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[On The Radar]: BRASH, Baohouse, Ramen Konan

What's new this week: Barber shops, baozi, weasels, and ramen.
2016-08-31 14:02:35
On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places you might like to know about. Sometimes we stumble across these venues and sometimes... we are invited. As such, these are our 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.

Darlin' don't you go and cut your hair...

1. Baohouse


Quick Take: A trendy-looking small restaurant that sells classic Shanghainese breakfast foods like xiaohuntun (small wonton), noodles, and baozi. They say they use a decades old sourdough starter to make the baozi skin.

What It Is: Another local-style eatery going for that contemporary look and WeChat hype. This one is just a fifteen-minute walk from that other nicer baozi place we wrote about, BAOBAO, and right next to Xinle Noodle. They sell typical Shanghai breakfast foods: xiaohuntun (tiny, transparent wontons), handmade noodles, shaomai, and hamburger-sized baozi, as well as spring rolls and fish ball soup.

Traditional dumplings and dim sums get an upgrade here and so do the prices. Their xiaohuntun are made with fresh shrimp or clam fillings instead of pork; their fishballs are made with fish caught from the Yangtze river; and their chubby-looking and quite filling baozi are made with top-notch ingredients, too. They claim the 70-year-old-plus sourdough starter has been passed down from the owner's grandfather. It makes the baozi skin fluffier and spongier. The juicy, soft, minced pork filling has bits of pig skin and shallot, which makes the filling fall apart more easily than normal baozi.

Atmosphere: Bright and clean, with simple furniture and a nice open kitchen with a counter where you can sit. They play soft jazz music and Twilight on the projector, although both can be easily ignored.

Damage: Almost twice or three times more expensive than what you can buy at street stands in the area. That said, the baozi are 6rmb each and bigger than average. Xiaohuntun start from 35rmb, and noodles are 25rmb to 68rmb. They have set menus for 45rmb, 55rmb and ... wait for it, 218rmb. Which features a half chicken soup, thirty xiaohuntun, eight fishballs, two pork baozi and two veggie baozi. They also sell freshly made juice and bottled beer -- 16rmb–25rmb.

First Impressions: Baohouse -- it's a clever name and one that's seen some use elsewhere, in both Beijing and New York. It has a convenient location, albeit one right in the middle of several cheaper options. Yeah, prices are high but portions are big, and the quality is a cut above. This might be better for families or groups.

- Jin Qian



Quick Take: A new barber shop and tattoo parlor in Jing'an, with a weasel for logo.

What It Is: Where does one go for a fade in this town? What if you wanted to get some lightning bolts shaved into your head? And maybe you also want a tattoo of Kirby from Kirby's Dreamland? You can get all of that done at BRASH, the first shop in new Shaanxi Bei Lu development Anken Alley. You might know one of the dude's behind this place, Dylan from Doc Guthrie's and previously of Shanghai Tattoo, but this shop is about the rest of the staff.

With that, you've got their head barber, Lexavier Black from Arizona. He's just back from London where he graduated from the London School of Barbering. He can hook you up with styles that Wenfeng and other local shops can't. Heading up the tattoo department is ATao from Shandong, formerly of Shanghai Tattoo, with twelve years under his belt. Andy from Henan also does barber work and Yen from Fujian does tattoos. They're using top-notch imported inks and hair products.

Atmosphere: Clean, and not quite-lived in yet (hey it's their second day open). Hip hop from Jay-Z to Flying Lotus on the stereo, some vinyl laying around, and posters from local promoters like STD, Sub-Culture, and Yeti on the walls. Skylights! Carlos from The Texture Group built the neon for the weasel, which was designed by a dude who works for Nike in Portland.

About that weasel... Originally they wanted to use a fox, but decided on an animal that's actually in Shanghai. Weasels, a.k.a. huang shu lang are a special animal in Chinese culture, and one surrounded by superstition. Some believe that weasels can control people's minds. Maybe you've seen one dart across the street on a late night like, "...that's not a cat."

Damage: 200rmb for a men's cut. Tattoos priced by the piece. Drink prices TBD, but everyone gets a free drink with service.

First Impressions: Great to see another barber shop in Shanghai, especially one so clean, fresh, and community focused. Look out for charity events and collaborations with local crews and other neighborhood businesses in the next few months.

- Ian L.

3. Ramen Konan


Quick Take: A lobster broth ramen joint in the Portman.

What It Is: Shanghai is so flush with ramen joints that restaurants need to set themselves apart with gimmicks. Butao, for instance, sells its (somewhat mediocre) ramen by creating the illusion of high demand with a queue barricade out front. Ramen Konan's gimmick is its "Buttered Lobster Ramen".

The term is a bit misleading in English. It evokes in the mind's eye a steamy bowl of soup with sweet chunks of lobster tail floating in it. Read the Chinese and you realize it's just their regular combo of noodles, pork belly, pickled bamboo, scallions, and a sheet of nori in a lobster broth. At 48rmb a bowl you should have known it was too good to be true.

In addition to the lobster broth, they do a crab broth, as well as a few others, like pork belly with soy sauce and spicy sweet and sour seafood. Supplementing the noodle selection are some set meals that revolve around dishes like chicken teriyaki or Japanese curried spare ribs. They also do snacks and starters, like gyoza or soft-boiled eggs.

Atmosphere: Utilitarian with a J-pop soundtrack.

Damage: Minimal for Japanese food. Apps start at 16rmb for dishes like pan-fried gyoza. Desserts are about the same price. Ramen bowls are anywhere between 36rmb and 58rmb. Meal sets are 39rmb across the board. The most expensive item on the menu is the "Happy Time Drink Set", which is just a set meal with two draft beers.

First Impressions: Once you get past the initial disappointment of the lobster ramen having no lobster meat in it, you can get on with enjoying your lunch. The soup itself is actually pretty nice for 48rmb (58rmb for a large bowl).

- Justin F


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