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.
Tomatito recently moved to a new location at the Infinitus Mall, Xintiandi. Your first reaction might be to decry the ongoing gentrification of Shanghai and the seemingly relentless migration of all manner of bars and restaurants to giant malls that all look the same, but this location could actually be an improvement for Tomatito.
The space inside is decorated nicely (the framed Spanish movie posters are a nice touch) and dimly lit at night time making it a good idea for date night. This is not fine dining however, and the atmosphere is still fun. When I arrived there were a couple of large groups enjoying their meals boisterously which I'd expect and enjoy in a tapas restaurant. The biggest change is the new outdoor terrace which gives you the option of enjoying your meal in the last of the autumn sun. There are also heaters which will be needed in the coming months and can be switched on at night time if you still want to sit out (they can pull the shutters closed to keep out the breeze if it is too cold).
The food is as as good as I remembered. Our first snack was the Salmon TNT which was also maybe my favourite. The clue is in the name here as this snack will explode with a spicy cream filling once you bite into it. The flavours are delicious and are made all the better by the combination of textures. I loved the crispy shell casing combinging with the salmon and cream filling. I recommend eating it all in one bite.
Next we had the Filete con airbag. These are little, slender steak and cheese "airbaguettes". Once again, the fun name describes it well. The airbaguettes are light and airy with just enough cheese filling and topped with a tasty thin slice of steak. Another excellent starter which just left us wanting more.
Our final starter was the Foie Gras a la plancha y explosion d chili y naranja (seared foie graw, orange and smoked chili explosion). Maybe I had ordered one explosion too many but the orange and smoked chili filling here felt a little bit overpowering with an overly citrusy blast and I couldn't taste much of of the foie gras.
For our first main dish we ordered the Pulpo de Gallega (Atlantic octopus, smoked potato and paprika sauce). This was impressive. The octopus was chewy without being overcooked and the potatoes were just perfect, with a nice cheesy topping. Having never eaten octopus and potatoes together I was surprised how well it all worked together.
Our last main dish was the Paella Valencianna. This is a Valencian style chicken paella with broadbeans and rosemary. The paella was tasty and the rosemary made it quite fragrant, but overall it was a little bit dry for me. I have had the seafood paella here before and would recommend it instead.
We finished the meal with two deserts - Tatin de manzana and Profiteroles. The Tatin de manzana ,which is an apple and almond tart with homemade ice cream, was very good. The ice cream was very tasty and goes well with tart. The profiteroles were also well made, sugary and delicious. After all this we needed an espresso which finished off the meal nicely.
Overall the meal was excellent. The new space may have lost a little bit of the homely feel of the previous location but it has improved in other ways, especially with the new terrace and sleek design. Overall the meal cost 890 for five dishes plus two deserts, a bottle of white wine (also good, and decent value at just over 200) and a couple of espressos.
When El Willy opened way back when, it was almost universally praised by the expat community as one of the best western options in the city. I think it was one of the first western restaurants that was just plain good without the qualifier “good for Shanghai.”
The new Tomatito is like the grandchild of this tradition. It’s that rare restaurant that has such a unique character down to the details that you could probably guess where you were just by looking at the plates.
There aren’t many traditional dishes here. It seemed like everything on the menu is “Sexy!” and all the flavors are described “Explosions!” While I still don’t really understand what makes a tapa sexy, everything we ordered tasted really good and nothing went unfinished.
I really liked the air baguettes which is basically cheese inside a mini crunchy baguette that’s then wrapped in beef. The other favorite was the beef cheek and mushroom cannelloni with truffle. It was super rich and flavorful. I’m not sure if having to loosen your belt a notch is considered sexy, but that’s what happens when you stuff your face with these delicious tapas.
The decoration is fun and quirky and they have a huge sweet terrace that overlooks the park in Xintiandi. They also said they have a rooftop that they will renovate soon. We went at dinner, but I imagine this would be a great place for brunch.
The staff is mainly from the previous location so everything was on point. It’s located in the Hubindao mall which some people frown upon, but I think it makes it super convenient. This is also one of the best malls for families with the NBA Playzone and twinkle. This restaurant is also super kid friendly and one of the kids in our group said it was her favorite restaurant in all of Shanghai.
It was about 300 rmb per person
Here’s the low-down on the latest action-
The Beef: The original Tomatito’s erstwhile charm was its intimate yet eclectic setting nestled within the historic Zhangyuan. So I’ll admit I had some preconceived notions of how this “sexy tapas bar” could reinvent itself in a sterile mall setting while staying true to its spirit. Yet they have managed to transform and update the space – it’s bigger, sexier, and more modern, complete with open kitchen and lovely terrace.
As for the food…our party of 8 was not overly impressed. A few signature standouts like the Salmon TNT (w a smooth cream cheese filling) and Tosta de Tomate (w avocado and watermelon salsa) were favorites. However, the rest of offerings were rather disappointing. Gambas al ajillo - shrimp did not taste fresh (it was soft & mushy). Black angus striploin - the beef was tough and overcooked (they never did ask how we wanted it cooked), although points for the fried garlic accompaniment. Patatas bravas – well seasoned but not crispy enough. Free flow wine/sangria/cava was 150rmb for 2hrs (Note: you can only pick one of the above and stick to it).
Service was extremely friendly – although honestly could have been a bit more attentive in refilling of free flow glasses. Still, lots of food and drink – but the most jarring part of the evening circles back to the “mall setting” issue – when we had to go to the bathroom (see below “The Down and Dirty”).
The Gang: With the more spacious layout, it felt a bit more empty than before but there were a good number of smaller groups and couples.
The Damage: 450rmb/person including free flow
The Down n’ Dirty: They do not have their own bathroom so you have to venture out to the mall. All fun and games until the mall actually closes. By 10pm, the mall is pretty dark and deserted, except for the handful of other restaurants still open. The ladies room was actually BLACKOUT DARK (was it just a bad night?). Certainly I looked like an idiot (not that I’d know, as I couldn’t see myself in the mirrors) but I clapped, jumped, and stomped in the hopes it was sensor-activated but I was SOL. Friendly tip: do remember to bring your cell phone/flashlight. Or maybe just come back for brunch.