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This Is Where We're Eating and Drinking: November '21

More Italian. More everything. We can barely keep up with all this...
2021-11-04 19:00:00
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.

Easy come, easy go – that's the cold, cold reality under which bars and restos operate in Shanghai. Sometimes it's nothing more than a one-night stand. A lounge near our office, Flaming, was literally just shut down during its soft opening. RIP. But hey. Lots of new opportunities to gorge yourself with reckless abandon have popped up in the past month or so. Here's a few of the more interesting ones for your personal reference.

Bella Vita Bistro

318 Tianping Lu, near Huashan Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

Bella Vita might sound new (if a little... generic), but they actually started out as a casual Italian cafe and restaurant out in a shopping complex called Florentia Village by the Pudong Airport more than six years ago. Now, they've recently assumed a much more upscale restaurant orientation in a two-level lane house in Hengshan Fang. This is a good way to go about traditional Italian — slowly developing your craft and experience over time. As the name suggests they're doing serving straight-up traditional Italian, bucking the Italian-but-fusion trend we've been seeing lately around town. (Read: Every new wine bar in the last 5 months.)

The environment is pleasant and unobtrusive. Artwork on the walls, large glass windows, and an open kitchen. Dark green embellishments along with wood and marble furniture give it a touch of warmth. The second floor houses a spacious terrace with a street view.

Ingredient come handmade, which is pretty much the norm now in Shanghai, from pastas to sauces. Kitchen is headed by Italian chef Andrea Botti, who has worked in the food industry in Europe for over a decade.

On the menu: Signature secondi dishes include Pacchero, Wagyu beef steak, steamed lobster, and more — the traditional split between beef and seafood. They offer a range of pastas and risotto as well. These are in the 100rmb range. The former reaching up to 500rmb in points. A little pricy. But in our experience the quality is there. Maybe good for special occasions.

Why You Should Go:

It's a super nice spot in town. Food is great. And authentic. Authentically great. Doesn't need too many words with this one: "Recommended" is the one we'll settle on.

- Shirley Xu


1006 Kangding Lu, near Yanping Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

There's places to eat in Jing'an and then there's nowhere to eat in Jing'an. If that makes sense? It doesn't make sense. But we're always looking for more places to eat in Jing'an. Is what we're saying. Instead of cycling the same three options week in and week out.

Roma is what we've been waiting for. An upscale, finely-wrought, quality and details-focused Italian dining experience we can splash out on for special occasions. Coming from Giampaolo (Zozzo Pizza and the very underrated Porcellino) and Chef Andrea (101 Centouno), Roma is casual Italian dining in an area of Jing'an that doesn't have too many other options or personality in this vein.

They have dishes representing many of the regions, Rome, Tuscany, Florence, and more. But what would we recommend? Go with an appetite and dive in.

A few nice touches: The amatriciana is made with a tomato sauce that is silken cooked over two days before it's served, mixed in with crispy bits of guanciale (it's beef cheek, but very similar to bacon. Real nice).

The carpaccio is definitely one of the better ones in the city, thin sliced pieces of beef that are hot pink with a rich aioli. Loved it.

Take some of the focaccia home too. Got a nice crisp on the outside, and super super fluffy, with large air pockets inside.

Also, they make their own limoncello in-house, so start your meal with a shot of this around the table. Otherwise, you're not doing Roma justice.

Why You Should Go:

The food is fantastic. A real nice addition to Shanghai's Italian dining scene. Classic dishes all made from scratch (none of the pasta is dry, it's all made fresh in-house), elevated with plating that is suitable for a date-night.

- Jacob Flowers

Soi Thai / Dusk Till Dawn

688 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Wuding Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

Soi Thai / Dusk Till Dawn is... hmm... how to describe it. It's a conjoined twin: part side-street Thai café, part... kinda hidden lounge club themed after the late '90s Quentin Tarantino movie "Dusk till Dawn".

This is a pretty popular movie in China, we guess. There's another Dust till Dawn in Beijing. Unrelated.

Anyways. Vampires. Horror-themed cocktails. Hmm. okay.

