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[Radar]: Table No. 1

Table No. 1 is a casual mod-Euro restaurant. It's the first post-Gordon-Ramsay project from Jason Atherton, a London chef who just split from nine years with Ramsay's restaurant group. Atherton developed Maze and Maze Grill for Ramsay, opened a few int'l off-shoots, and has now gone on to do his own thing. Looks like The Waterhouse did a pretty good job in convincing him his first move should be Shanghai. Why? Don't ask that. Just be thankful. Table No. 1 is basically Maze, for Shanghai. Atherton is not cooking here on a daily basis, of course, but he's installed Scott Melvin, who was in charge of the day-to-day at the kitchens of Maze and Maze Grill. Melvin comes flanked w
2010-05-25 12:05:00
Area: Table No. 1 is at The Waterhouse, a 19-room boutique hotel on the south Bund. In the area.... Well, there's Stiller's, Mythos, Kebabs on the Grille, D2, Shanghai Tattoo, and then a whole load of third-rate businesses that have sprung up to populate The Cool Docks. Maojiayuan Lu forms the northern border of that development; Table No. 1's floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows face it.

Perhaps in five years time, the south Bund will be just as mildly annoying to trek down to as the bund Bund, but, for now, it still feels like a hike.

The Puxi-side of the Expo isn't too far away. The Huangpu river is at their door.

What it is: A casual mod-Euro restaurant. It's the first post-Gordon-Ramsay project from Jason Atherton, a London chef who just split from nine years with Ramsay's restaurant group. Atherton developed Maze and Maze Grill for Ramsay, opened a few int'l off-shoots, and has now gone on to do his own thing. Looks like The Waterhouse did a pretty good job in convincing him his first move should be Shanghai. Why? Don't ask that. Just be thankful. Table No. 1 is basically Maze, for Shanghai.

Atherton is not cooking here on a daily basis, of course, but he's installed Scott Melvin, who was in charge of the day-to-day at the kitchens of Maze and Maze Grill. Melvin comes flanked with a former Maze pastry chef, and another as-yet-identified Maze and Maze Grill alumnus. They've hit the ground running. If Table No. 1 was downtown, you wouldn't be able to get a seat. As it is, last Tuesday, the dining room was about 75% full.

On to the concept. PR is it calling it 'social dining' and 'gastro pub'. The first moniker means that there are four long tables jammed into the dining room, fringed by tables of two, and menu broken into smaller plates. If you come with three or more, you're going to be rubbing elbows with strangers, eavesdropping on their conversations (and they on yours), eyeing what they've ordered, and either chafing at your lack of privacy or being social. (If you take a table for two, you might spend the evening pitched to the side, trying to talk around a very annoying spotlight hung at exactly face level.)

The second moniker is misleading. This is not a gastro-pub, despite its casual airs. It's modern European food, in portions small enough to share. Very good modern European food. On Tuesday, a friend and I went through:

The Sharing Snacks -- marinated olives, brandade stuffed into peppers, crispy root vegetable chips, vinegar foam, pork rillettes, and taramasalata

Local white crab, avocado, and sweet corn sorbet

Tuna tar-tar, avocado, sesame

Razor clams, chorizo, coriander, and chili

Caramelized scallop, caper puree, cauliflower "ras el hanout"
(a caper-raisin-cauliflower nod, perhaps, to JG's signature scallop dish up the road)

Pigs head, neck, and cheek; braised, celeriac puree, peas and broad beans

Beijing duck, baby celery, chrysanthemum greens, and cherry sauce

Sole, cuttle-fish, ink, organic rice, garlic grass, parsley, garlic

Braised bamboo shoots, wild mushrooms, cao tou

Asparagus, soft poached quail egg, burnt butter, cream

Heritage tomato, basil salad

Bitter chocolate ganache, brioche, chocolate bubbles

Mango and rose tea trifle, lychee granite


It was enough for four. A few of these dishes come from Atherton's Maze playbook. No one's complaining.

The plump razor clams, the "tongue 'n cheek" pig's head dish, and the light, bitter chocolate ganache with brioche croutons fried in butter were personal highlights, but it seems hard to order wrong from this menu.

You can see the whole menu here (Snack Plates, Small Plates) and here (Meat & Fish Plates, Vegetable, and Dessert Plates).

Atmosphere: Spare, plain, uncomplicated. The restaurant is a box with plate glass on two sides; one overlooks the street, one overlooks a minimalist interior courtyard. The floor is grey Shanghai brick; the ceiling looks like polished wood flooring. The four unfinished wood communal tables march down the center of the room, like a mess hall. Ladder-like black steel climbs the raw concrete supports. Everything else is white. It's industrial cafeteria meets art gallery, with fancy chairs. The effect underplays expectations; it's a good backdrop to the food.

The boutique hotel, whose lobby you pass you step through to get to the restaurant, is urban-decay chic. Broken tiles expose brick, scuffed concrete, jagged edges, and artful rust. It's a half-demolished lanehouse, family shunted out to Songjiang, whose walls have scrubbed over and whose residents have been replaced with a doorman, a check-in counter, a chandelier, and a lot of glass. Boutique urban renewal.

Damage: Three to four hundred per person, depending on your configuration of Snack Plates, Small Plates, Meat & Fish Plates, Vegetable, and Dessert Plates. You could get out for less. With two exceptions, everything on the food menu is under 118rmb. The wine list, divided by country and region, is extensive, but starts around 400rmb.

Who's going: So far, it seems like architects, designers, and creative industries people with disposable income, mostly in large groups.

TELL EVERYONE