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.
Quick Take: After getting shut down for licensing issues the day after being awarded a Michelin star, here's the new Jing'an location for long time Shanghai-based German chef Stefan Stiller's small table, open kitchen, single menu, intimate fine dining restaurant Taian Table. Yes, he took that recently awarded Michelin star with him.
What it is: Nice. "Nice" is what it is. Real nice. It's nice. Damn, it's really nice.
Man, I remember when Jing'an was all wack-shacks -- Michelin-starred wack-shacks mind you but whack-shacks all the same -- and now it's got this. Taian Table. A really nice looking restaurant.
Sorry. I'll start over. Opened in May 2016 as a "private dining" concept, Taian Table hosted 28 seats, a single, monthly changing contemporary Western 14-course set menu, and five chefs working in an open kitchen, introducing and walking guests through each course with the due reverence and solemnity that the occasion demands. 90% of the light is focused on the main U-shaped dining table and the pyrotechnic plates of food that are to be shuffled through that space in a culinary odyssey that takes around two hours+ to complete. It's intense. Serious fine dining for serious fine diners in an austere, minimalist, '80s-New York sort of environment. There's even a FAQ on the website that discourages gauche behavior like cell phone use. In addition, they're hosting a lipstick-colored Champagne bar, partnering with a single brand Duval-Leroy (Stiller "knows the family well") for rare bottles and back vintages unique to this venue in the world.
Prices are 1,288rmb per person and 988rmb for the abridged 10-course version of the menu. (Give or take, depending on what they've got on for the month.) The only way to get a seat is to RSVP on their website. Opening from tomorrow, they're already booked for the rest of December. Act now if you want to get in for January. Serious. Somewhere in the world Patrick Bateman is slamming his phone into the receiver and vigorously massaging his temples because he can't get reservations.
First Impressions: Did I mention it was nice? You can't help but respect and be slightly awed by the passion and seriousness behind the endeavor. Just when you thought that the '00s era of Shanghai willful opulence was waning a bit here's Stiller back with the most fine dining-est fine dining experience that you can get outside of a five-star hotel. Long story short: Everything is exactly the same -- food, staff, general space layout, prices, policy, vision -- as the last Taian Table. It's just at new address. And because of this it's still officially a one-star Michelin restaurant. (Yeah, yeah we asked.)
Note: It's not the easiest place to find. It's down a laneway that runs off Zhenning Lu at number 465. Walk all the way until the end until you get to Anken Air. It's in the complex next to that.
The House of Cypress
Quick Take: Mid- to high-end Canto fare located in Hubingdao from the former partner / staff from popular dim sum spot Super Star Seafood.
What it is: A heavy and regal looking restaurant located on the third floor of Hubingdao shopping mall.
The place is really busy during lunch time, and we noticed a few tables of middle aged and older patrons with a thick Cantonese accent -- this is a good sign. Options on the menu should suffice for a big group of friends or family of several generations -- the wealthier kind, as well. Aside from the classics like Cantonese barbecue, rice, noodles, dim sum and desserts, they also offer a wide range of live seafood cuisine, quite a few priced at over 300rmb -- dishes like baked French crab (398rmb), Boston lobster in fish soup (438rmb), Canadian geoduck calm (seasonal price) and more. (Always "more".) Dumplings and other small delicacies are on the expensive side, although usually well-garnished and come with quite a filing portion. Tea is 10rmb/ per person, and they charge 10% service fee. Hey, they don't all have to be 14-course set menus for 1,300rmb. Tough act to follow.
First Impressions: The food quality is decent. Take the classic shrimp dumplings for example -- these are probably some of the freshest and most plump ones you can find in town. The house-made vinegar is worth mentioning as well -- with sugar and spice, and a hint of plum or chenpi-- it's a statement that they take even their simple ingredients seriously. Justifies the steep price. Staff is well-trained and not over-friendly. Our plates were changed three times during the one-hour long meal, and a small bowl of lemon tea was given out to wash our hands. Ahhh, the little things. Overall, there's a lot of classy Cantonese in town and The House of Cypress might not be enough to dissuade you from your favorite but it's a safe choice in the XTD area.
Quick Take: Industrial and futuristic-looking, it's a multi-functional cafe owned by XIN CAFE. Offers a range of roasted coffee, draft beer, and some cool gadgets.
What it is: Located on the 3rd floor of a worn-out building, X-SPACE is a multi-concept cafe featuring gadgets display area, a dining area, a meeting room, and a really cool smoking room -- blocked by glasses, with air purifier installed, and decorated with recessed white lighting strips. Since its opening, X-SPACE has quickly become a popular, but not overly crowded spot among local youngsters, for its symmetrical, futuristic decor. A few celebrities have also hosted events here.
Owned by XIN CAFE, who also acquired local coffee brand Gospel Coffee Roasters, X-SPACE provides a few freshly roasted coffee options, such as Mandeling, Yirgacheffe, and Black Honey Costa Rica, those are priced at around 35rmb - 38rmb. They have about twenty draft beers on the menu: Russell Angry Scotch, Masteri Birrai, Delirium, and Westmalles etc, cost about 30rmb - 55rmb. The food here is simple: pasta, panini and salads, and also desserts like porridge with fruit, apple pies and cheesecakes, pricing is similar with Wagas.
First Impressions: It looks like a good place to enjoy a cup of joe, try out some electric products with the word "smart" attached to them, or have a casual business lunch while presenting your startup pitch. Food is good for the price, music selections are mainstream and random, service can be a bit slow and neglecting. The bathroom is a big minus, make it less ideal for working over a long period of time. XIN CAFE also has a spot with co-working space People Squared upstairs, and they plan to launch a car-themed concept store called X-SPACE Skyline on Maoming Bei Lu soon.
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