Why is it on this list? Two things. First, the lounge is pretty cool. It's one of those, unique off-beat places, you can go to if you want to go somewhere interesting. The place does get rowdy on Fridays and Saturdays, but during the week it's super chill and there's no minimum charge for the couches, or two booths.

The Second thing is, the Thai food is pretty good. And more importantly, open into the wee hours of the night.

Shanghai now has another option for late-night clubbers to dine, THAI food. Nice!

Why You Should Go:

Think of it like an upgraded, slightly left-field Celia. With Vampire-themed drinks. And blood red laser lights that you can walk through. Macabre! But sexy!

If you like it when your cocktail lounges turn into clubbier things later on into the evening, it's an interesting one to check out.

Add to that, the ever-present option of some decent Thai food to keep you going.

~Jacob Flowers

O'Mills Light

Xingfu Li, 381 Xingfu Lu, near... View ListingTaxi Printout

Trendy bakery and bistro O'Mills has unveiled a new concept "O'Mills Light" in Xingfu Li AKA that "little strip of cafes and restaurants next to the old Dada Bar that has a Pie Society in it."

As the name suggests, they're embracing a healthy and body-conscious menu with vegan, keto, and gluten-averse diners in mind. But also some of their more popular menu items — chips and sausages — have made the trip over. I guess these are for people who want to cheat.

But yeah, lots of light, freshly-made salads and sandwiches. And a vegan Tiramisu, no less.

The interiors are straight-forward. Greens and grey tones, with some plants. It's casual. There are two tables outside so you can enjoy watching the kids playing in the sidewalk fall into the fountains.

Order of the day: a tempeh flaxseed vegan burger, which is crafted from a range of fresh, colorful vegges. Appealing plating. Balanced favour. Low fat. Period. It's good. I need that, and you need it too...

A sandwich costs in the 80rmb to 100rmb which feels..... eh. A little expensive but I guess this is the world we live in now. And the food feels natural and fresh.

Why You Should Go:

Even in 2021 it's hard to be vegan in this town and so more options for the true believers are always welcome. Anyone looking for more vegetarian, vegan, low carb, and / or gluten-free options to not die of hunger, here you go.

-Shirley Xu

Quick Bites:

And even more newness out there to tease you pallets...

Chili's (Tongren)

152 Tongren Lu, near Nanjing Xi Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

Chili's is Chili's. Chili's is America. Now there is one in Puxi. The important thing is the prices. You can have a nice rack of ribs with all the sides for 88rmb at lunch. As for dinner, you'll be hard pressed to spend more than 120rmb per person.

So yes: Chili's is in Puxi now.


83 Ruijin Yi Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

Go and find the gin to your tonics at Ginetics – a stylish, hipster-ish little bar sitting on Ruijin Lu. Free gummy bears and biscuits provided for each table. Of course. Very whimsically L.A.

Cheesecake Factory Taikoo Li

4/F, Stone Zone, Taikoo Li, 500... View ListingTaxi Printout

Remember that posh open-air complex Taikoo Li we wrote about a few weeks ago? The third Cheesecake Factory in Shanghai is open there – on the rooftop.No other information needed.


150-1 Ruijin Yi Lu, near Huaihai... View ListingTaxi Printout

French-styled café sitting on Huaihai Zhong Lu, occupying two levels with a-typical minimalist design for this part of town. Their signature galettes are crafted from fresh, homemade batter using imported flour, with a mild and natural taste. Food there is yummy and reasonably priced.

Before Midnight

Wuyi Mix 320, 320 Wuyi Lu, near... View ListingTaxi Printout

Indie beer bar tucked away in the small corner at Mix 320 (Changning area right around the corner from Lotus Eatery), with a selection of craft beer on tap. Pricing is affordable: a glass of beer costs 10rmb-35rmb. If you live in this part of town and need beer, here you go.


Wuyi Mix 320, 320 Wuyi Lu, near... View ListingTaxi Printout

A casual Spanish bar and restaurant at Mix 320, serving up a range of traditional dishes, including Tortilla, Paella, Churros, etc. The space is tiny and woody, featuring less than 10 tables and a bunch of stools. Expect a much longer drink menu than food menu.