What It Is: Mark Klingspon is good at making you feel like you’re partying while sitting down. He did it to tremendous effect at The Nest, and now at JUJU, his capitalized Korean BBQ spot. Klingspon lived in Seoul for a stretch and during that time grew fond of the street-corner tents that would pop up in his neighborhood at night, known as Juju tents, and he’s taken their straightforward approach and brought it to The Bund.
Originally built by Neri + Hu as the stage for Jean-Georges Vongeritchen’s Korean BBQ restaurant, the space on the second floor of Three on the Bund was sleek, dark and alluring. Too dark, perhaps, as I never noticed that they had a whole back row of seating underneath a cathedral ceiling that soars up to the floors above.
This area is the focus of Klingspon’s overhaul, at least in terms of design. He’s called in Korean and Chinese street artists to paint colorful murals. He’s trying to make it funky. Retro arcade games like Centipede, Donkey Kong and Frogger bump up against the help-yourself (but pay later) drink fridges, stocked with Jinro soju (50rmb) and Cass beer (25rmb). The menu is one page and playfully lo-fi. Hip-hop blares. There is a DJ booth. Around 8.30pm, a table of four burst out singing the chorus of “Gin & Juice”. The wine room has been replaced with two tanks for live octopus.
“I’ve had a lot of soju in the past two weeks,” Klingspon admitted when I visited, at his invitation, on the second day of operations. Cases of the stuff were stacked against a back wall. There is a lot more in his future.
The hook of the place is their unlimited meat for BBQ’ing for 288rmb, which means choices of three pork cuts (belly, neck and collar) and three beef cuts (brisket strips, oyster blade and rib fingers), and their cheap boooooooze — not included in the 288rmb price. (Or, if you’d rather, there are premium cuts and bottles of Hibiki Japanese whisky that go for 10,000+ rmb. It is still The Bund, after all.)
The place is still in the very early stages of opening. The official opening party is November 1 from 9-midnight, after which they'll "officially" be open. From November 5-15, the free-flow meat will be discounted to 198rmb, so get in there quick.
First Impressions: Klingspon knows how to have fun. He’s a great host, as countless tables at The Nest found when that was his new project. He's injected a big dose of that fun into a traditionally staid address. And he’s livened up the solemn atmosphere that Neri + Hu’s design created.
It’s too early to make definitive statements on the food. When I visited, they were still working out the pH and salinity levels for the octopus tank to keep them alive long enough to be chopped up and served with their legs swirming. (Though maybe they just don’t like Dr. Dre at 100 dB.)
The best stuff was the thinly sliced marinated beef brisket, the potato salad tinted and flecked with a type of parsley, spicy tteokbokki (38rmb), a simple bowl of rice covered in shredded seaweed and butter, and the odeng (10rmb), a long intestine-looking tube of tofu wrapped around a skewer and poached in broth, Family Mart-style.
There’s also the requisite banchan, and a seriously seriously spicy Korean fried chicken (Fire, 88rmb). Other things on the menu include a few Korean stews, buckwheat noodles and shin ramyen, chili-pork and octopus scallion jeon (both 68rmb), and an octopus section, which is where one finds the squirmy sannakji (live octopus sashimi) and other, um, more cooked octopus dishes (all 88rmb).
If you didn’t catch it already, prices are looooow for being near the river. You could spend an evening eating and drinking and eating and eating, cooking on their nifty extraction-fan-less grills, for under 500rmb (four bottles of 50rmb sake and 299rmb on meat), and if the loud reproduction of Snoop Dogg’s greatest hits doesn’t bother you, you’d have a great time doing it.