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  • Atmosphere: It's a spacious cafe, with variants of table sizes throughout.  Good for catching up with friends, business discussins, or working on the next great screenplay, it meets all your cafe needs.  There’s even an open kitchen with six soufflé ovens so you can watch the magic happen.

    Food: Cafe overload.  These days, seems as if on every corner of Shanghai a cafe is opening up.  It’s always a treat, however, to see a cafe that’s not a Starbucks or Baker & Spice.  That’s why I was intrigued to visit Caffaina, a newly opened, spacious cafe near Hanzhong Road metro station.

    Pre-made sandwiches and pastries greet you as you make your way to the register.   There’s no doubt that the specialty of this cafe are soufflés, though, as pictures and plastic replicas bombard you from different directions.  

    On my visit, I ordered a flat white, smoked chicken panini, and the classic soufflé.  You could spend a good fifteen minutes just deciding between the eight varieties of soufflés (from classic, to sesame and even blueberry) but seeing that this was my first visit, I had to go with the classic. 

    The flat white is pricey, coming in at 39 RMB.  It’s too light for my preference.  However, they have a huge selection of coffees to choose from, so it’s worth another shot.  The smoked chicken panini lacks any exciting flavors.  No smokiness in the chicken, a piece of lettuce that seems to have lost its way, and a slice of cheese that doesn’t bother contributing.

    But then there’s the soufflé.  Each soufflé takes twenty minutes to make.   The wait is absolutely worth it.  It’s just as a soufflé should be:  delicate, fluffy, creamy, with just a hint of sweetness.  The edge of the crust just crunchy enough to provide a balancing mouthfeel.  A side scoop of vanilla ice cream and two sugar cookies accompany the dish, but the star here is the soufflé.  They even thoughtfully provide instructions on how to eat the soufflé in case it’s your first go around.  If the classic is this good, it begs to wonder how the other seven compare.

    I doubt Caffeine will make a dent in Starbucks’ or Baker & Spice’s domination, but it’s a pleasant deviation nonetheless, if only for the soufflé.  Skip everything but the soufflé.  You want this soufflé.  You need this soufflé.  Simply put, Caffaina is an unexceptional cafe with one exceptional dish.

    Service: The service staff are very friendly and deliver food with a smile.

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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.