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Vargas Grill

Apr 30, 2009
by Oliver Greene

Area: The Vargas Grill is on the third floor of 18 Dongping Lu, upstairs from Azul. There's a lot going on in that little area -- Zapata's, Bulldog, the American Embassy, O'Malley's, South Beauty...

What is it: It's the new restaurant "by Eduardo Vargas". If you don't know, Spanish restaurateur Eduardo Vargas is one of the more well-known public figures in Shanghai (at least among the expats), and is the man behind popular restaurants Casa 13, Azul, and Closed Door. The frequent openings and more infrequent shutterings of his restaurants tend to make great fodder for expat media (this one included), and so expect "everyone" to be saying, "have you tried the new Vargas restaurant" for the next three months.

Here's what it is: Vargas Grill is an unflinching dedication to the art and act of grilling -- everything on the menu is grilled by either one big gas grill or two smaller charcoal grills, even the desserts. The chef is the same from Azul and the menu is very straightforward; steak is the main aspect of their "Soft Opening Menu", and they're slinging imported US and Australian steaks. They've also got non-steak BBQ standards like grilled lamb leg, pork chops, grilled tuna, and spicy Jamaican jerk chicken. An ample list of sides and starters rounds it all off -- things like potato skewers, grilled corn on the cob, grilled vegtables, prok ribs, etc.

It's a very simple and uncomplicated menu they're working with -- a complete 180 turn from the subtly complicated Vietnamese food they were trying with Bam-bou.

Atmosphere: One of Vargas' strong suits is putting together nice looking, romantic environments, and Vargas Grill is in keeping with that. There's a few holdover elements from Bam-bou (like that seating you have to take off your shoes for), but they're also trying to make it look "sexy" with pictures of pin-up models everywhere. Despite the dark woods and all, it looks like a pretty un-American grill house. But I suppose that’s a good thing for most people.

Damage: They're still building on the menu in the coming months when the feedback starts rolling in. As of right now starters are hovering around 50rmb, sides are 30rmb across the board, non-steak mains are 150rmb across the board, and depending on the girth of your steak, look to drop between 250-400rmb (600gm for that one). They've got a big list of wine: by the bottle is 200rmb on up and by the glass is 40rmb on up. Generally speaking, it would be between 500-700rmb per couple.

They've got an opening special on until May 3, which is 30% off the food, but call ahead to reserve.

Whose going: Expat "foodies" by the truckload, I would think. Restaurant reviewers from all of Shanghai's finest publications. Like all the Vargas places, it's good for dates and great for small groups of friends, and it fits right in there as the dinner stop on that full night of going out on the town in Shanghai.

May 2009

3/f, 18 Dongping Lu,
near Hengshan Lu,
upstairs of Azul
Taxi-Printout and Map here

6437 0136; Reservations recommended

Dinner only during soft-opening (Mid-end May)
Mon-Sun from 6pm

Local and international cards accepted

Starters: 45-70rmb
Mains: 120-400rmb
Sides: 30rmb
Desserts: 60rmb
Wines: 200-950rmb
9 Wines by the glass: 40-100rmb
Mixed Drinks: 50rmb
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