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[On The Radar]: Mirror, Saveur, Wawa Mama, Mr. Waffle

This week's new venues: Belgian ice cream cone stands. French sandwiches. Late nite clubs. Ecuadorian restaurants that double as flower shops...
2016-08-10 14:50:59
On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places we find interesting. Sometimes we stumble upon these places, and sometimes we are invited, but in both cases, we are never paid to write an opinion, rather, these are our honest first impressions, and not a formal review.
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.

1. Mr. Waffle Ice Cream Pop-Up


Update: Sorry kids, this one is CLOSED. Turns out it was an illegal structure. Mr. Waffle say they hope to bring their cart back here by the end of August, 2016.

Quick Take: More proof that Donghu Lu is Yongfu Lu 2.0., the street now has a gourmet ice cream cone stand open late for all the club kids.

What It Is: Big news in waffleland: pop-up / market veterans Goget waffles and Mr. Waffle have merged. Now, they've got a waffle shop on Xing'an Lu and a tiny ice cream cone stand on bar strip Donghu Lu, right next to Gemma. Cones get dipped in flavors like chocolate or marshmallow, filled with scoops of homemade Belgium biscuit, strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla, and topped with sprinkles or peanuts. They look pretty and actually taste good. On weekend nights, they make waffle dogs and sandwiches. They've got the space for at least three months and they also run an ice cream cart for private events and office parties. They say they've made waffles for the king of Belgium.

Atmosphere: During the day, Donghu Lu is a tranquil street with elderly people dancing and resting in the park, and expats with freelancer jobs strolling by in sunglasses. At night, the calm is shattered by drunken punters spilling out of Le Baron, Karma, Craft, Monkey, and Parrot, and the sounds and smoke of cigarette vendors, flower ayis, hustlers, fake-homeless, three-wheeled cars with disco lights, and the sobs of people who lost their friends or their phone or whatever. Mr. Waffle stays open until at least 2am or 3am on weekends.

Damage: Slightly cheaper than Gracie's, significantly more expensive than Family Mart. A single scoop with a cone and toppings is 25rmb. A second scoop is 10rmb extra. Waffle dogs are 25rmb and waffle sandwiches are 35rmb, Thursday to Saturday.

First Impressions: A welcome addition to Donghu Lu. The Belgium biscuit is the one to try if you're only getting one scoop, but the dipped waffle cone is the best part. The ice cream is more Euro-style than Gracie's.

2. Saveur


Quick Take: The people behind CU2, T For Thai, and Cuivre are making gourmet sandwiches near the Prada shop in a posh mall.

What It Is: First it was Brad Turley with Market 101 back in 2014. Then it was Austin Hu just months ago with Madison Kitchen. Now, it's Michael Wendling of Cuivre with Saveur. That's three sandwich shops with chef name recognition that we've seen open since 2014.

We're glad to see Michael Wendling on the bandwagon with Saveur. His sandwich selection may be limited, but it features some important archetypes, like a pressed Cuban filled with fatty slices of porchetta, honey roasted ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. A Croque Monsieur is also on the menu, and sandwich aficionados should also turn their attention to the Pastrami Reuben with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and a secret sauce -- we're somewhat east of New York but it'll do in a pinch. For salads, Wendling is working with flavors from places like Southeast Asia and the Middle East (chicken satay over egg noodles and julienned vegetables; braised lamb shoulder with arugula, cous cous, and yoghurt-mint dressing).

Atmosphere: It's a sandwich shop in a mall. You don't eat in places like this for atmosphere. Still, they've made an effort. Outside it's a sketched façade of a classic French storefront. Inside, the design alludes to Cuivre. You'll recognize the copper-toned wood paneling, and those hovering amoeba-like wicker light-fixtures.

Damage: Sandwiches will run you 68rmb to 78rmb. Salads are 58rmb to 68rmb. Drinks are anywhere between 15rmb for a soda and 50rmb for a glass of wine.

