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[The Radar]: High Yaki The Sea

Shanghai's favorite yakiniku restaurant explores new territory across the high seas...
2022-11-29 12:00:00
Photos: Brandon McGhee

SmartShanghai first featured High Yaki The Sea's original restaurant High Yaki at the outset of the pandemic, praising it as one of Shanghai's best yakiniku restaurants (Japanese BBQ)and celebrating it as an occasion "to go out, like everything was normal, to a nice restaurant and spend some damn money."

That was back in 2020. About a thousand years ago. And here we are again. Praising this new iteration, High Yaki The Sea, as a new, fresh, and interesting restaurant worth your effort. It really is an occasion to go out like everything is normal, to a nice restaurant, and spend some damn money.

This morning, as the red codes flared up again and we were lurking in WeChat Groups for information and distraction we over-read a really great sentiment. The guy was talking about getting dinged for going to watch the football game last Friday at Cages:

"I don't regret going. Had a great time! Can't live life on some 'what if' shit!"

Yeah, man, for real.

High Yaki The Sea is the third entry of owner-operator Justin Xu's well-reviewed Japanese oriented restaurants in Shanghai. The first one is High Yaki. It opened in 2020 and specializes in mouth watering, succulent, dry-aged charcoal-grilled Wagyu beef. There's other elements as well but the beef is the thing they're know for. Quality, quality, quality marbled beef. Like the kind that are always in luxurious photos in in-flight magazines. The next one is Hundo, which is bigger and extends the concept into general yakitori — kushiage and tempura — in a baller, slick lounge space.

Opened off a new development on Hengshan Lu, this third one is High Yaki The Sea and Xu and Carlos Sotomayor (formerly el Efante) are in the kitchen, taking the operation into a brand new direction: out into the open sea. Beef gives way to seafood in a menu that breaks down in Sashimi, Gunkan Sushi, Cold, Hot, Mains, Rice, Snacks, and Desserts.

High Yaki The Sea is a softer, less overtly masculine sort of environment than the other two, with lighter tones, although they're all cut from the same cloth. This one also has the low seating bar which abuts the kitchen and prep stations. The rest of the seating is general in a warm but crisp environment.

The dining experience comes across like a modish remix of kaiseki (Japanese fine dining) with a meal consisting of a slew of finely wrought small plates featuring delicate culinary constructions meant to fire up all the sense including the tastebuds. Mostly one-bites. It maybe references kaseki but differs in preparation methods (there's a ton of rules with that) and a bit more off-the-people in places. Less formal. See: the spring rolls and Wagyu sando.

Start off in the sashimi, gunkan sushi, and cold dishes before getting into the heavier main courses.

Amaebi, scallop, uni, shiso flower, shiso tempura - 68rmb

A5 Wagyu ribeye, foie, nori - 98rmb

Negitoro, scallion, leek, sesame - 68rmb

Flat lobster, coconut, kaffir, chili oil - 128rmb

Eel Spring Rolls, spicy soy sauce - 48rmb

Lobster head stew, spicy seafood broth, shimeji, wakame - 60rmb

Snapper tartare, amaebi, twisted vierge, lemon - 78rmb

Potato, salmon roe, truffle yogurt - 60rmb

You can see where this is going. The size of your meal is a chart relationship between your wallet and your desire to try all the interesting things. There's a lot of variety in the criss crossing seafood options — singular gunkan sushi and sashimi options on a menu with a butter brioche dish and two unique seafood tartare dishes — but certain themes run through the menu and keep it from becoming unwieldy.

This rice dish is one of the special ones on the menu. A stone pot rice dish that ties in another culinary influence.

Snow crab head stone pot rice - 320rmb

Once the small plates are cleared away, the main are serious business with seafood sharing space with striploin, half-roasted chicken, and Inner Mongolian herded lamb chops in eight option. We went with the super fatty Smoked USDA shortrib because it seemed like a weird destination to end up. Came out juicy and with a super tangy pepper rub.

Smoked USA short rib, pepper rub, house pickles, mizuna leaves - 600rmb

First Impressions: Definitely one for fans of High Yaki, who've been following Justin Xu and Carlos Sotomayor at their places around town and are interested in seeing them try something quite a bit different. It's one to splash out on. Maybe 600 or more per person if you really want to graze. They've also got a more relaxed route with a full range of snacks and just the smaller plates if you want to keep it lighter.

But, these days... you should really go spend some money and enjoy yourself, eh.