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Where We’re Eating and Drinking: January ‘22

New Cages, Beast of the East, sur — Shanghai isn’t slowing down into 2022…
2022-01-21 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.

Phew! Lots to get through this month! Let's dig in...

Cages (One East)

B1/F, One East, 788 Zhongshan Nan Yi... View ListingTaxi Printout

The first step to a New Cages World Order, Cages (One East) is the first of several planned expansion venues for the popular sports entertainment bar and restaurant. More are planned for Shanghai and the rest of China, and One East comes as a sort of test model for expansion, in that they're streaming-lining the games and sports side of things, the events side of things, and the food and bev side of things. Opening last week, it's already very much a "Cages", which is to say it's a slick and well-executed operation in all those aforementioned areas. Which can't be easy. These things are massive. And super involved. This is the smaller version, seating only 380 people or so across a bunch of dining areas, kids play area, private rooms, and more.

So yeah for games it's got less than the other one. Just one batting cage and a slew of state fair-style sports arcade games — several variations of basketball games, skeetball, boxing, ping pong, frisbee, American football, and more. It works like the other one. Games are like 5rmb, and you buy credit through their app. The bating cage is 20rmb per go.

But the food. Is really righteous. Cages puts a lot of effort into their menu and it really shows. This version comes from almost a half year of experimentation from OG Cages chef Jason Oakley and Sean Jorgenson, who is at this location running the kitchen. It's the slew of burgers and sliders, sandwiches, chicken wings, pastas, pizzas, and salads you'd expect, along with a bunch of new stuff and little details.

Little details like this crazy bread, which is the upscale version of the kind you get at Little Ceasars ("pizza pizza").

And this amazing "Tailgate Platter" which serves 3-4. Sliders, corned beef pretzel rolls, Buffalo popcorn chicken, grilled corn, pulled pork taquitos, crispy coconut shrimp sticks - gaaah! Goes right for your heart.

Why You Should Go:

Because you're celebrating a birthday, a leaving party, some company thing, and you live in the area and this one's more convenient. But also you should go for the food, which is really top notch.

- Morgan Short

Beast of the East

291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

Sliding into that busy and important corner with Funkadeli, Cantina Agave, and... uh Jax Bistro? Beast of the East, the new "we're doing everything" concept from the people behind Big Bamboo, Pistolera, Blind Pig, and more. "Beast of the East" is their craft beer brand, of which they have 15 taps of. I don't know much about beer other than where it is properly applied (everywhere) but I like Beast of the East because it feels like they have this type of consumer in mind.

Which is to say, the beer is very much drinkable ("crushable" in industry parlance) and not a lot of thick, gross IPA horseshit that tastes like pencil shavings and crushed grasshoppers that you gotta be like, "Oh yeah, I can really taste the hops in this, brah. Love it."

I like their "Never Quit IPA", which is tasty without getting all in your face with it. It's a good introduction to their selection which covers all the typical beer bases: pilsners, porters, ales, Belgian wheats, and more. The "Thirsty Beast", at 5%, is easy to drink, balanced, and crisp, and you can tell someone more knowledgeable than I described it to me thusly — but they were very much not wrong.

Damage: Smalls are 48rmb; larges, 55rmb, towers, 348rmb.

But if you go in expected a contemporary American tap room kind of vibe...

... just don't go in expecting that. Decor is marble tables, mirrors, purple lighting, and... is that a DJ booth? Is that a disco ball?

Indeed it is. Beast of the East is calling itself a "social house" and harkens back to a different genre of bar in Shanghai, that used to roam mighty and free circa the ‘00s or ‘10s — the Western restaurant that turns into a clubbier, dancier thing late at night. Everything used to be one of these. It's a bar / club with DJ Thomas Paninaro at the helm playing retro hits and current tunes on some nights — whom we all must agree is a rather timeless fellow himself — and a house band other nights. (Or both). So it's open "'til late" and caters to a slightly older demographic of expat and local clientele, who like to eat dinner, drink some beers, and still get down and dance in a bar later on.

The menu is a mash-up of popular dishes from their other venues: Big Bamboo and Blind Pig in particular. Lots of sharing plates, a big section of Blind Pig-style BBQ, that chili everyone likes, sandwiches, salads, burgers, and slides, steak main, and a dedicated New York Style pizza section. Look out for a la carte lunch and brunch deals. Happy hour is 3pm to 7pm 35% off drinks. They'll be hosting sports on their multiple giant TVs and dedicated Super Bowl and Winter Olympics parties.

