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[Radar]: Fulton Place

Fulton Place is the casual, fine dining restaurant that's taken over the one-time Indian Kitchen on Yongjia Lu.
Last updated: 2015-11-09
Area: Fulton Place's space used to be this Indian Kitchen. The entire building has been designer-ized and redeveloped as "Surpass Court," which sounds like a card from the Chinese Monopoly's Community Chest. Indian Kitchen's roll landed them on the fourth floor of the building. Art Labor has advanced to a new location here too. There's a calm about this neighborhood -- not many people adding houses and condos. The ambitious Shari is nearby, as is the James Cohan Gallery. Stepping back from the board, that's lower French Concession.

What it is: A modern European restaurant with some British-isms. Fulton Place is the last drop (thus far) in the 2010 wave of smaller, more quality-minded restaurants. The chefs of Avalon, Madison, and Fulton Place are all graduates of New York City's named kitchens. They are all different, of course. Avalon's Hilary Ambrose has gone for the head-to-tail and sous vide stuff, alongside the restaurant's wood-grill concept; Madison has taken up the Local is Best reverence and done a lot to find and incorporate underappreciated ingredients into its new American menu. Fulton Place's Marc Johnson does a bit of both through the lens of casual fine-dining. He cherrypicks local ingredients and grafts them to what I guess you'd call a Mediterranean background -- smoked kampachi with a refined Tuscan bread salad, for instance.

Johnson's past includes a few years at Blue Hill in NYC, which helped kickstart the crafty, local cult, and a while as a sous-chef at Jade on 36 under Paul Pairet. In his own cooking, Johnson leans more towards the former. He does a Pork Plate of various homemade charcuterie (he's been making headcheese and coppa recently), for example. The rest is fine, refined fare. On the opening menu, there's a Parisian gnocchi with chicken, peas, and carrots; a veal chop with crushed potatoes, Swiss chard, lardo, and soubise; and a gingered watermelon with mint granita and homemade yogurt. Click here, here, and here to see the full opening menu. (It's set to change soon enough.) Johnson's cooking isn't flashy; it's in the details. His chicken and veal dishes might even fall into the "meat and two veg" category.

Atmosphere: The decor leans Contemporary Grandmother, I'd say -- the wallpaper print viewed from afar, the glass vitrines of family memorabilia, the wooden dressers. Maybe you'd just call those "British." To be fair, it's a bit more stylish than Grandma. The floors are unpolished concrete and the ceiling is exposed. That wallpaper is a clever print of girls dancing on cheese, a man having dinner with a sheep in a Victorian dress, and things like that. Witty.

The other British-isms are in the dressers, the cold cucumber soup, and the owner, Nat Alexander.

Britain has been a gastronomic punchline for a long time, but in the last decade or two, they've really come into their own. London is now full of forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are serving more than Yorkshire pudding and standing roasts, to say the least. Alexander is a pretty good representative of England's newly sophisticated, food-savvy entrepreneurs.

Physically, the space is broken up into two sections by the glass vitrines. It's still early days for Fulton Place and they're keeping things quiet while they slowly put the finishing touches on the decor. There's also an outdoor terrace, but that's not happening until September or October.

There is not even the faint smell of cumin left from the Indian Kitchen, if you're wondering.

Damage: It's not Park Lane, but it is, you know, around the back of the Monopoly board. Dinner at Fulton is in the 350-450rmb per person range. Bear in mind that for the moment it's cash only and the neighborhood doesn't have much in the way of ATMs.

Who's going: Creative types with high-paying jobs, corporate adventurers, and neighbors who want something a bit more sophisticated than noodles.