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  • On the first visit to this chill izakaya on Xianxia Lu, we had to wait twenty minutes for a seat by the bar, so the waitress apologised and offered the first round of drinks on the house. How often does that happen in Shanghai? The beef and onion skewers, chicken skin salad, and tofu were so good that I came back three weeks later on a Monday at 6pm and luckily got the last table.

    Toriyasu in Zhongshan Park – the place with the little door – is my go-to for yakitori, and for good reason. Niao Jun isn't better than that classic spot, but it's on the same level and has some different options, like a giant tuna jaw that takes two people fifteen minutes to pick apart; a plate of gyoza buried in a sheet of paper-thin dumpling skin; a sausage "on the bone"; and a highball-machine with six flavors and giant ice balls (yes, cassis is there and it's perfect). All of those are must-orders, as are the chicken kebabs topped with shredded perilla, grilled squid, the chicken-skin salad (available crispy or not crispy), and absolutely the beef and onion kebabs.

    The food is just one part of this spot's appeal – the servers are fun, the details like a Totoro in the booth and plants in the bathroom add life and color, and even the angles on the security camera feed look like an art film. Music? No. Wild Japanese TV shows? Yes.

    If you're into Japanese food / highballs / BBQ / memorable restaurants away from the usual, check this out. It's about a 15-minute walk from the Shuicheng Lu metro station, slightly off Xianxia Lu near the gates to a xiaoqu. Call ahead, and look for the lanterns.

     

    ***

     

    Basically: Excellent little izakaya / yakitori spot just off Xianxia Lu that stands out among all the other Japanese restaurants on that strip. Great food, drinks, and service plus colorful decor. Recommended dishes: beef and onion skewers, the bbq and rice bowl, chicken and perilla skewers, chicken skin salad, gyoza, tuna jaw, squid, and tofu. Avg. 150-200rmb per person. Reservations recommended.

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SMARTREVIEWS

SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.

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