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Where We’re Eating: Somewhere, BaBar, Les Halles, Song Song

Dinner, dancing, and brunch the next day at these four new venues…
2024-04-09 12:00:00
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.


What is it: SOMEWHERE kitchen is the latest offering from veteran Shanghai restaurateur Craig Willis (Mr. Willis, Henkes, Bang, and more), and is the sister restaurant of the popular SOMETHING dining bar on Wukang Lu. The interior has a similar industrial loft feel with vaulted ceilings, an abundance of natural lighting, and lots of potted greenery. While the culinary style will be familiar to regulars of SOMETHING, the menu here features newly conceived dishes.

Area: Located in EKA Tianwu, a promising new creative park in Jinqiao (we wrote about it here), SOMEWHERE kitchen has a prime location with a good view of EKA's iconic curved arch "copper castle" and water fountain. Now open for two months, SOMEWHERE is one of a handful of new restaurants to debut at EKA, which is still undergoing some last stages of construction work as of the time of this writing. Other restaurants in soft opening there include Lenbach Fountain, Beef & Liberty, Baker & Spice, BoboLEE, and a cafe bistro called One Step Garden.

Atmosphere: SOMEWHERE ranks at the top among the more refined dining options at the park, especially for something with a modern culinary aesthetic. They have a nice outdoor patio where patrons can sit back and bask in the sun, while enjoying brunch and an afternoon of people watching. Inside, it has an urban loft vibe, with industrial metal beams and a simple clean design, softened a bit by the addition of hanging plants and china ball lights. The decor is boho and eclectic, with vintage objects and walls full of framed photo prints.

Dishes to try: The items on their menu were thoughtfully conceived and are just adventurous enough, without pushing it too far with the culinary experimentations. Options for starters include Danish mini hot dogs, grilled asparagus with whipped feta, and beef tartare with Sichuan pepper oil on toast. The king crab salad with fresh herbs comes highly recommended, as well as the grilled turbot and beef tenderloin (pictured) with roast shallots. For those with a sweet tooth, they don't disappoint with their dessert menu, either. The honeycomb smash with honey ice cream (smoky when it is served) and milk jelly is a particularly visually stunning choice. Another one we'll be sure to come back to try is the flourless chocolate soufflé with whiskey cream.

A good wine list and some signature cocktails round out their menu offerings. For a nice summery day on their patio, and if gin is your thing, we recommend trying their very refreshing veil (pictured above): a sour cherry gin with grapefruit, rosemary and tonic. Brunch is served every day from 10am–4pm.

Damage: With a starter, main, dessert and a cocktail, a full meal will set you back 250 - 350rmb per head. They also do lunch deals during the work week (a starter and a main) for 98rmb.

- Leon Yan

Les Halles

What is it: From the makers of Chez Jojo, Les Halles is a butchery, deli, and restaurant offering top quality meats, freshly made sausages, and other cooked dishes for both dine-in and delivery. It's a nod to the former Les Halles in Paris, a historic open-air marketplace in the heart of the city that has since been replaced by a modern shopping mall.

Given the kitchen's longstanding expertise in French cuisine, expect to find chef-made French dishes like quiches, terrine, ratatouille, parmentier, as well as various styles of raw sausages and cured meats. All prepared foods are cooked in-house with a promise of no preservatives, which means healthier, fresher food all around. The plan is to eventually grow their menu beyond French fare to appeal to diners with a more diverse palette; think pork knuckles, pastas, and paellas.

They've even gone so far as developing their own WeChat mini-program to let you to place same-day deliveries directly from the store (with 30RMB off your first order).

They also have a butchery section, featuring a decent spread of beef, pork, lamb and chicken cuts. In-store diners can choose to grill meats on a hot stone "Pierrade"-style, which is a popular barbeque dish for entertaining big groups in France. With a side of salad, potatoes, and glass of wine, it's a complete and authentic French meal. Speaking of wine, they have a wine cellar with a good selection of affordable French bottles without ridiculous restaurant mark-ups.
Les Halles is one to check out if you love everyday, no-nonsense French food.

Area: Xuhui, two blocks away from Chez Jojo on Yongjia Lu.

Atmosphere: The space is warm and inviting for a casual getogether with friends, or get a full family meal delivered through their miniprogram to the comfort of your own home.

