On The Radar is a weekly SmartShanghai column where we profile new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.
Roll call for the Michelin Guide for 2019: the new Inferno, the new Windows Times, and Maison Lamelois.
Quick Take: Infamous! Butcher! Angel of death! Monarch to the kingdom of the deeaeeeaad! (It's the new Inferno, Shanghai's only dedicated metal bar, back in its third incarnation as a pub in United Valley.)
What Is It:
This is the Inferno saga in brief and with plenty of facts glossed over: Once upon a time in 2011 there was a metal bar called Inferno on Yongjia Lu. They had a pool table. They served booze. They played death metal, thrash metal, and NWOBM on the stereo. In a city full of upscale cocktail lounges and Top 100 DJ clubs, this was basically the only game in town for people who just wanted to hear some fucking Slayer already. People would go to Inferno and get unbelievably wrecked. And all was good (evil) in the world.
Then they got shut down. By neighbors or fire marshals or something like that.
Inferno II saw the operation move to Bund Square and expand into a live music venue, with the mandate still being heavy music. For a number of years, they provided a decent stage to international and Chinese metal acts, as well as a much appreciated home for Shanghai's own metal scene, which does in fact exist. (!) People would still go to Inferno II and get unbelievably wrecked, this time with bands playing.
Then that Inferno closed at the end of last year. And everyone was sad. Ever seen a sad metal kid? It's SAD. These people are already disenfranchised with society! Don't make it worse!
But they're back! This is the third Inferno. It's like the Friday the 13th series at this point.
Presenting: Inferno III: Sishen Jason Lives!
Taking up a ground floor spot in the United Valley F&B hub, this Inferno is a return to their roots (bloody roooooots!). It's just a pub that plays metal. There're two rooms — a bar in one and more lounge seating in the other — with a capacity of 30 people or so. No live music or stage. Old Inferno posters are framed on the wall. Lemmy looks down at you from behind the bar. It all feels familiar; the big Inferno mirror has made the journey to all three places. The same faces are behind and in front of the bar. It's the smallest Inferno, that's for sure, but the scene's small, too. And close-knit. The Inferno crowd they've built up over the years already knows it's open and is following them there.
Prices swing a bit lower than the other Infernos. We live in thrifty times! 25rmb Asahi pints. 30rmb mixes. A selection of bottled beer in the 25-50rmb range. Events... well it's not the biggest place in the world. But they'll do some horror movie stuff and the air guitar competition will probably come back in some form. One of the owners, Cassandra, was talking up a goat horn pint glass membership club.
Lol. That IS pretty metal...
It's a smaller, compact, bite-size version of the Infernos of yore. Thusly, it's like a Cheers for Lamb of God fans. I was in there for literally 2 minutes and 53 seconds before Slayer's "Angel of Death" came on.
I think that's all that needs to be said really.
Quick Take: Its a new Windows! On the Bund!
What Is It:
The first bar I ever went to in Shanghai, like a decade and a half ago, was called "Windows Too" in Jing'an and it was also the first time I'd ever seen a guy barf on an escalator.
"Hmmm," I pondered to myself, "is this what Shanghai is like? Should I stay in China?"
And I'm still here typing this, so... yeah. It's like I saw two roads diverging in the woods and I stumbled down the one strewn in puke.
And that's made all the difference indeed...
But yeah at that fork in the path was a Windows and I will carry it in my heart always. So, I'm happy to report that there's a new Windows that opened last week! And it's on The Bund! It's called Windows Times! For some reasons probably!
Over the past 100 years or so, through the roaring '20s, the tumultuous times of upheaval during the war and revolutionary period, to the "Opening Up" in the late '90s, and the rapid and frenetic explosion of commerce and culture in the '00s, with the opening of this Windows, only now does The Bund feel like it's truly arrived.
Finally, The Bund feels... consummated, you know?
This Windows follows the Scoreboard pedigree, offering a student pub-like vibe, an emphasis on binge drinking, a dirt cheap Western food menu, a pool table, lots of TVs showing sports, a couple of dartboards, and former Scoreboard manager Matt's grunge / alt rock playlist from 2007 blasting out of the soundsystem.
When we walked in they were playing Alien Ant Farm's "Smooth Criminal". No joke. It was absolutely mind boggling.
The spirit of Cole Porter and Victor Sassoon lives on in these 25rmb frozen margaritas!
Shh! What's that? Do I head the strains of classic big band jazz twinkling through the air? 40 kuai tacos! Sin city never felt so sinful!
And what do we have here! Put away that opium pipe! This is truly a symbol of opulence, ease, and excess: the 15rmb Windows Hamburger. I remember you!
Windows Times has the best bar promotion I've ever seen.
"Buy 10 shots and get 2 for free!"
I don't know why but I find that absolutely hilarious.
And I think that's all that needs to be said really.
Quick Take: A galaxy of Michelin stars for Shanghai! An institution of French gastronomy opens their second venue in the entire world in the Shanghai Tower. French fine dining in the clouds.
What Is It:
Did you make it through the Inferno and Windows write-ups? Want to hear about a French fine dining restaurant that just opened up in the Shanghai Tower from Eric Pras, owner and chef of three-Michelin star Chagny restaurant Maison Lameloise?
Of course you do.
The Maison Lameloise back in France is... basically the Frenchiest French place that ever Frenched. It's a charming and gorgeous boutique hotel that opened in 1926 in a converted coach house that itself dates back to the 15th Century. Passed down through three generations of Lameloise chefs — Pierre, Jean, and Jaques — only the three most French names ever — before coming to Eric Pras, the restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars in 2007, which were maintained when he took over in 2009. Not an easy feat, evidently. It's in the heart of the Burgundy wine growing region, and is emblematic of the cuisine native to the area. Époisses cheeses, Charolais beef, Bresse poultry, sea snail, river seafood (pike and perch), and wine, wine, wine. The hotel and their restaurant are emblematic of a pastoral, rococo France that honors simple tradition and subtle elegance.
Check it out. Looks like the kind of place where the Knights Templar meet to discuss their yearly strategy of subjugating the masses. I think they filmed The 9th Gate here.
So, yeah. They took that and jammed it upon the 68th floor of the Shanghai Tower. You couldn't think of a more opposite building for this restaurant than the tallest building in Asia. But here it is: Maison Lameloise, the latest in international Michelin-sanctified restaurants to enter the Shanghai market.
Let's look at some food, shall we?
Those are just the amuse-bouches — what they serve you before they even start serving you. It's like scratching the record before dropping the beat. Maison Lameloise is sort of known for their fantastic and inventive amuse-bouches.
Stunning, of course. The food is a mix of dishes from previous menus of the Maison Lameloise that can fit with what can be done in Shanghai, along with a few of their signatures. Their motto: "Tradition is innovation". I don't know what that means. Does it even make sense? I think it means sort of basic, representative Burgundy elements in base ingredients, filtered through that foamy, swooshy French fine dining thing. At least that's my interpretation. And I'm all about it. Magnifique!
But nottttttttt cheap. They do lunch menu (488rmb), which includes starter main and dessert, which is what you see above. The dinner degustation menu is 1688rmb. They also have a "Grand Menu", which is 2588rmb.
Decor-wise I'm not sure Maison Lameloise survived the trip over. The environment is really... ehhh-yeah. I'm not sure what could be done with floor 68 of the Shanghai Tower but the lack of finish with the building itself combined with the uninspired interiors is a disservice to the food, which is exceptional.
The food is great. Of course. Amazing balance in the dishes with texture, color, presentation, and taste. They're making the complex look... complex.
Would go good with... I dunno... maybe some Slayer on the stereo?