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[The Brunch List]: June 2016

This month, The Brunch List travels to Jean Georges on the Bund, Goga on Yueyang Lu, and Pie Society on Xingfu Lu.
Last updated: 2016-06-08
The Brunch List is our monthly column pinpointing great (and not so great) brunch spots around town. Everything below is all you need to know about where to get leisurely weekend eats.


1. Goga


Good for: Serenity, fresh fish, good music, and spiritual transport.
Available: Daily, 11am-2.30pm
Price: From 125rmb for the bento box and a drink.

Like an episode of Sesame Street, the Hawaiian brunch at consistently great California cuisine spot Goga will leave you happy and nourished. First, there's the colors: the bright pinks of the salmon and ginger; the deep greens of the leafy vegetables and the trees outside; the reds of the brick building and the bento box; the whites of the perfect sushi rice and the pandas on the chopstick holders. Then, the characters. There's Brad Turley, the ultra-chill chef in some kind of rare Hawaiian button-down and probably a Golden State Warriors hat. Even when he's not there, the staff maintain the zen vibes inside while the neighborhood friends walk past Goga's big fishbowl windows. The music -- let's call it "deeper classic-rock cuts, Hippie Hill jams, and better yacht rock" -- completes the San Francisco atmosphere.

Here's how their brunch / lunch works. So you pick a main, like teriyaki salmon, katsu chicken, or the Loco Moco (hamburger patty with mushroom gravy and scotch egg; weekends only). That comes on rice. Ask for the sushi rice. The rest is not up to you, though they can accommodate allergies. Your box could involve a salad of fresh greens, some pickled vegetables, macaroni salad, peas with shrimp, and, best of all, roasted squash with walnut that's sweet but never cloys. Brad trained as a chef in Hawaii, where they serve bento boxes like this to surfers on the daily. And like that state, these boxes beautifully mash up a bunch of foods and cultures.

Some might balk at a 125rmb he fan -- until they take a bite of the salmon and get transported to a better world. This is nothing like a Chinese cafeteria tray. Everything in here has intent, and probably a happy background story. The sushi rice is so good that you'll want to order another bowl. The set includes a drink, but no alcohol (again, they can accommodate). The a la carte menu also has some dishes worth ordering, like a "SF Chinatown Chicken Salad" with micro-greens and something like fried wonton skin bits (pictured above). An hour into the meal and suddenly you're on the other side of that Golden Gate Bridge photo hanging on the wall, somewhere in the clouds.

– Ian L

Full Brunch Listing


2. Jean Georges


Good for: Bund life and its associated luxuries, like foie, truffles, and lobster.
Available: Sat-Sun, 11.30am-3pm
Price: Sets at 298rmb and 498rmb.

Newly made-over Jean Georges is back with a brunch set on Saturdays and Sundays. After an extended renovation period, they unveiled a much-lauded light and bright look back in April. As with the rest of the spots at Three on the Bund, and a good chunk of Shanghai’s dining scene for that matter, it’s got the Neri & Hu blueprint all over it. It may feel predictable, but it’s still stunning. Can’t really hate on the view from those big windows, and the delicate porcelain and silverware add that extra touch of luxury. At around 12.30pm on a Sunday, the dining room was about a third full with a wide cross-section of Shanghai's brunch crowd: rich old Europeans, Asian tourists, fuerdais, and expat families with shrieking children. Right around 2.30pm, the room hit its peak crescendo with the latter group and it was time to exit.

The basic brunch is 298rmb and the deluxe version is 498rmb, and both are subject to a 10% service charge. Neither tier includes water, and bottles are 78rmb. The rich set consists of some Jean Georges signatures like the egg caviar and foie gras brûlé. Perched perilously on a delicate porcelain goose foot, the egg was tricky to eat, but delicious, as foamy scrambled eggs and caviar can only be.

The foie, served with dried sour cherries and candied pistachio was top notch and worth the trip alone. The meal is rounded out by an addictive spongey French toast and lobster black truffle eggs Benedict, for that extra affirmation of luxury.

In contrast, the 298rmb layman’s brunch reads like carb lover’s paradise. A bread course, followed by eggs Benedict (the regular kind, albeit with really good ham), two slices of black bread with smoked salmon and avocado, the delightful aforementioned french toast, not one but three golf ball-sized ricotta beignets, and a selection of mini croissants and pain au chocolat. For the extra 200rmb, it’s probably worth upgrading, but up against some other stellar -- and more affordable -- brunch options on the Bund, like The Nest and el Willy, it’s gonna be tough competition for JG.

– Jenny Gao

Full Brunch Listing


3. Pie Society


Good for: Pies, bangers, mash, peas, UK vibes.
Available: Daily, all day
Price: Pies from 48rmb; Fry-up is 68rmb.

The earliest time you can get a pie at DJ-turned-pie-chef Jane Siesta's Pie Society is 11am, every day. It's better to go earlier than later, because the pies and the seats both tend to run out. Any time is pie time, including brunch, and savory pies in beds of mash and peas prove extremely functional either before or after an extended party session. The pastries here, like the "Seriously Beefy", "Hen Hao", and "Notorious P.I.G.", are flaky, satisfying, and clearly made with love. And they serve a full English breakfast / fry-up, all day, every day.

Pie Society is the main gem in a new lane called Xingfu Li, in a recently gentrified part of Xingfu Lu that feels a lot like the SoDoSoPa development in the last season of South Park. Just around the corner is the long-shuttered LoGO bar, where Jane DJed drum and bass a few times during her 18-years-and-counting career. She shifted to pie-making in 2014 as it seemed like a better retirement plan.

A year of pie-testing in the festival and market circuit and seven months with an actual shop has led to near perfection -- early complaints of dryness have been resolved, and pies appear bigger than ever. The obvious issue is, "get some more seats," as the shop sits between two restaurants that are not happy to share chairs. Surrounding the patio is a fountain whose water looks like black tile. Someone fell into it today. The closest solution will come in late 2016, when they open a second shop. A more immediate remedy is taking your breakfast to the park across the road and enjoying it in the company of dogs and elderly men playing chess.

Solo pies range from 48-52rmb, but you're better off upgrading that with mash or a side for 68rmb, or "The Full Monty" with mash, peas, any gravy, grated cheddar, and shallots for 78rmb. The fry-up runs 68rmb, which is, admittedly, like double what you'd pay in BOW E3 or something. Cheaper options involving toast, eggs, and bangers start at 15rmb. Tea is around 20rmb. Beers from 35rmb. Nice one, M8.

- Ian L

Full Brunch Listing


For more brunch listings, check out The Brunch List archives and our Brunch Deals page.