Shanghai Restaurant Review: Y's Kitchen

By Dominic Ngai, April 30, 2019

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The Place

Jinxian Lu and the nearby area is where you’ll find some of the city’s most beloved staples for home-style Shanghainese cuisine. During peak hours, the hungry diners lining up in front of places like Lan Xin or Hai Jin Zi can get as rowdy as their counterparts at Hey Tea back when the cheese tea chain first arrived. So when new kid on the block Y’s Kitchen opened in late 2018, chef-owner Yang Wen knew he had a tough challenge ahead of him.  

The Food

In order to differentiate himself, Yang bills Y’s Kitchen as a ‘fusion Chinese restaurant.’ This move not only avoids head-to-head competition with longtime favorites in the hood, but it also draws attention to his decades of experience cooking in Western restaurants around China. When executing its dishes, however, Y’s Kitchen falls short in delivering on the promise of a ‘fusion’ element.

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In many ways, its version of Drunken Chicken (RMB55/108, small/large) encapsulates our thoughts on the whole concept. A sprig of fresh rosemary on top of the glistening meat serves as a non-functional garnish that brings nothing to the table in the flavor department. Is it tasty? Yes. Is it interesting? Not really.

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Image by Dominic Ngai/That's

Yang’s take on the quintessential Red Braised Pork (or Hongshaorou, RMB55/118) features a thinner, more soy-heavy sauce instead of the sticky and sweet iteration that we’ve gotten used to over years of eating the dish in Shanghai. While the meat is tender and cutting down on sugar is a healthier choice, it’s unclear where the fusion element comes into play here. 

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Image by Dominic Ngai/That's

In the Pan-fried Zucchini with Scallops (RMB128), the attempt to tie the two ingredients together with Cantonese XO sauce is a good idea, but enjoying a perfect bite proves to be difficult with vegetable slices two to three times larger than the protein.

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Image by Dominic Ngai/That's

Just when we thought the meal was like a blind date that dragged on for way too long, a Clay Pot Rice with Truffles and Foie Gras (RMB108) gave it a second chance. Mixing the seared goose liver, Chinese sausage and bacon and a half-cooked egg together with the rice yields one of the most memorable, fragrant and flavorful bites since the foie gras bibimbap at Chi-Q (Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s now-closed French-Korean restaurant on the Bund). 

Food Verdict: 1.5/3

The Vibe

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Image by Dominic Ngai/That's

The missing fusion elements in Y’s Kitchen’s dishes were scattered around the dining room, where the relaxed ambiance of a bistro had been reconstructed with a soundtrack of modern and retro French pop songs, vintage wine bottles and colorful oil paintings. During our visit for lunch on a weekday, however, Y’s Kitchen was already packed with nearby office workers and residents, who were cheerfully chatting away in the local dialect in between bites of food, which snapped us right back from Europe and into the reality of the bustling Jinxian Lu at lunchtime.

Vibe Verdict: 1.5/2

Total Verdict: 3/5

Price: RMB150-200 per person
Who's going: mostly locals who live or work nearby
Good for: casual lunches or dinners with a small group

[Cover image by Dominic Ngai/That's]


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