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Where We’re Eating: Pony Up, Pho VieThin, Parlay ...

Here's four new places worth checking out this month.
2024-05-24 12:00:00

Pho VieThin

What Is It: Pho VieThin claims to be the first pho brand to go global, with existing locations in Tokyo, Bali and Melbourne, and two more planned for Toronto and Paris. And now Shanghai.

They are a successful family business from Hanoi: the owner's late grandfather started their first pho shop in 1979, and they're still serving the same single dish after nearly fifty years. Who doesn't love a secret family recipe that stands the test of time?

Price Point: Each bowl of pho is 58rmb, with the option to add extra beef for 20rmb and a pasteurized egg yolk for 5rmb.

The Food: Pho VieThin specializes in Northern-style pho, which is very different from the sweeter, Southern-style pho that we're all used to having around here (i.e. Saigon Mama and Pho To Shop). Their stock is simple and delicate, with lots of sliced green onion, lean stir-fried beef, and flat rice noodles. Condiments are fresh lime, chili and pickled garlic, not the usual sriracha and hoisin sauce.

Reviews have so far been a bit mixed on Chinese social media probably because diners aren't used to how plain the stock is, or how lean the beef is. The magic is in the condiments. If you've never tried Northern-style pho before, then it's definitely worth a visit so you can decide for yourself which style you prefer. It's also nice to switch things up once in a while.

Good For: A quick, no-fuss lunch or dinner for small groups, or solo diners.

Pho VieThin - 120 Jinxian Lu. Full listing here.

- Sally Kwok

BB-Q Chicken

What Is It: A premium fried chicken franchise from South Korea, with more than 3500 stores in 57 countries. They have absolutely nothing to do with barbeque - in their world, bb.q stands for "best of the best quality", which we agree with wholeheartedly.

If you're a fan of Korean food you'll know that Koreans are quite serious about Chimaek (치맥), which is the pairing of fried chicken with beer. We're not sure how this came to be, but bb.q is famous for being a cult favourite in South Korea, making cameo appearances in various K-dramas and celebrity variety shows. They offer different flavours of Korean-style fried chicken, draft beer, as well as a small selection of Korean bar food like army stew and spicy rice cakes.

They currently have four locations in Shanghai, with the latest flagship store opening on Yuyuan Lu, next to Crystal Galleria. The other three locations are out around Hongqiao, but they all serve fried chicken the bb.q way – freshly fried to order in a their original olive oil recipe.

Price Point: For starters, the four-piece Golden Original fried chicken is 68rmb, plus a beer for 30rmb comes to around 100rmb per person. After all, this is "premium" fried chicken, so do expect to pay more than KFC.

The Food: By definition, Korean fried chicken tastes lighter than American fried chicken. The skin has a light crispy batter, and the meat is very moist, pre-marinated with spices, chilis, and sugars. bb.q Chicken is also unique in that they fry their chicken in a blend of olive and sunflower oil, which is supposedly healthier according to their marketing. We're not sure if that makes a difference health-wise, but taste-wise, yes, it scores top marks. There is also a good selection of different sauces and seasonings like Honey Garlic, Soy Sauce, and Cheese so you'll be able to enjoy the sheer variety of Korean fried chicken in one seating.

Good For: Korean food-lovers, fried chicken connoisseurs, and casual group dining. Suitable for both a midday snack or a full meal.

bb-q chicken - 58 Yuyuan Dong Lu - Full listing and details here

- Sally Kwok


What Is It: You wouldn't think Shanghai needed another sports bar, but we kinda do. The Camel's gone. Big Bamboo is a bit of a trek. Cages, of course, works for gigantic main events. The Rooster is dependable and always welcoming, that's true, but can get cramped. The Shed still offers Sheddy greatness, of course, but shows too much cricket. (Fight me.)

So. Filling a gap in the market for a nice-sized, approachable, centrally located, cleanly designed patio and sports bar with decent BBQ and pub grub—"elevated" is what they say these days—is Parlay, the new Kanas City-styl-BBQ-and-then-some venue, newly grand open as of last weekend in Shankang Li. They've taken over Bubba's location in the F&B hub.

