The marquee restaurant from the Shanghai Bellagio, Lago is modern Italian fine dining from acclaimed Spanish chef Julian Serrano, celebrated for putting traditional Continental cuisine through his own idiosyncratic, bubbly, molecular prism. It's very much the sister restaurant to the one in Las Vegas and utilizes a similar pastels-and-plush color scheme. Sort of art deco-y light fixtures. Sort of '70s California. Sort of '90s New York. It's lounge-y. It's got an entry corridor that looks wrested from a nightclub, and a terrace overlooking the Suzhou Creek. The food is excellent. "Small Plates. Bold Flavors." is the tagline. A two-page menu featuring mod'ed out Italian staples -- Pastas, Risottos, Antipasto, Seafood, Mains, Crostino Bar, and Pizzas -- taken as starting points for the chef's original compositions, all deployed as sharable dishes, tapas style.
It had been an impossibly busy few weeks, and my friend dragged me out of work on time one Wednesday for dinner. Normally, when things get stressful at work, all I want to do is shovel down noodles in front of my laptop screen. It turns out that, actually, going to Lago after work is a brilliant way to unwind.
Firstly, it’s really quiet on weeknights. You can sit anywhere! We got a prime table with a view of the Bund and, because we hadn’t waited until a more normal dinner time, we were there for sunset and the illuminations. Service is always great (apparently all staff are given three months’ training), but there was a particularly conspicuous surplus of shirted servers at 5:30pm on a Wednesday.
It’s also good for drinks. If you arrive before the restaurant has actually opened, you’re basically obliged to get a cocktail at the downstairs bar. Great for oligarch-spotting, and the alcohol also takes off the slight edge of frustration when they don’t have any of the listed wines you order upstairs.
You can also take your time with the food, which you’ll definitely want to do. We ordered four starters, two mains and two desserts to share. The wagyu carpaccio and aged ham came first, along with a little bread basket and a lovely tomato spread. We had the burrata next – decadently creamy with a puddle of raspberry sauce – and finally the octopus. Mains were fairly small, which was a relief. The truffle risotto is very truffley. The ravioli is very pretty.
Desserts are pretty, too, although perhaps a little nebulously plated. Excellent macarons, in particular. In total, we paid just over 2000rmb for two people, including two very expensive glasses of wine.
Lago is a very refined option for a blow-out meal, with great views and excellent service. The Italian menu is all well-made and plated to perfection. Good venue for impressing dates, clients or out-of-towners.
There are over 350 restaurants in Shanghai serving up Italian food and taking a line from Michael Caine…. "Not many people know that."
Some have Michelin stars, some even have celebrity chefs’ names over the door, that though is where it ends in my opinion, a name over the door. Slight oxymoron here with my recent encounter at Lago, which is touted as modern Italian fine dining from acclaimed Spanish chef Julian Serrano "Small Plates. Bold Flavours." is the tagline.
Well, I am sorry to say, taglines are one thing, snapping of the dishes and the presentation thereof is another, but overall don’t forget to season the damn food, for the majority if not all of the dishes lacked depth and adequate seasoning, some covered with dollops of a heavy sauce.
Before we get to the actual dishes, lets speak about the 23 pages of wines offered, or in this case not, the plan was to start with a couple of bottles of white wine, something affordable as prices were and are astronomical, with ridiculous markups, after the 10th white wine from the listing being unavailable, tells us what you do have and bring two bottles, this went back and forth for some 15 minutes or more, in the end we settled for Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC 2017 at 658RMB a bottle, palatable but not outstanding I would say.
With some understanding of the menu and style of service, we opted for the following dishes which were shared.
Vitello Tonnato: supposedly veal loin with tuna dressing and capers, not seen veal as dark as this before, along with smidgens of tuna dressing, and a couple of white anchovies.
Tuna Tartare: on this dish, there were small spherical balls of gazpacho, “redesigned” to taste better than the real thing. This is a technique invented by Chef Adrià of El Bulli, a classic and often used as an example of spherification where a liquid is shaped into a sphere, causing it to burst in the mouth. These balls were difficult to pick up, perhaps a little more thought in the presentation, and execution. The Tuna meat was quite dark, overall lacked adequate seasoning, oh and a little liquid run off?
Risotto Frutti Di Mare Scallops, Clams, Squid and Prawns: The texture of the rice, grains should be cooked al dente, with just the right amount of chew when you bite into them, sadly this was not the case, and served in a soup plate rather than the traditional way of serving Risotto which is generally a flat plate, again needed just a little oompf here to bring out all the flavours.
Ravioli Ripieni di Manzo Stufato: Handmade pasta stuffed with a short rib of beef and mushrooms, for me this was the highlight of the meal, all the ingredients came together here, well balanced and seasoned.
Branzino Livornese: aka grilled Seabass served with a tomato, onion, caper and black olive sauce, or in this instance more like a spoonful of thick tomato concasse, not what I had in mind.
Grilled Asparagus….Well it’s asparagus you can’t go wrong here.
Whipped mashed potato aka creamy spuds, containing the ever-ubiquitous amounts of truffle that one finds in Shanghai of late.
The setting on the terrace is superb, one could not ask for better with the backdrop of the bright lights of the Bund and skyline of Pudong on this balmy September evening, the service was friendly and efficient, music a little loud, and had to ask to have this turned down a notch, the evening whilst lovely to catch up with friends, overall let down by the inconsistency in the dishes served, and frankly speaking would have expected better from this celebrity restaurant.
Dishes are not outrageously priced, but then again versus taste is a little disappointing I would say.
Price per person 870RMB
Whilst one has to rate in terms of full stars, a pity one can’t give half a star here, I would say no more than 2.5 based upon the food.
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