Goga's just on the edge of Shanghai's Bermuda Triangle, a three-sided patch of park at the intersection of Dongping Lu, Yueyang Lu, and Fenyang Lu. MAO
is down the street one way, Dragon Club
is across the park in the other direction. Together, the two turn the green triangle into a vortex that disappears weekends and scrambles the instruments of sobriety. It's a scene.
Goga is on the fringe of that. It occupies a red-tiled corner next to Latitude and across Yueyang Lu from a used and abused Lawson's. Goga is above all of this nightlife nonsense, of course, though it's right in the middle of it. Abbey Road
, The Camel
, and The Beaver
are close neighbors. La Creperie
, and O'Malley's
are within shouting distance. There's all manner of other things in this area. When Goga opens at 5.30pm, the street still has the innocuous calm that the nearby music conservatory bestows upon it.
What it is:
Shanghai veteran chef Brad Turley playing host, cooking Cali-Asian food, and wearing a Hawaiian print shirt. Turley has been around the Shanghai chef's block. Let's refresh: American guy, opened New Heights
, picked up badges from the dearly departed 239 and Maneo, fashioned Maya
, and then split for a break in the States. Now that he's back, he's his own man, and this is his own restaurant. He's gone small and personal, as every chef wants to.
He's taken his San Fran background (GO-lden GA-te), his career layover in Hawaii (with Roy Yamaguchi), and his decade in Asia (Vietnam, Shanghai), and turned them into twenty-odd seats and about as many dishes. His wife works there most nights, too. He won the Chili Cook-Off a few years back. When he's off, he likes to yakitori. Why do you need to know all this?
Because the place is small and it's Brad. If/when you go, it's gonna be you, a server, and him. He's friendly, chatty. He knows a lot of people, and if he doesn't know you, he probably will by the end of the night. More than a few tables come in and strike up a conversation like this:
Brad: "Hey guys, how's it going? What do you feel like eating?"
Table: "Oh, good, man. Good to see you in your own place. I remember your food at [239; Maneo; New Heights; Maya]. I don't know, you do whatever."
Brad: "Ok. Anything you don't eat? How hungry are you?"
And then it starts raining food. Turley generally cooks with big, bold California flavors. That's Asian, and not. So, you might end up with uni & avocado with lemon oil, on grilled toast; a 'Mission District'-style shrimp cocktail with chipotle; shichimi torched tuna poke; a slightly cooked snapper 'sashimi' with truffle oil, white soy, and yuzu; or maybe a truffled summer squash salad with toasted almond. And then a miso-glazed cod; a big ol' grilled steak with duck fat potatoes and candied bacon; or a teriyaki salmon. It's sort of '90s in style, but still tasty.
Space is at a premium, so desserts are capped at chocolate mousse or cheese.
Intimate. Casual. Intimate.
The kitchen is everything you see behind the bar. Click on the second picture above. That's Turley. He's standing in his kitchen.
There's just a handful of tables, and six or so seats at the counter. The counter seats are tight, but good if you like to romanticize cooking and see the nitty-gritty details. Decor-wise, there's a stone fish relief and some blue tile, but otherwise it's a fairly simple and clean space. That's half of Goga. The other half is a rooftop terrace that overlooks Yueyang Lu. You can eat up there, too.
The entrance isn't immediately obvious from the street. It's through a back door.
Three or four hundred per person, maybe with a bit of wine or a bit of one of Goga's premium spirits. If you order a draft Vedett, Turley might be pouring that for you, too. The menu is set up to share, so a lot of the dishes come in half or full portions. They arrive to the table accordingly. Keep in mind that Goga is still in the protracted soft opening phase -- no credit cards and no fapiao yet.
It's a twenties and thirties professional crowd, mostly. Goga's not the right venue for a quiet date -- unless you sit at the counter and let Turley fill in the gaps of your conversation -- so it's mostly tables of friends. But, again, it's small. Don't show up here with eight people and expect to get seated quickly, or at all. Reservations are mandatory. Try sitting at the counter.