The food comes from Matty Watters of Smoke KCQ, which you might have previously tried at The Smokehouse or The Hai. The style is Kansas City BBQ, which is sticky sweet sauces, slow-cooks, and features lots of dry rubs. (See: The wings.) And brisket burnt ends. (See: the burger.) That's the heart of the menu, but it spans out into sandwiches, pastas, and salads for a larger audience, not into self-inducing a meat coma.

But more than the BBQ, it's a sports bar with the requisite flatscreen coverage, running multiple sports in reruns. Luminaries of KC sports franchises adorn the walls. Music is ‘90s hip-hop a la Jurassic 5. Pool, darts, and patio are delivered with a cleaner, post-collegiate, man cave-meets-craft brew pub kind of aesthetic. It's nice, is what we're saying. And nicely restrained for the genre. And they've got Golden Tee.

Price Points: Reasonable and right at market average. Burgers are around 60rmb to 80rmb. Entry-level burger, Matty's Smash, is 68rmb. Burnt Ends Burger is 88rmb.

BBQ platters: USDA Beef Brisket is 128rmb for 250 grams, USDA Pork Spare Ribs are 148rmb for 3 pieces. Pit Master Special Wings 48rmb for five. Smoky Adobo and Smokey Buffalo are 58rmb for five. 40rmb Stella and Asahi. 50rmb Goose IPA, 50rmb Boxing Cat Contender, 60rmb Guinness. 45rmb house pours and wine. Budget around 200rmb per person for a meal and drinks.

Favorite Dishes: We've only been the once, so these dishes are our default favorites. Loved the brisket. The dry-rubbed wings are a great intro to the KC style and the burger was as solid as it was cost effective.

Good For: Sports bros. College bros. Entrepreneur bros. Finance bros. Pool bros. Darts bros. ‘90s hip hop bros. Sitting at the bar and dinking a pint bros. Sitting on the patio and drinking a margarita bros. People who like good BBQ bros. And the other bros and women who love them.
America, baby.

Parlay - 808 Shaanxi Bei Lu, inside Shangkang Li - Full listing & details here.

- Morgan Short

Pony Up

What Is It: Pony Up is a new all-day bar on Jinxian Lu serving creative cocktails and small bites – think casual, but elevated. If you're looking for a small-ish, comfortable, unpretentious bar to have an actual conversation without shouting over loud music, add this one to your list.

The founder, Dre was the former head mixologist at The Odd Couple (on the list of Asia's 50 Best Bars) so expect the same level of care and innovation in their drinks menu. They are open every day from 1pm to late, with a slightly different atmosphere from day to night. Afternoon vibes are relatively casual under the open skylight, and evenings feel a bit more classy with warm, ambient lighting.

Price Point: Cocktails are under 100rmb each, with small bites ranging from 35 to 75rmb. The total bill for two comes to around 300-400rmb if you're not overly thirsty.

The Drinks/Food: A small selection of creative cocktails with unexpected ingredients to suit a variety of palates and moods. The Fritzy Fizz (95rmb) is a refreshing vodka-soda with shiso, salted plum, and cucumber, while the Saucy Margarita (95rmb) is a funky mix of tequila, orange jam, pineapple and Worcestershire sauce. Despite a minimal drinks menu, they've managed to include something for everyone.

Their food menu is available throughout the day, including classic bar snacks with an Asian twist. Our favorites were the General Pu's Chicken (55rmb), which is fried chicken drizzled in laoganma chili, Street Corn (35rmb) topped with wasabi-mayo and bonito flakes, and the Patty Melt (¥75), which is a grilled burger toastie made with Hokkaido milk bread. Definitely still on the junk food spectrum but a big step up from bar food à la Cantina Agave/Cages.

Good For: Happy hour after work, an intimate date night, or low-key hangout with friends. Not a rowdy going-out bar persay, but a classy and relaxed spot to catch up over drinks.

Pony Up, 230 Jinxian Lu - Full listing & details here

- Sally Kwok