Here's what we're talking about this week: the new fish and chips place in Found 158; that secret-not-secret speakeasy Dry Goods; and T8, a Shanghai legacy restaurant opens up their new space.
What It Is: Brought to you by Camel Group, Hooked has been tentatively introduced to Shanghai as the baby brother of the Bull & Claw. It’s located in Found 158, right next to Camel’s other, more Luchador-y venue, with a big bright glass panel wall facing into the courtyard. The decor’s like a cross between a beach-front fish and chips shop and the cabin on a cruise ship taking you to Marbella or something.
It does fish and chips, poke bowls, and misc seafood, including a soft-shelled crab burger (98rmb), a seafood risotto (128rmb), and fresh Normandie oysters (198rmb for a dozen). The fish and chips comes with four different options; Haddock (98rmb), Icelandic Cod (108rmb), Halibut or Salmon (both 128rmb), and you can choose to either to have it battered, crumbed or grilled. Give it a little while and they’ll have family-sized portions available. The Poke bowls run you 68rmb and you can choose a single or double dose of protein (tuna, octopus or salmon), your base and your style (original, spicy or wasabi). Throw in an avocado for a bit extra, health nuts.
They’ve also got a pretty respectable list of booze, with wines, a couple signature cocktails, some beers (including Little Creatures) on tap and a surprisingly decent array of whiskeys for between 60-95rmb each.
The Hooked oeuvre also includes a Bull & Claw menu for now. Since the original location got shut down, they’ve moved in here; they do an abridged brunch menu on weekends and a dinner menu too, featuring steaks and lobsters. The beer still comes in Bull & Claw glasses.
The shop’s in weird soft-open hours, but with Restaurant Week coming up, they say they’ll start opening at 10am.
Crumbed Haddock (98rmb)
First Impressions: They boast they’ve got the best fish and chips in China, but my standards were last set at an awesome little shop overlooking the Brighton pier. Even against that... yeah man, Hooked has some good fish and chips. Not twice-the-price-of-London good, but that’s the reality of eating foreign in Shanghai and not Brighton. Another good thing: They plonked down a whole bottle of vinegar on the table so they know what’s up. Tried the crumbed Haddock, and it was flavorful and held together nicely. The panko crust was just the right amount of crispy without little curlycues of empty batter anywhere. Tartar sauce was spot-on, the chips were thick, starchy and the size of a troll’s toe. Could’ve used a few more of them. Good, good stuff.
As Shanghai’s new favorite healthy thing, their poke bowls might look weird sitting above deep-fried Mars bars on the menu, but if I have a hankering for something sea-tasting that doesn’t involve lemon-grass or oyster sauce, I’d stop by here again.
What It Is: Opened by the Roosevelt Prime Steakhouse's owner, George Chen, and other F&B partners, Dry Goods is a new speakeasy that makes use of the restaurant's large basement wine cellar. The place is almost big enough to call it a lounge, with another room in the back. Their signature cocktails are more on the sour side and they say that's because they're made with the ladies in mind. Try the "A Thief in the Night" -- that's a lemon juice whiskey cocktail for just 68rmb. In fact, all the cocktails are very reasonably priced, coming under 100rmb. They also have a nice selection of bourbons from Suntory. A glass of Maker's Mark is 70rmb. There's no kitchen, but if you come early enough (usually before 10), you can order food from the steakhouse.
Psssst! Here's how you get inside!
Enter the Dry Goods store (a fake store that doesn't actually sell dry goods) on Taiyuan Lu, then follow the guy who will be waiting there to take you to the speakeasy. Yeah, this kind of defeats the purpose of the hidden bar gimmick, but it is possible to get lost on the Ruijin Hotel's premises without guidance. If he's not there, turn left once you get into the store, head into the next doorway across the way and press a button on an Illuminati triangle. Then descend down the steps below.
First Impressions: Does Shanghai need another hidden cocktail bar? Eh, sure why not -- as long as it's not near Jing'an, the cocktails aren't 185rmb, and the atmosphere is pleasant, where women aren't trying to murder you for the bartender's attention. Dry Goods ticks all of those boxes.
What It Is: T8. Classic. A classic Shanghai restaurant. I remember reading about this place in Lonely Planet when I was trying to figure out whether I wanted to move to Shanghai back in like 1986. It was nestled in there with names like Dan's Old Farm House and Rojam. That's old school.
T8 -- if they weren't the first they were nearly the first "fine dining" restaurant in Shanghai; they opened 15 years ago in Xintinadi, back when people were all about "educating the market" to Western tastes. Their angle then, as it is now, was molecular gastronomy via Catalan chef Jordi Servalls Bonilla who designed a, for the time, avante garde menu of eye-popping constructions on big plates, with lots of artistically placed sauces and foamy things.
Jamon Iberico Bellota Admiracion Deshuesado (268rmb)
Alaskan Snow Crab Tartar - Fresh Papaya, Guacamole, Bread Chips, Balsamic Reduction, Begorios (128rmb)
Dazzling! This is perhaps not as avant as it once was -- feels like Shanghai has come a long way in 15 years -- but who cares about trends anyways. If the food is good, the food is good. Said food is Mediterranean and Asian fusion, with very obvious to anyone, regardless of their background, signifiers of wealth and status: Grain Fed Australian Beef Tenderloin, Suckling Pig, Norwegian Salmon, Iberian Pork Neck, Boston Lobster, Alaskan Crab, Smoked Duck Breast, Black Cod, Foie Gras -- you get the idea. Steward of the ship now is Executive Chef Roger Xiao, who's job is to oversee a menu that was honed over the last 15 years in their 19th-century shikumen Xintiandi space and which has now been transported wholesale to their larger third floor space in Hubin Dao Mall.
So long story short, it's the same T8, which is to say, oh yeah, the food is lux and excellent and delicious. And yeah, it's pricey. You're looking at probably around 500-600rmb per person for dinner. Conduct yourself accordingly. You know you. Are you the kind of person that likes dropping dime on mains like these?
Pan Seared Halibut Fillet - Hokkaido Scallop, Surf Clam, Asparagus, Purple Sweet Potato rice Cream Saffron Sauce (238)
Crispy Skin Suckling Pig - Melon Cru, Port Wine Reduction, Roasted Pumpkin Puree (168rmb)
250 Days Australian Black Angus Beef Sirloin 8oz. (228rmb)
If you are, you should invite me! I love this stuff!
So yeah, the main thing to talk about is their new space. It's bigger. And split over two floors. What they've lost in that 19th-century Xintiandi shikumen charm and tranquility they've made up in size and view. They've got this massive rooftop space that's going to be great in the summer. They've got three bars in there. They've got another balcony seating space. It's going to be great for brunch.
Sigh. I love brunch.
First Impressions: Respect. Respect, T8. 15 years is a long time. Respect to you, T8. Respect to your lovely and fancy molecular cuisine that I can't afford with your sauces fru fru'ed around on these giant plates and your food that looks like Frank Gehry buildings. Respect to your giant new rooftop patio. Respect to your excellent drinks as well -- that Oolong tea martini thing was the best drink I've had in months. I wish I could say I'd be back but I don't make the big bucks.
Invite me back on the media blag for your grand opening in March and I'll attend the shit out of it.