Why You Should Go:

If you like a Big Bamboo / Blind Pig style kind of hangout but also really tasty, award winning craft beer, this Beast's for you.

- Morgan Short

sur eatery & bar

1/F, No. 7, Tianzifang, Lane 210... View ListingTaxi Printout

sur eatery & bar (not a typo, one of those places that reject capitalization) is a new Mediterranean open-air restaurant in Tianzifang. Opened by two handsome gentlemen, Romain & Santiago, this place has travel-worthy food, that could reinvigorate the winding alleyways as a popular date-night spot. Inside a renovated courtyard where Kommune used to be.

This place could easily be something you'd see at some beach boardwalk. Open-air, light brown wood accents, sea-green tiles... it's totally out of place in its location, but that makes it nice addition to Shanghai. This is developing into a courtyard that will be packed with other venues, the main landlord of the space seems to be the same owners who used to own the fabulous gay club D2, and current owner of that french restaurant in a villa with a courtyard, La Maison. Hi Joanne! They're converting the space into a "mini-anfu lu". There's a nice little sky bridge with a roof top where you can cuddle and kiss before / after eating.

Yea... this place is worth going to. Menu was designed by Chef Ferran of Tomatito and Apollo fame. Everything we tried was quite nice, but the standouts were a few of the proteins. When you go, try the meatballs and the sausages. What makes these dishes stand-out is a cooking method that you sometimes see in Spain and some Eastern European countries where the meats are dried out in cooking. You may think "dry meatballs / sausage wut?". No wut! It's GREAT! The sausages are rendered down so much that they sit in a pool of their own seasoned fat. It's not gross, it's luxurious. Dip your bread in it! Do it! The meatballs have crispy onion strings on top and sit in a pool of a reduced tomato sauce that is punchy and leaves you feeling moist. The croquettes are ace. They do it the French way however with silky mashed potatoes and bechamel. I'm running out of space here BUT ORDER A WAFFLE FOR DESSERT. Their simplicity and textures make them stand-out. You're welcome.

Why You Should Go:

This is 100% a restaurant for DATE NIGHTS. You might go by yourself though, high chance of getting hooked on those meatballs. Sure, you can bring your boss here if you both enjoy strolling through alleys together before/after a meal. But definitely take your honey here.

- Jacob Flowers


4/F, 17 Xiangyang Bei Lu, near... View ListingTaxi Printout

1UP is the new retro games bar from the Taste Buds Group and Cages Group which is serving "draft cocktails and retro games" — and plenty of nostalgia for people who grew up gaming on consoles (Nintendo, Sega, et. al) and neighbourhood arcades in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.

Retro games bars became a thing in Europe and especially in America in the past five to ten years or so with a few variations on this central concept: imagine your rich high school friend's basement-meets-college bar. You know that one friend who had every single video game ever and maybe even a pool table? Imagine if someone took all his stuff and put it into a bar. Sometimes they can be super nice, upscale, and craft beer-y (see: the Barcade chain in The States) and sometimes it's just some bros with a bunch of Nintendos and Segas and old couches in a warehouse storage space somewhere, which is also great (see: ...the city of Portland). There used to be a real good one in Beijing called 8-Bit. This is Shanghai's first one.

It must be said: It's a good idea and someone had to do it. ***cough, cough***

1UP in Shanghai... is way more of a vintage arcade than retro games bar. And even more arcade than "bar". There are no console games. No Nintendos, Segas, or XBOX'eses. Hmm. Why? They've more or less get the retro arcade games down though. Of the stone cold classics, they've got several variations of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Centipede, a huge Galaga screen, a huge Tetris screen, Cruisin' USA, NBA Jam, TMNT, Mario Kart Arcade, and more. Not bad. They've got some total waste of space stuff too. (A "Duck Dynasty" video game, WTF is that.)

You pay for the tokens in bulk with your smart phone and use that to play a la Cages and it feels... expensive? 20rmb for 6 coins; 50rmb for 16 coins; 100rmb for 38 coins; 200rmb for 80 coins; 500rmb for 210 coins; 1000rmb for 500 coins; 2000rmb for 1200 coins.

The drinks and bar side of it... is underwhelming. There are four specialty cocktails on the one-page menu: "Pac-Man"; "Super Mario", "TETRIS", "Avengers".


(My dudes, "Princess Peach" is right there...)

