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Where We’re Eating and Drinking: Junn Izakaya, So Mezze, Club Roza

Dinner, dancing, and brunch the next day at these three new venues…
2023-03-31 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.

Here's this week's newness out there in Shanghai F&B. A fair bit of variety, which is, of course, the spice of life. Mr. Willis returns with the casual and traditional Junn Izakaya; Pasha brings mezze cuisine to ShangkangLi in the form of So Mezze; and basement club Club Roza keeps it locked on the disco of yesteryear.

Junn Izakaya

The latest piece of the puzzle for the Mr. Willis & Mi Group, Junn Izakaya assumes the space of Agnes, also from the same team, at the street fashion photography center of Shanghai at the ground floor of the Wukang Market. It's an understated and calming atmosphere, quieter and maybe more refined than your typical bustling izakaya restaurant. It's casual. It's mature. Lots of diverse seating — up front, close and personal, to watch them slice up sushi and sashimi with expensive and sharp knives, more private group and couples tables.

They're open with lunch set specials and dinner, with straightforward Izakaya cuisine. There's no experimentation going on, rather a motivation to capture the authentic flavors of the classic dish in question.

The menu opens with sashimi and hand rolls before moving into expensive and lux grilled meats, extensive yakitori (grilled chicken) offerings, grilled seafood and vegetable sections. There's an eye to dry aged beef —M3, M5, M7 Black Angus cuts represented. Lots of selection of chicken cuts in their yakitori — try the chicken leg with leek and the chicken meatball. We had a proper big Ming shrimp from the seafood. All-in, the menu offers straightforward classics with options to splurge out on pricier treats for deeper pockets.

Sake is represented in rich and dry categories, with sections in shochu and Japanese whiskey On the cocktails side of things, the theme is Japanese style serenity: get the Sake Sakura. Damage around 250rmb per person for simple snacks and drinks, on into 500rmb or so if you're tagging on the big ticket dishes.

It's all in the name itself "Junn", which means "genuine". If you're looking for a classic, traditional Izakaya meal in a calmer setting, it's one to seek out.

So Mezze

From the makers of popular Turkish mainstay, Pasha comes a new Mediterranean-influenced concept So Mezze in dining and drinking hotspot Shangkang Li. It's right at that busy little corner with Gin&Juice, Tap House, Homeslice, and Azul.

Mezze is a style of dining popular in the Mediterranean and Middle East similar to Spanish tapas: smaller plates, finger foods, hot and cold dishes, vegetables, meats, dips, and breads organized into a nice spread meal. At So Mezze, expect flavors wrested from Turkish, Greek, and Middle Eastern origins — hummus, pastirma, kavurma, kisser, black olives, lots of grilled veggies and seafood, carpaccio, beef tartar, and more, into the gargantuan Turkish grilled meat mains that Pasha is know for.

So they're offering food for all levels of hunger — small salads, dips, and snacks into meals after which you don't need to eat again for several days after. Pro tip: Don't miss out on the Tomahawk Burger. Trust us on this. It's real good. Ideally, you would go try that out on a Thursday because if you get a burger on that day you get a free beer or house wine as well.

Signature and classic cocktails, and a nice wine list round out the offerings. They've also got a deli at the front for take-out salads, meats, and mezze. Chill vibes, disco and house on the stereo, and the impression that the crowd is getting dinner here before heading off clubbing complete the vibe. It's casual and mid-range. Damage is a couple of hundred for a meal and drinks.

Nice patio and a huge brunch menu will have us coming back to try it on a weekend.

Club Roza

The latest incarnation of that basement spot at Pingwu and Xingfu Lu is Club Roza, a chill, cozy, and approachable little disco club. They're scratching that itch for straight-up classic disco music that other venues kinda play around in but never dedicate themselves fully to it. The venue itself, its reputation precedes it. This was LOgO bar for a hot minute, then it was Celia for a decent run, then it was Amber, and now it's Roza. Maybe the place has grown up with the city itself because it's definitely chiller and more mature in itself maybe.

And the party stops at around 4am instead of 11am.

Roza has already been open for a stretch — Grand Opening was a few weekends ago with The Bull and guests — but we only just now got down to see it. DJ booth and the VIP tables made the move over from the Celia days but the bar has been simplified, moved to the other wall and is now right at the dance floor — which also has square lights built into it now, maybe checking Saturday Night Fever a bit. Red lasers light up the ‘80s-ish disco accoutrements throughout: disco balls everywhere, neon seating, and shimmering silver curtains. A Bill Bernstein photograph of Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levin is on the wall, testifying to the pedigree of the place, which is classic New York disco.

Nothing "nu" here and that's righteous.

Drinks are straight forward. Classic cocktails and bottles to order. We tried out a No Money No Honey, a Whiskey Sour, and a Negroni, which were great and more importantly, delivered quickly. Prices are 40rmb shots, 80rmb cocktails; bottles from 188rmb; and 40rmb Asahi.

Events-wise, they're open Wednesday to Saturday. Thursday is their Ladies Night (free-flow on selected cocktails for ladies from 9pm-10:30pm). Generally, Friday is classic disco and Saturday it's disco on into house music terrain. One to check out if you're a disco fan for sure or just looking for a fun, approachable dance floor to spend your night out on.