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Where We’re Eating and Drinking: Yaya's, Speto's, Bella Vita

Just happy to be out, really…
2022-08-19 16:00:00
On the Radar is a SmartShanghai column profiling new restaurants, bars, and other new places we find interesting. Sometimes we stumble upon these places, and sometimes we are invited, but in both cases, we are never paid to write an opinion, rather, these are our honest first impressions, and not a formal review.

We're still getting our bearings in the brave new world out there in terms of what new restaurants and bars have opened up. Some of these opened up in the Before Time, some of these are super brand new. Who can say, really?

But this is where we've been eating and drinking these days...


1/F, 329 Tongren Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

We're the last people in all of Shanghai to try this restaurant Yaya's, but, hey, we made it. And, yeah, we can see why everyone's talking about it. Lots of creativity going on with the menu and some nice community vibes going on with the scene. Feels like some thought, heart, and soul went into this one. Feels like it's coming from a personal kind of place. Originally, Yaya's began as a small pop-up event on Donghu Lu and found their permanent home on Tongren after getting some good feedback on their idiosyncratic take on pasta.

Cuisine is pasta-based internationalism, with lots of Western and Eastern ideas clashing into new and wonderful things in terms of ingredients and preparation techniques. To wit: "Mapo Tofu Lasagna" (88rmb) is Sichuan spices and tofu are layered into an Italian staple. If that doesn't sound interesting enough to check out, try the "Splashed Chili and Confit Egg Yolk" (68rmb) which is fashioned off Shannxi you po mian.

Why You Should Go:

Well, you probably already have but if you haven't... it's a truly unique experience. Seems like with the F&B biz in this city, everyone is talking about scalability and franchising. It's great to see singular, new, and fresh ideas out there in restaurant land. We admire the creativity and point of view.


1035 Kangding Lu, inside Tongji... View ListingTaxi Printout

Someone finally got the bright idea of opening a bar in Jing'an and it's here and it's called Speto's on Kangding Lu. It's on the east end on Kangding Lu coming from Yanping Lu, right across from the Perry's there. (Yes, there is also a sneaky Perry's right there.)

Coming from the Boteco people -- that's the popular Brazilian one in Found 158 -- Speto's is ostensibly a Grill & Tapas bar and there's a slight Spanish element to it, albeit filtered through Shanghai local pub circa 2006 vibes. And the menu is filled with meats and sandwiches and things. Hmmm.. okay. We can dig it. Yeah, it's a bit of a throwback, in terms of design, but it's got a nice comfortable patio and it's a friendly place, so we're not complaining.

Feels more like a bar that you can get food at, rather than a restaurant you would seek out. But we're just happy to be in any bar these days and this is definitely one. The happy hour is cocktails on special: Sprtizes and Moscow Mules in the 45rmb range. House pours 40rmb and house wine 35rmb. Best not to overthink these things. It's still brand new so we're waiting to see if they can bring the party from Found 158 to here.

Why You Should Go:

Alcohol. Patio. The end.


555 Haifang Lu, near Xikang Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

The third location for Bella Vita has them in prime real estate just a few doors down from Zeitgeist in the New Factories complex in northern Jing'an. Do people still call it the New Factories? Bella Vita trades in simple, straight ahead classic Italian comfort food, with a big, well-stocked wine cellar to match. The brand actually started out as an Italian cafe out in a shopping complex called Florentia Village by the Pudong Airport.

They made ambitious and significant inroads to Puxi with their Tianping Lu expansion at the end of 2021. That one's more of a classy bistro with a heavy emphasis on involved beef and seafood main courses. You're going to that one if you want to splash out on a nice, authentic Italian dinner. This one splits the difference, with a more casual menu and contemporary, mod-ish feel. Lots of pastas and pizzas on the menu, along with those steak mains. The pizzas are a good order and it's one of the things they're known for. The house style is Roman.

Prices are around 200rmb per person with wine for a casual meal.

Why You Should Go:

The third venue for Bella Vita is casual and welcoming. It's a Shanghai-born success story which is lovely to see these days. The food is simple and excellent. And the service is really great too. We're kind of astounded when people come and refill our bread and water glass without being asked to do so. Thumbs up. They also give you a free welcome glass of Prosecco. Game over. We're sold. That's all you have to do, y'all. Easy!


2/F, Hong Kong Plaza, 283 Huaihai... View ListingTaxi Printout

SmartShanghai already featured this place a while back but we're talking about it again because we're just driving the point home that you should really try it — especially if you like lavish and luxurious Korean fine dining that comes from the 14th century or whatever. Coming to us under the guidance of the Muse Group (The Nest, The Cannery, Highline, scads more), ordering is available a la carte but, really, you'll be getting one of the two set menus available.

They're both five courses and a dessert, priced at 588rmb per person. One set menu comes from Chef Tom Ryu of the super popular Jeju Izakaya. That set menu is his new inventions and explorations into the terrain of modern Korean. The other comes from Onjium, a Michelin one-star in Korea and at the Genesis House in New York. Onjium specializes in modern spins on centuries old "Korean Royal Cuisine".

They're even recognized by the Korean government as one of only a handful of practicing "protectors" of the artform, serving recipes, as they do, that can be traced back to the 1300s. So, that's worth checking out for sure. They also do arty, fashion-y, nightlife-y sorts of events. If that's your thing. Oh yeah, and the drinks. The cocktails are nice too.

Why You Should Go:

Because you're leading a rich and fulfilling life and you enjoy partaking in only the best of all possible things.