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[Radar]: Liquid Laundry

Softly opened just yesterday. Kelley Lee and the team behind Boxing Cat have a new brewery and gastro-pub concept. Two words: "Face Bacon"
2014-04-29 16:35:58
Area: The K. Wah Center. That's at the corner of Donghu and Huaihai. It's home to a couple of other popular haunts like this one and this one. Up the street is Elefante, Sichuan Citizen and several unremarkable Japanese restaurants.

What it is: A new brewery and gastro-pub concept from the team behind Boxing Cat Brewery.

Partner Kelley Lee (also known for her work in such popular restaurants as Cantina Agave, Sproutworks) and chef Sean Jorgensen (previously of Maya, The Apartment) have collaborated to create quite a broad menu. The Mediterranean figures prominently. You see it in dishes like their roasted eggplant dip with harissa or their grilled romaine salad with bagna cauda, a dressing made with garlic, anchovies, olive oil and butter. They do wood-fire oven pizzas with everything from locally-made sololatte stracciatella cheese to homemade merguez, a spicy North African lamb sausage. They're dabbling with flavors from the American South and Southwest, as well, like stewed black-eyed peas with Hunan bacon or guajillo and bacon corn bread with maple butter. None of that Mrs. Butterworth's shit either. They use real maple syrup.

Wherever possible, they're doing things from scratch. And thanks to a ginormous kitchen, quite a bit is possible. Most notably, Jorgensen is doing homemade charcuterie like chorizo, the aforementioned merguez, duck prosciutto and bacon. They even have a daily sausage selection as an appetizer. What's perhaps most impressive, though, is the "Hannibal Lecter Special" made with "face bacon". I'll let you ask about that yourself.

They've also fitted the new digs with a fully-functioning brewery — they previously brewed beers off-site out in Minhang — and Brewmaster Michael Jordan is implementing is bringing on several new brews exclusively for Liquid Laundry. They've got names like Miami Weiss (see what he did there?) and Tripel Threat, a Belgian-inspired high-gravity beer infused with ginger and Sichuan peppercorn. It is delicious. More are on the way in the coming weeks, too. In addition to their own beers, they've got some exclusive inventory from international craft brewers like Nøgne Ø.

Atmosphere: It's nothing like Boxing Cat, for starters. Where the Cat feels a bit like a man cave, Liquid Laundry feels more urbane with a subtle feminine edge. They're going for that whole stripped-down, eclectic post-industrial look that seems to be taking the city by storm these past few years — lots of hard surfaces, exposed duct work and floor-to-ceiling windows. Ceramic tile plays prominently, with a mish-mash of mosaic patterns on the floor and glazed rectangles on the walls. Furnishings are barebones wood and metal. A row of stainless steel fermentation tanks glow behind glass. The place is huge, too, seating well over 200. Nevertheless, it's a spacious layout. There is enough room to stretch out and be comfortable.

Damage: House-made charcuterie are anywhere between 48 and 98rmb. Starters are 38rmb to 128rmb. Salads range between 58 and 98. Roasts are 118 for porchetta or 128–228 for rotisserie chicken. Sides are 40. Desserts are 58 and 68. Beers are comparable to what you'd pay at Boxing Cat, 40rmb. That price drops down to 30 between 5 and 7pm for happy hour.

Who's Going: So far, lots of industry folks either there to wish well or see what they're up against.