Some interesting concepts out there this week. Let's get to it.
This is the newest of the new...
Let's start with the name and logo: ØSP, designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara, (the "Godfather of street fashion) is an abbreviation for the three concepts within: Ømakase, Savøur, and Pøp, representing a dining space, a lounge, and a private pop-up kitchen-dining space respectively.
The location is hidden down an alleyway. It feels like a "secret". Downstairs hosts the lounge and restaurant which are long narrow spaces, with spotlighting, minimalist concrete tones in the lounge, and a brighter, slightly more futuristic design in the omakase space.
Downstairs the long, narrow space is divided into SAVØR, a lounge area with nice cocktails and a decent bar menu, and a dining section that is an omakase restaurant. Upstairs you have a PØP, a more private area that seats maximum 20 intended to host chef-driven pop-up dinners with a kitchen-dining room design (the chefs cook in the dining space).
The food: We didn't try the Omakase side, and it wouldn't make sense for us to do so anyway since the concept for ØSP, is that every 2-3 months, they'll be partnering with chefs in China and around the world to constantly introduce new seasonal menus. Sounds like a lot of work. Ambitious. But cool if the model succeeds.
The a la carte offerings in Savøur are bites with inspiration from around the world. The "Salad Olivier" is served on a silver plate with three square bites, accented with pimento peppers. Other offerings include a Vitello Tonnato (a thin slice of beef, with a cube of raw tuna as a centerpiece, covering a pan-puri-type shell filled with a tuna paste, quite nice. Two croquettes on the menu, one featuring suckling pig and béchamel, and the other octopus and potato, good bar bites.
The drinks in the lounge on the other hand are stand-out inventions named after the Greek alphabet. Like the menu transitions, the drinks will change out yearly as well. So a 2022 "Epsilon" is something you'll only get to experience this year (our favorite). The 2023 "Epsilon" may be totally different. If you'd like to see the current offerings at Savør, you can check the menu with this mini-program [insert mini-program link].
We talked to Sasha, the architect, and they described how the space has three different light presets, which change at 9pm (lights dim, and side paneling is opened to unite the lounge and dining spaces), and midnight (lights dim more, and music gets turned up). You're meant to start your night here and then never leave. ØSP feels intimate and exclusive. (They haven't even opened and the restaurant is booked for the next several weeks. Sheesh.)
Prices: An Omakase dinner will set you back 880rmb. But prices at Savør are less of a barrier with plenty of bites being in the sub 60rmb range to a few items at the 200 - 328rmb range (short ribs). Cocktails start at 88rmb.
ØSP is not for everyone. It's sophisticated, and nuanced, with details that can only be appreciated by those who know how to look. The people you'll see at ØSP, are those that avoid large, crowded places, and are likely in the upper echelons of Shanghai society. People of affluence with an appreciation, nay... interest, in art and fashion. People who love conceptual type thinking, and who enjoy being around people and spaces that push boundaries and create their own definitions will feel right at home. We're eating and drinking here, because ØSP is different, and the underlying attribute is transformation... whether it's changing the light presets at certain times, or the fact that the entire menu is transient.
BROWNSTONE Tapas Bar (The Hub)
The BROWNSTONE traditional Spanish tapas restaurant empire continues to expand their holdings with this sixth location in Shanghai alone, assuming some prime real estate in the center of the courtyard of Xintiandi (The Hub).
If you've never been to The Hub before, it's a massive, 62,000 square-meter shopping complex about a 15 minute walk from Hongqiao Railway Station In Minhang. Probably a bit of a trek for most of us, it services the several commercial office spaces and the five-star hotel that have taken up space within a stone's throw of the complex. It's also a five-minute shuttle ride to the train station and the airport. The result is a little mini city right on the edge of town that is bigger than most Canadian cities. It's full of people and everyone is either wearing an office laminate or pulling a suitcase.
BROWNSTONE is right at the center of that. A Shanghai-born success story, BROWNSTONE started as a Spanish-accented cocktail bar in Surpass Court next to Art Labor and Lola (anyone? anyone?). In the past few years they've restructured to being a straight-ahead, traditional, very scalable tapas restaurant. Environment-wise it says "Spain" but doesn't scream it, with simple Spanish artworks and prints on the walls. Dark wood, brick, tile work, and a few tasteful graphic pieces complete the look, which is casual and approachable.
The menu is classic tapas and paellas — of the "well, we have to have that on the menu if it's a proper tapas restaurant" variety — with a few tweaks to appeal to local preferences. There's salmon in the seafood paella for example. The menu as a whole is a double strategy with simple classic dishes — see: grilled Spanish lamb chops, Iberico ham, mountain rice Iberico pork rib paella, grilled vegetable and fig salad, Spanish ham creamy spring rolls, the requisite foie gras tapas dish — appealing both to Spanish transplants who are seeking flavors of home and to newcomers to tapas dining who aren't looking to be overwhelmed.
Seems like they're doing well too. We went for lunch and all 150 seats were full. They have daily dinner specials featuring a different corner of the menu every night of the week. And don't miss out on either the Sangria — it's really excellent and available by the pitcher — or the Basque Cheesecake.
So you know where to eat if you get stranded out by Hongqiao airport. And you can head off to any of the other five locations to get the same experience closer to home.
Charbon by Paul Pairet
Paul Pairet, of Mr. & Mrs. Bund, Pollux, and Ultraviolet has opened a new flame-grilled restaurant concept called Charbon. It took over the space that used to be The Cut / The Cut Rooftop. They re-vamped the space, relying on more subdued lighting, with darker wood furniture, but it remains casual. On the sixth floor, people are wining and dining loudly, it's not a place for an intimate affair. The 7th floor rooftop had some small changes done. Again, more subtle lighting, and the addition of a small lounge space with couches.
With Charbon, Paul Pairet has pretty much codified his signature style and flavors. Sauces are reduced to make for powerful, punchy flavors, and it's clear the team enjoys balancing richness with lightness. There are three main categories to Charbon: Appetizers with international flair; chargrilled skewers; and ice cream sundaes (they have other very good desserts, but the sundaes and the french equivalent, "liégeois" are front and center). For appetizers, Pairet is drawing a lot from his international travels with heavy Persian, Turkish, and South East Asian flavors. But it's distinctly Paul Pairet. Stand-outs are the Tarama-Zaatar; the best way to describe is, is a hummus made with smoked fish, and a lovely middle easter spice called Zaatar, which once you have it, you're hooked. The traditional Turkish hummus also excellent, silky, and rich, but the Tarama-Zaatar is more of a standout because we can't think of another place in Shanghai that has it.
The skewers have simple flavor profiles that come with different regional flavors like chicken thigh with Malaysian satay, or beef tongue with tare and salmon with miso sauces (Japanese), or jumbo shrimp with a thai nam jim sauce, and black cod in a Singapore black pepper dressing. Honestly, all the grills we tried were good. Do a large mezze for an appetizer on your first date here. It'll give you a good introduction to the concept.
Damage-wise, without drinks, you're looking at 300rmb per person, making Charbon easily Paul Pairet's most accessible on price. I think it's a good deal because the food is just as excellent as any of his other establishments.
Overall: Yeah, it's nice. Yeah we'll be going back. Polux these days is always too full, so it only makes sense that the restaurant group expands seating capacity in the city for more people to enjoy this Shanghai legend's food designs.