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[On the Radar]: Racines, Funka del Sur

A few highly anticipated openings: A much beloved French bistro finds a new home and Funkadeli comes to Jing'an (again).
Last updated: 2018-04-18
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 new venues that you might like to know about. Here are the facts and our first impressions.

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For your careful consideration this week On the Radar. Racines returns on the dining scene at the prestigious 20 Donghu Lu location and the Funkadeli Group expands the empire into the heart of Jing'an on Yanping Lu with Funka del Sur.

Racines

racines

Quick Take: Roundly revered chef Ishibashi Kenji brings his Racines concept to the very-much-easier-to-find 20 Donghu Lu building. He's back to the business of meticulous French cuisine with "Japanese influences".

What Is It:

For his stint at Mardi Gras back in the day and in heading his own secret-ish La Queue du Chiot in 2012, chef Ishibashi Kenji has been a favorite of Shanghai's "foodie" (and F&B industry insider) scenes. This carried through to the first Racines on Guangyuan Lu in 2015 -- another hidden-ish location; an under-20 seater restaurant in a house; a kitchen staff of two serving Shanghai's habitués of "hidden gems". The chef specializes in perfectly executed upscale-leaning French bistros for people to feel real good and satisfied about themselves in recommending them to their friends: "I know about this one place that no one knows about..."

And yeah. Maybe in a somewhat rare and happy occurrence the food matched the hype. Trained in Nice and Marseilles, Kenji trades in classic French bistro dishes. Online reviews usually point to the nationality of the chef, his "Japanese influences", but verisimilitude to authentic French bistro cuisine seems to be more the mandate for Racines. Maybe the "attention to detail" and assiduous character of his plates is interpreted as a Japanese kind thing.

(Well, maybe besides the tuna tartare...)

Racines is in the ground floor of 20 Donghu Lu, sharing the space with Ekeko, another new one worth seeking out at the same address, with about 20-30 seats split into three separate rooms. Open kitchen and seating for under 10; a private dining room; and a longer communal area with more capacity. Decor is relaxed and homey French bistro vibes. Inviting colors and hues, French graphics framed on the walls, tiles, wine racks, and lights flickering off wine glasses.

On a well-traveled chalkboard, the menus is 17 or so offerings, grouped together, taking you from cheese plates and starters, into meat-based mains. From pate, cheese, and foie gras into fish, beef, pork, and chicken mains.

Prices

...for dinner for two, maybe between 500rmb-700rmb per person depending on how deep you delved into their (rather nice) wine list.

racines

Pate de campagne - 170rmb

racine

Fresh Tuna Tartare - 190rmb

racine

Australian Beef Bavette - 315rmb

racine

Duck Leg Confit - 240rmb

racine

Riz au Laut & Lemongrass pannacotta - 65rmb

First Impressions:

Diners who have grazed around Kenji's blackboard menus in the past at his other restaurants will see a lot of familiar offerings at the new Racines on Donghu Lu: the Duck Leg Confit, the Beef Bavette, the Pan-fried Scallops, Snapper, the Bonbon de Foie Gras, the Financier & Brown Pudding, and others have made the trip over.

It's very much the same Racines...

(The wait time is the same too, incidentally. It's that small kitchen staff. Expect a two-and-a-half- to three-hour dinner as your plates meander to the table at their own speed. But we're not bothered by it. )

...in that the food is rich, creamy, saucy, tender, succulently, and excellently done. All those adjectives you want in your classic French bistro. The experience, she falls off the bone. Recommend for fans of homey but high-end French cuisines and not bothered but a slightly pricier bill at the end.

-Morgan Short

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Funka del Sur

funka

Quick Take: Funkadeli's latest, South American where the other Lu is Italian. Not a restaurant, not a bar, there's arepas, empanadas and other shareable snacks supported by a familiar drinks list with mezcal as highlight.

What Is It:

The strategically redeployed Funkadeli in Jing'an after Funkadelino was closed, brought to you by the same conglomerate of like a dozen owners. Sitting smack-dab on that Yanping/Wuding intersection where Sailors used to be, it looks much the same as Fumin Lu on the surface. The name hints at what sets it apart, if by hint we mean "just says it on the sign." Translated as 'Funka of the South,' Funka del Sur is drawing primary inspiration from South America.

funka
funka

The menu, designed and executed by Hugo Rodriguez (Chala, STYX), features classic streetfoods broken down by category. Ceviche (50rmb), tostaditos (40-50rmb), empanadas (55rmb, which they bake instead of fry), tacos (35rmb), chicharron (45rmb), tequenos (25rmb), South American paninis (55-65rmb), and, they're eager to mention, "the first place to offer arepas in Shanghai."

funka

Empanada Beef Clasica (55rmb)

funka

Ceviche Clasico (48rmb)

Maybe as a permanent menu item? There've been like four pop-ups in the last year I can remember that offered the traditional corn flour breakfast flatbread. It has to be made with a pretty specific kind of maize, says Hugo. Might explain its ephemeral nature. I hear importing foodstuffs can be hard in China. There're between one and three options per menu section, but they'll be expanding sometime in May.

funka

Arepas Reina Pepiada (30rmb)

Drinks menu from Johan Holmberg is similarly built around a few pillars: some "del sur" classics like your capirinhas, mojitos and margaritas, a couple of local twists like Fernet & Cola (hellish bilgewater), Negroni Mezcalero (best negroni varietal), Pisco Sours and Juan Collins. Mezcal's big on the menu. Also, familiar Funka cocktails and an incoming Gintoneria, dedicated to gin, which people can't shut up about these days. Feature material, gin is. Drinks are all in that 65-70rmb range. Sidenote: Chilean/Argentinian vintages on the condensed wine list aren't cheap. Trying to push back against that cheap plonk stereotype. Viva El Che.

funka

Blueberry Margarita, 65rmb

funka

Nachitos, 70rmb

First Impressions:

Fine! South American bar snacks are awesome. Way classier than what you'd order at the 'bab shop. You're not meant to go for dinner, the menu's just a good answer to 11pm-three-negronis-in-glancing-around-the-table "you guys wanna grab some snacks" questions. Drinks are good, too, and the Wuding/Yanping crowd seems a bit more genteel than the ravening Fumin hordes. It's going to be going head-to-head with La Social when that place opens up, but if it's a choice between Fumin Lu and this one, I'm going with the northern option.

-Alex Panayotopoulos

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