- Sally Kwok


What is it: Babar is the latest addition to Donghu Lu's social restaurant scene, brought to you by Simon Bries (of Blaz and RAC) and Guillaume Tu (of now-closed Spread). They are primarily focused on offering quality wines by the glass, along with a curated menu of European and Asian-fusion dishes. On weekends from 6-8pm, diners are invited to select any bottle in their extensive wine cellar, and it will be made available by glass to all tables.

Area: Babar is on the main strip of Donghu Lu, which many of us know to be a drinking/going-out street in the pre-COVID era. Since then, it's cleaned up quite nicely to include popular dining institutions like Blaz and Alimentari Grande- which Babar sits across from. Donghu Hotel's recent renovation has also given the entire area a fresh new look, complete with cafes and casual restaurants (like LOKAL) popping up here and there.

Atmosphere: Babar is the kind of restaurant you go for a night-out on the town. You want to eat, but let's be honest, you want to drink more. It's for the trendy diners that want to have a nice glass of wine in an upscale but relaxed restaurant, without compromising the quality of food. On one end, you'll find communal tables for small to large groups; on the other, you'll find high-top tables that flip open onto the streetside, ideal for people-watching. Beats are bumping throughout the night, and the sleek, industrial setting transports you to any cosmopolitan city of your choice: Paris, London, New could be anywhere.

Dishes to try: Babar's menu offers small, bite-sized dishes that are meant to shared and designed to complement wine. Nothing requires a fork and knife around here. They are upscale but not that kind of upscale. Top dishes to try are their Baby Squid, Smoked Herring and Potato, and their Black Boudin Gyoza. They also serve great ice cream all day if you happen to be in the area, with less common flavors like rum raisin, vanilla apple, and passion fruit.

Again, Babar is all about the wine so expect top-of-the-line wines available by the glass. It's a step up from your usual house wine and quite fun to sample different kinds of "fancy" wines without breaking the bank.

Damage: With a glass of wine and 5-6 dishes to share, a full meal will set you back 400-600rmb per person. Though the wine prices could get quite steep (100-150rmb a glass, depending on what's open), they offer a very generous pour and consistent quality of bottles on rotation.

- Sally Kwok

Song Song

What is it: One of the restaurants in nightlife hotspot INS, Song Song serves traditional Shanghainese cuisine in a contemporary bistro and bar atmosphere. On most nights of the week, the place feels like a great hangout spot for trendy advertising types or young Shanghai creatives looking for something familiar, but in a much cooler environment. On the weekend, this would be an ideal place for pre-clubbing dinner and drinks, before a night of hedonism in the new music and eSports entertainment hub INS, in which Song Song is conveniently located.

Atmosphere: The exterior is a bit nondescript and unassuming, but inside it is quite cozy. They've made some good design decisions, taking some cues from Shanghai Art Deco and vintage speakeasies, while also managing to feel quite contemporary and hip. Usually for Shanghainese homestyle cuisine, also known locally as benbangcai, you will find yourself in an old Shanghai lane house or a rather generic Chinese restaurant setting, so this was all a refreshing change.

The space itself would be great to rent out for private parties, and in fact the first night we rocked up, the space was booked out for an event so be sure to make reservations ahead of time.

They have a DJ booth on one side and a full bar on the other. The bar offers a small selection of craft beers and IPAs on tap. They also serve Shaoxing wine, baijiu, and cocktails. We tried their black tea gin with honey and lemon juice, which was very good, and should appeal to anyone who likes a gin gimlet.

The Food: The menu has most of the classics you would expect of benbangcai, like hongshaorou (red braised pork belly), braised freshwater eel, and meigan kourou (roasted pork with mustard greens). We tried their steamed cured meats, which included slices of Chinese sausage and pork belly on a bed of shredded tofu, paired with a serving of scallion oil noodles. We also sampled the quick fried pork liver with soy sauce, and a side of sautéed alfalfa with rice wine. All of which were excellent. The scallion oil noodles in particular were perfect, and paired well with all the dishes we ordered.

They have a nice outdoor terrace to enjoy al fresco dining and drinks during the summer with a good view of the park, but they are only open after 6:30pm for dinner. There is definitely enough on the menu to want to keep coming back for repeat visits. The liquor-preserved crab, pan-fried wontons, and their craft beers on tap certainly piqued our interest for the next time. Song Song is located on the ground floor of INS on the East side of Fuxing Park, a few doors down from Sober Company and the new FuXing Bakery.

- Leon Yan