottles. Ideal beer to go with pizza.
For dining in, the feel of the place is no frills pizzeria with light nods to the New York origins of the main menu item. The design on the walls is inspired by the New York subway system as is the font of the signage. The entrance way is inspired by the Astor Place subway entrance. On the stereo is late '70s and '80s disco and hip hop. Feels like it could be a real rambunctious pizza place when the other tenants open up in Found 158 and the place starts getting some traffic. **cough, cough ARKHAM cough, cough**
First Impressions: Man, it took long enough but Shanghai now has some truly righteous New York-style pizza for cheap. 25rmb slices at Homeslice, yo! 25 kuai! Let's not overthink this: The value is great; the ingredients are plentifully dispersed on the pies; and the crust is most excellent. For Homeslice, the inevitable comparison is to Joe's Pizza because the two operations are doing similar things and they've opened up right around the same time. So be it. For me, Joe's Pizza is heavier with a crunchier crust and heavier cheese. Homeslice is a bit of a lighter touch while still being just as satisfying. They are both, make no mistake about this, most welcome. If I'm 20 feet from either of them I'm heading in for a slice.
For Homeslice, I've eaten all six on the menu and my favorites are the White (Ricotta, Cheese, Parmesan Cream), and the straight-up Pepperoni.
Note: Homeslice is open today and tomorrow from 5pm (January 25 and January 26), and then closed until February 5. Look for delivery in late February.
What it is: The stated goal of Bombay Bistro is to “stray from being a typical Indian curry house and bring the more trendy, playful side of Indian cuisine to Shanghai.” On the menu you'll find dishes like the Soft Shell Crab ‘65 (98rmb) and the Three Cheese Kofta (98rmb), along with the familiar classics to fall back on. Presentation seems to be something they’re focusing on; the ubiquitous Butter Chicken Curry (118rmb) is served in what could be described as a meat-tower surrounded by a moat of slightly sweet, fragrant curry. (Pictured below.)
They’re also putting some effort into their cocktails menu, featuring India-inspired drinks like the Sharabi Lassi (80rmb), essentially an alcoholic lassi served in a glass goblet with a straw. Their version of the American Dream (85rmb) looks exactly like an Old Fashioned and, courtesy of the glass bell filled with incense smoke it’s left to marinate in, tastes more like a Rusty Nail.
As for the space, most of the tables are set by the long, cushioned bench that runs along the windows, but there are a handful of stools by the bar that juts out at an angle, and some low seating at the back meant for cocktails. Definitely an intimate or date-night vibe to the place; the dim lighting, the chilled music, and the food/drink presentation could kickstart a conversation during any of those awkward silences.
Prices here, as you might’ve guessed, range towards the higher end.
First Impressions: We mentioned the prices, and they definitely range on the high-end. Other Shanghai stalwarts like Vedas or Masala Desi serve similar fare for a solid 30rmb less in some cases, so if you’re just looking for something to scratch your curry-itch, this might not be the place. But if you’re looking for a good place to take a date or a small group of friends who like new takes on old ideas, and you’re okay to splurge a little more for something just for novelty’s sake, maybe give it a shot.
What it is: Sense 8 (誉八仙, Yu Ba Xian) in Joycity opened about two years ago are people are still posting reviews on Dianping that open with "I waited an hour for a table" and "booking ahead is highly recommended". We've explained a bit about why it stands out among the others — the environment, mainly. And they pull off a range of old-school dim sum dishes you can't really find at anywhere else. Their new Xintiandi branch is where T8 used to be. It's relatively low-key on the outside and almost satirically extravagant on the inside. The two-storied building is imbued with glamorous ornaments, antique-looking decorations, and various handmade replica Imperial Palace furniture tucked away tastefully in hidden private rooms. They've even posted a gentleman in a red turban to greet you at the door. A representative of that classic Shanghai-style colonial chic.
Their yum cha runs from 8am till 10.30am, and currently that's the only available option if you book only a day in advance. With each dish between 24rmb and 38rmb, you can easily try at least five or six types of dim sum for under 200rmb. That's enough for two people, in addition to a pot of quality tea that always get filled by the waitress. (And zero service fee.) It's during lunch and dinner hours, however, that Sense 8 truly resembles an upscale Cantonese restaurant in Xintiandi. Dishes are more delicate and better-garnished, and prices go up accordingly. Expect to pay at least three or four hundred each. They also have quite an extensive wine menu. Although still in soft-opening, dinners are already fully booked into February.
First Impressions: It's possibly the only restaurant in Xintiandi that does affordable breakfast at 8am. Although they've amplified the effort on the old-school decor, the food here doesn't stray too far from its predecessor — you come for decent execution and uncommon old-school Cantonese dishes, not the unforgettable meal that makes you want to return again and again. Kind of a one-time experience sort of thing. But it's an experience nonetheless. And if you're curious about the decor (it's comes from the owner's personal collection of course), the manager is willing to expound with great pride on the pieces therein.