Le Bec Charlie’s
What It Is: A new Le Bec with a twist: Thai. It’s not a full-on Thai restaurant — not by any means — it is still predominantly French — but there are now prawn shao mai and a Thai chicken curry on the menu, and the outside terrace area is decorated to feel like a Thai beach club, complete with Thai mosquito spray.
They say 80% of the menu remains the classic French bistro cooking that Le Bec has made his name for in Shanghai, and the interior of the space feels like a gaudy French residence, with an aquarium and a glass window looking on to an aging room, where pigeons, chicken and beef hang on hooks.
First Impressions: This guy really likes Xinhua Lu. Le Bec Charlie’s, named in conjunction with the long-standing hotel bar, is about halfway between his first villa restaurant and his wine cave. I liked the restaurant, no doubt about that, but I will say that it feels like two restaurants grafted together rather uneasily. The outside and inside don’t match in any way, which is… reflected on the menu? It seems like Le Bec developed a love for Thai food and wanted to branch out, but not go complete Michael Wendling (Cuivre --> T for Thai), another French chef with a nice bistro who was once taken with the Land of Smiles.
Le Bec is sort of hedging it and it makes for a weird menu.
To wit, the meal I assembled this week, trying to accurately portray the menu, looked like this: pate de campagne with crusty bread, cornichons and mustard (110rmb); tuna tataki with yuzu (not Thai but not French either, 120rmb); a basket of pork-and-shrimp shaomai with lobster sauce (sold, misleadingly, as “ravioli de crevette”, 160rmb); curry chicken with carrot and mustard seeds (160rmb); and a French braised duck with peaches that, eyes closed, I would have mistaken for hongshao (160rmb).
The stomach knows no borders, I suppose. All were delicious though 160rmb for shao mai was punchy.
It would be entirely possible to skip this curious diversion and just order a solid French meal, sitting out on the patio with a glass of red, and you’d be none worse off for doing so. Le Bec is an excellent cook; if you can’t snag an outside table at the original, then you can always walk down the block and try your luck here.
— Christopher St. Cavish
Boxing Cat Brewery (Xintiandi)
What It Is: Once upon a time, Boxing Cat Brewery opened Cobra Lily. It was different, and it was alright. For Xintiandi, which means for tourists, and a very distinct percentage of the population. After a three year run, it closed this June.
This is what replaced it: Boxing Cat Brewery's new flagship location. It's in Xintiandi, so it better be a flagship.
Spread over a ground floor, plenty of outdoor beer-garden seating and a small mezzanine, the new Boxing Cat Brewery is, uh... it's exactly what a Boxing Cat Brewery in Xintiandi would look like. They haven't thrown white table-cloths over anything, but they have added a vaporific fireplace and the light-filled atrium looks more like a garden restaurant than a pub.
The dinner and lunch menus have returned to form with robust Americanisms. The burger (98rmb), the mac & cheese (available only at lunch for 68rmb, the dinner menu pops a Maine lobster on top and a 299rmb price tag), and the nachos, slathered in the BCB chili (78rmb). No lobster on that.
Fancier items include burrata cheese (168rmb) and a beef cheek lasagna ragu (198rmb). Yep. Yep! Xintiandi!
The beer taps, of which there are many, pour the regulars. Ringside, Right Hook, TKO... 50rmb for 500ml. Plus, they come in Pearl Diver looking cups. No regular pint glasses for the fine people in Xintiandi, no sir. Pint glasses are for mugs, and there are no mugs in Xintiandi.
First Impressions: It's BCB, except nicer and with more expensive stuff on the menu. The nachos were amazing, the ragu lasagna was so-so, and the beer was Boxing Cat beer. Like me that First Blood. 50rmb for a large beer in Xintiandi is not offensive.
It won't change your opinion on Boxing Cat one way or the other. I'm guessing that ossified when AB InBev got involved two and some years ago, and hasn't budged since.
— Alex Panayotopoulos
What It Is: The tiny Bulldog BBQ from Julu Lu has grown up into a proper restaurant. Now it’s a full-fledged facsimile of a southern American BBQ joint. The specialty here is the beef brisket, which the owner told us was the reason he opened the restaurant in the first place. The pulled pork, “sizzling” chicken, and pork ribs come along for the ride. Oddly, so do Italian pastas and some other concessions to people who, um, don’t want BBQ at the BBQ restaurant.
First Impressions: Lackluster. Unfortunately the BBQ is just so-so, including the brisket, which was sliced quite thick and was dry on our visit. The sizzling chicken had no sizzle, from heat or spice, and would probably be better described as “baked”. The pulled pork was so sweet it tasted like a BBQ Hi-Chew flavor.
It didn’t help when the owner admitted that the BBQ sauce on the table was Hunt’s, right out of the bottle. The cornbread was good. Good cornbread recipe.
The real star of the show came after we ordered all the meats on the menu and had packed up the photo gear, and our hopes, for the night (hence the camera picture): deep-fried Snickers. We expected something British, a log of a candy bar dipped in batter and crisped, but instead got several doughy balls full of individual bites of Snickers. Like Snickers beignets. They were excellent, gooey and peanut-ty and fried and oily all at once, and they saved the evening. Good fried Snickers recipe.
— Christopher St. Cavish