Shanghai Restaurant Review: Garlic Barbecue

By Cristina Ng, January 20, 2020

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The Place

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Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Shanghai isn’t known for its barbecue, but a few places, such as Chuckville and Cages (on Thursdays), are doing the good work of smoking meats. Recently, the ante has been raised with Garlic Barbecue. Located in outdoor mall Zhonghai Huanyuhui, this meat-focused venue is the work of some Turkish folks (surprise) – including the owners of Garlic.

The Food

There’s a selection of meats sold in 100-gram portions, including Beef Brisket, Pork Ribs and Pulled Pork (RMB42-48) as well as Beef Short Rib (RMB180/450-500g) and Sausages (RMB28). If you show up on the weekends, there are even Beef ‘Dinosaur’ Ribs (RMB350/850-900g).

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Image courtesy of Garlic Barbecue

Larger groups or big eaters might want to go with a Set Menu (RMB128-480), while solo diners can do mixed or single meats in Sandwich Form (RMB56-78). We opted for the larger set that promises to feed three-four. Our group of three left stuffed and took home enough meat to make a beast sized sandwich.

Although Garlic opens at 11.30am, there was already a group of five ahead of us at that time. Luckily, we kept busy nibbling giant hunks of complementary brisket while our meat was sliced and weighed out. The first thing we noticed was a gorgeous flaming pink smoke ring. For the uninitiated, possessing that mark is barbecue nerd 101.

There’s a tendency to describe exotic foods as ‘good for Shanghai’ when they hit our streets, but the meat at Garlic Barbecue is damn good, period. While trying to dip our brisket in either the ‘top secret BBQ sauce’ or the honey mustard sauce, the protein nearly melted on our fork. Since you won’t need a knife to cut the meat, use it to spread the sauce on and shovel the deliciousness in your mouth. Some extra flavor comes from liberal dousing with whiskey before cooking.

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Images courtesy of Garlic Barbecue

Both the beef short rib and pork ribs satisfy, but we are partial to the latter. The glossy lacquer is marred only by coarse grinds of black pepper that kick up the taste and the texture a notch. As for the pulled pork? Sandwiched in a soft bun and accented with raw red onion, the shreds of flavorful meat are near perfect.

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Image by Cristina Ng/That's Shanghai

Gherkins, pickled garlic cloves and some extra raw onion are the perfect accompaniment to the fatty meat; we’d love it if they added more, actually.

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Image by Cristina Ng/That's Shanghai

Sides (RMB18 each) are a far from authentic, but we don’t mind breaking up the meal with steamed broccoli and the like. Of the six, we like the simple mushrooms and smoky eggplant mash the most, while kale salad with mango adds brightness. Less successful is a bland orzo salad with carrots and peas. While not bad, we are sticklers for coleslaw like grandma made – meaning more vinegar and sugar, please.

For dessert, they have Lemon Bars (RMB25) and Cinnamon Rice Pudding (RMB28), but we opted for liquid dessert in the form of bottled Corona beers (RMB28) instead

Food Verdict: 2/3

The Vibe

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Image by Cristina Ng/That's

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Image courtesy of Garlic Barbecue

Not only does Garlic have the equipment to make other pitmasters green with envy, but they’ve also got crowds of hungry fans lining up daily. In fact, they only stay open until the food runs out. We are told that it can happen as early as 1.15pm, but it is normally around 3pm (so plan accordingly, or have a backup in mind). While that might deter many would-be diners, show up as early as possible on a weekday and you will be fine. Weekends are insane – you have been warned. 

Vibe Verdict: 2/2

Total Verdict: 4/5

Price: RMB100-200 per person
Who’s going: meat lovers, Texas transplants
Good for: comfort food, casual lunches 

[Cover image by Cristina Ng/That's]


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See a listing for Garlic Barbecue. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews

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