half_sushi on No. 22, Lane 181 Taicang Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu 6386 0140 GREEN & SAFE (Xintiandi) Price per Person: 300 Rmb
Atmosphere: Tucked away in a corner of the Xintiandi strip, Green & Safe gives the appearance of a quaint farm to table restaurant with outdoor seating and a small first floor space. Nonetheless, if you ask for The Bunker, its version of a speakeasy, or find your way down the corridor and up the stairs to the second floor, you will find much more.
The ambience and decor are akin to its fare, New American & simple minimalism. The farm to table or farm to fork craze that took the States by storm is alive and well in this restaurant with this theme as the focal point. Guests will feel welcomed and the prices won’t scare diners away, even though they are situated in the middle of Xintiandi.
Food: The menu is diverse from different selections of steaks, pasta, pizza & all day brunch to Thai dishes like green curry & pork krapaw to Spanish Paella Valenciana.
Using a word from its namesake, Green + Safe is exactly that: it is a safe option to take out of town guests to. There are definitely better, although a little more expensive options along the Xintiandi strip. The porcini mushroom pizza with black truffle that we ordered (98 rmb) and the thai beef salad (68 rmb) are worth another order at best, although you will definitely have had better elsewhere in the city (of course, Mercato's truffle pizza is on a completely different stratosphere). My girlfriend ordered the holiday special with friends. Nothing particularly stood out as eclectic and newsworthy, both good or bad. Thus, it is evident why this will remain your safe option if all else fails. With a menu big enough for the entire table, this restaurant will cater to expats and locals alike.
Service: Besides a decent wait and a couple drinks at the Bunker until the entire table was ready, the service was attentive and prompt. Green & Safe is certainly in a competitive area of Xintiandi real estate, but guests will definitely keep coming back for the value & variety.
half_sushi on Infinitus Mall, 3/F, W08-10, 168 Hubin Lu, near Jinan Lu 6259 8671 Tomatito Price per Person: 300 Rmb
Atmosphere: Tucked away on the third floor of the Infinitus Mall next to Gaden, Tomatito definitely lives up to the self-proclaimed notion of a "sexy tapas bar." With locations in Manila & Saigon as well, it is easy to see how the El Willy Group concept would fit in with the Xintiandi crowd. The decor is bright, colorful, and has flair. The ambience of Tomatito is simple, yet sophisticated for the mall location and it certainly shows in their food & drinks.
Food: Since it was around early evening, we decided on a few tapas to pair with our drinks and we were quite lucky as each dish was on point & would recommend a try. The Croquetas de Ibercios were savory and the balance of textures is what you would expect from a deep-fried delicacy. The tartar de arun in crispy wonton skin was simple and a fresh contrast to the richer tapas. Lastly and without a doubt, the consensus favorite at the table was the cuttlefish. Even our out-of-town guest from San Francisco agreed that the cuttlefish with the citrus and savory components rivaled the seafood of the Bay Area. All in all, the food certainly shines at Tomatito and it is evident why patrons find their way to an obscure corner location on the third floor of a mall.
Service: This is where I was reluctant to give the full 5-stars. The food and drink were great, the atmosphere was lively enough to entertain, yet something was missing in the service. As mentioned in other reviews and in previously working in the industry, there is something to be said about the fundamental points of service. Timing & flow have a lot to do with the experience and just hoped for a quality of service that matched the food. Nonetheless, will be back for a complete dinner as the paella looked good when it passed us when we were on our way out the door.
Living in this city of constant change, we often opt for the novelty of convenience over preservation of the past. The grandeur of bigger & brighter is sometimes interpreted as better and Shanghai is no stranger to this notion. We have all seen how iconic mainstays here are not immune to a simple refresh or even complete closure. Thus as its noisy neighbors on Fumin Lu come and go, it is gratifying to see the doors of Guyi remain resolute.
The ambiance of Guyi and your first impression of the place won’t be classic, “old-school” Chinese: there are no wooden or plastic stools and no shouting whatsoever. The white-tablecloths speak sophistication and the bright lights from the chandeliers will make your forehead glisten after indulging in one of Shanghai’s best tributes to Hunan cuisine. The space & the spice are elevated and so should be your expectations of the experience.
As for the food, Guyi will always be in the conservation for the best cumin rib in the city, but in terms of fish head in Shanghai, there is no debate. The green and red chili fish head is definitely one of the best I’ve had in China—almost reminiscent of the times when working in Iron Chef Morimoto and the sushi chefs would broil the bluefin tuna head for meal after closing. You have to be a fan of gelatinous goodness and would highly recommend taking the plunge if you haven’t already. Many chefs attest to the heads being the best part of the animal and fish is certainly no exception.
Nonetheless, as the cumin-crusted ribs and the fish head are what you go for, the whole chili prawns on a skewer and frog steamed in bamboo are adequate compliments to the main event. I would probably skip the wok-served shortribs next time as there is better out there and you’ll need to order a vegetable for the table to add a break & balance to the fiery protein dishes.
Guyi does its part to remain relevant in the transient trends of the Shanghai scene. It will always be a great place for dining with out-of-town guests and provides an intimate, honest look into Hunan mainstays. Your friends and family will have to be appreciative & tolerant of the spicy nature of the cuisine— but if they are, they will be pleasantly rewarded. In this city, it is often difficult to find original places of the past. Sometimes, bigger & brighter is not synonymous with better as when a restaurant like Guyi is just simply this good.
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.