The decor as well — basically, they printed a bunch of the game logos and stuck them on the wall — feels like a real generic and personality-free take on a concept that could have been afforded waaaaaaay more creativity.

Music is some confusing-to-old-people Top 40s stuff. When it should be wall to wall Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple albums on repeat.

If the Cages and Taste Buds group are busy taking over the world with their other bars, we're hoping they'll circle back to this one soon and give it some more thought and depth. Video games bars can be fun and all but the games alone don't make people want to come back. And I want to go back.

Someone needs to pop this shit out of the Nofriendo, blow on the bottom of the cartridge a few times, and then put it back in to see if it's working.

Why You Should Go:

If you're into classic arcade games, they've got a few you'd be pleasantly surprised to see — in gimmicky, gigantic format even.

This is the only place in Shanghai you can play NBA Jam and scream HE'S HEATING UP into your nonplussed friend's face.

- Morgan Short

Borsh & Kompot

1411 Yuyuan Lu, near Dingxi Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

Borsh & Kompot was conceived like some children are in Shanghai... at house parties. It's a hip little Russian restaurant on Yuyuan lu started by two gals Jenya and Ksenia (both Ukranian, but raised in Russia!). First, they would invite people over for dinner parties, slinging authentic Slavic food in their apartment kitchens. Those got to be so popular, they started doing pop-ups, with their last one bringing over 200 people at Liquid Laundry with hardly any promotion. A partnership with Priscilla who owns the Brut Eatery Chains, and TWO MONTHS LATER, this place was up and running.

It's on what appears to be an up-and-coming section on Yuyuan lu. High ceilings, a light maroon paint on the walls, big jars of things presumably pickling. Silverware that was imported from the Czar's palace (we think it's real silver), and a combination of low-tables, and high-tables (these ones are good for parties of 8-20). It's nice, also cozy. But probably fun in the evenings when people are taking in their house-infused vodkas.

Is it good? Hell yea, and we didn't even get to the vodka when we went (this writer behaves during day-time assignments, usually).

The food isn't fusion, or modern, or Sinicized, it's authentic Russian fare. It's like your favorite Russian model friend, somehow got their babushka a PU letter to come to Shanghai and made you a meal. What should you order? Go with 6 friends and order the entire menu. 17 Things on the menus plus 6 or so side dishes to compliment your preferences. EVERYTHING TASTES GOOD. But what if it's just one or two of you? Get the Shuba salad, a layered cold casserole type dish from top to bottom with beetroots, onion, carrots, pickled herring fillets, potatoes held together with a homemade dressing. The beef stroganoff is paired with a grain called grechka (boiled buckwheat but call it grechka!). Also get the beef & pork patties, doused in a tomato reduction, and served with mashed potatoes.

Mmmmm. Oh yea, get the Borsh too, but fair warning, it's a BIG bowl, so this is not something Han Solo could do by his lonesome. Oh, sorry one more thing, order sides of pickles (yes, plural). Oh, one last last thing... you should also order their house infused vodka shots. Take at least one before the meal. Pictured below are not on the menu yet, but ask for them anyway. Cherry dumplings. Every single one of these are little cherry explosions that burst in your mouth when you bit into them. Don't take bites, you'll get cherry juice all over your mouth and look like a vampire having a meal. Just put the whole damn thing it your mouth... don't be shy.

Why You Should Go:

Because you're a gorgeous person of Slavic decent, international gourmand, or someone who loves fermented pickles as opposed to the vinegar brined variety.

- Jacob Flowers

And also...

Pizzeria S

1/F, Bldg. 2, 18 Gongping Lu, near... View ListingTaxi Printout

Located on the Gongping Lu docks in Hongkou District, Pizzeria S is a stylish Italian restaurant boasting a beautiful riverside view. Specialties are their wood-fire baked pizzas.

Butler & Whites With Guinness

1/F, No. 7, Tianzifang, Lane 210... View ListingTaxi Printout

A new British eatery and beer bar tucked in Tian Zi Fang, serving the country's culinary staples (pies, afternoon tea, fish and chips, etc) and Guinness. Plenty of veggie and vegan options, too.


Bldg. 1, 893 Wuding Lu, near Changde Lu View ListingTaxi Printout

Sister brand of the food chain Barbarian, Dreamer serves fusion food in a cosy, dreamy environment. It's a pet-friendly venue with stylish décor, a garden and a pool. Popular orders go to their beef plates, asparagus, and Alaska cake.