First Impressions: It's precisely what we've come to expect of Wendling: quality ingredients, simply and deliciously prepared. Some may balk at the prices. Well, if you're in Plaza 66, shopping for a Prada bag, are you really worried about this? Besides, prices here are on par with what you'll pay at Madison or Market 101. Like it or not, a 78rmb sandwich really shouldn't be a shocker to anyone anymore.

-- Justin Fischer

3. Mirror


Quick Take: Some Shanghai F&B / nightlife veterans have turned the old Three Sisters talking bar into an intimate nightclub on Fenyang Lu.

What It Is: Not far from troubled Yongkang Lu, two new bars have opened on Fenyang Lu. One is yet another branch of Constellation. Right next door to that, some French folk who have worked in clubs from M1NT to Bar Rouge to Unico and Bar Bro have turned the old Three Sisters lair into a tiny nightclub that will go until around 6am. Remember Three Sisters? If not, here's a quote about it from Morgan, from I Spit On Your Grave, 2015.

"Three Sisters was huge in the day as the closest you could get to a strip club in Shanghai and still operate within China's obscenity laws. That was their deal. So, yeah. It was a "talking bar" with pole dancing, which basically means they were also fully staffed with girls from Anhui province who could absolutely annihilate you at 8-Ball."

Somehow, Three Sisters closed, then these dudes turned the space into a French-style small club with a dance floor for maybe 50 people, a few tables, a bar and a DJ booth. They'll go until 6am. They just opened like a week ago.

Atmosphere: Kind of a reality portal where late hours could disappear fast. Red and black -- a similar color scheme as Bar Bro, if you've ever been there. Small, but the mirrors and shards of mirrors make the place look bigger than it is. Almost like someone's house. Music policy is more funk, "sunshine house", and classics -- songs that people know and wanna sing along to -- than tech house and deep house.

Damage: Decent. Classic cocktails and twists on classics, made with good ingredients, are all 60rmb. Shots are 30rmb. Bottles are standard prices.

First Impressions: Haven't been at night, but seems like a decent addition to late night options like Celia and Lola. Perhaps a more playful, house party vibe. Always nice to see a short, well-organized cocktail list.

- Ian L.



Quick Take: Upmarket Ecuadorian restaurant that doubles as a florist by day.

What It Is: Wawa Mama bills itself as the world's first Ecuadorian fine dining restaurant. That's not entirely true. A Google search for dining options in Quito yields a few results that would certainly fit that description, too. But it's certainly a first for Shanghai.

The menu is traditional Ecuadorian cuisine reimagined for upmarket dining. Some are dishes you've probably never heard of, like patacones, twice fried plantain slices topped with ingredients like simmered pork or tuna salad. Some you probably already know, like ceviche or empanadas. Then there are mains, which can be anything from fried shrimps with chili chocolate sauce to roasted pork smothered in sweet vinegar and citrus with peanut sauce served over llapingachos, or potato pancakes.

That bit up top about being a florist is no joke, either. Apparently, Ecuador is one of the world's leading exporters of roses. Wawa Mama is leveraging that distinction and selling flowers during the day.

Atmosphere: Featureless with accents of gray and beige. They try to breathe some life into the place with murals of lush foliage and Latin rhythms on the stereo. It doesn't work.

Damage: Most of the menu ranges from 58rmb to 88rmb, while mains range from 118rmb to 158rmb. Cocktails are anywhere between 58rmb and 78rmb. Plan on spending at least 250rmb per person here if you want to tie one on, too.

First Impressions: This address is a black hole for restaurants. I can't even count how many tenants have occupied this space over the years. If Wawa Mama wants to avoid the same fate as its predecessors, it needs to step up its game. The dishes I tried here lacked a sense of balance and proportion, and come out muddled and muted on the plate. Hopefully, it's just a case of restaurant birth pangs, because this kind of cuisine could be a great addition to the city.

-- Justin Fischer