A new entry this week out there in Restaurant Land, treading familiar ground in the kitchen, relying heavily on their design to draw in customers.
What it is: Not, in fact, a hostel, hotel or private abode. Pass Residence is, confusingly, a restaurant from the oha Group. It's one of many new projects they have opened in the past couple of years, from the pocket-sized oha eatery on Anfu Lu to Bar No. 3 and Blackbird 2.0 in Columbia Circle. Most recently, they have come a little bit east of their comfort zone to open the Dead Poet bar on Jinxian Lu and now this, on Julu Lu.
The previous tenant was a Sumo Cat ramen shop, remnants of which linger on in the exposed concrete. The look is super-hip and open, kind of distressed and still kind of bohemian, with cords of apple wood for the oven stacked against the wall and the kitchen barely separated from part of the dining room. Lord knows how, in 2019, they managed to get a license for a fully wood-fired oven — not the more common gas or gas-wood hybrids — but I suppose it's refreshing to know there are still licensing "workarounds" even in this day and age.
That oven is central to the food here, which is done, as it is at all of these places, by chef Blake Thornley. It's Italian and simple and meant to get you drinking something from the wine "cellar", which is a separate room towards the front where you are meant to browse and pick yourself a bottle to bring back to the table; price are written on the label. Nice idea. It's a walk-in wine "list" and definitely within that casual-hip vibe that this group aims for in all of its projects.
First impressions: Are tiny pizzas going to be a 2020 trend? Judging by these two places this week, yes. Tiny pizzas are now a thing.
For having a wood-fired oven, there's not much indication of it in the food. Perhaps they are still figuring out how to blister the crusts correctly, and get that smoky flavor into the rest of the dishes.
The rest of the food has a couple of standouts, like the XL-sized gnocchi with black cod, zucchini, Parmesan and cream (66rmb) and the ragu oxtail over handmade pappardelle with semi-dried tomato (78rmb). Antipasti are simple things like confit mushrooms with garlic and balsamic; marinated vegetables; burrata; and rosemary flat bread.
Overall? Liked it. Pizza not as much. Big gnocchi were a win. Antipasti were antipasti. I'd come back, and I'm not even a natural wine person, which is a big chunk of this place's identity. Cool environment, bro. Would repeat.