Located on the ground floor of a beautiful three-story building at Fengshengli, Charcohol is a stylish cocktail bar and gastro lounge brought to you by award-winning mixologist Cross Yu and celebrated chef Mandela Zhu. The experience is devoted to charcoal-grilled foods and craft cocktails – char and (al)cohol, geddit? The interior is split into three sections; the main room is decked out in a chic gold on black theme with an explosion of palms and feathers above the bar and an open kitchen, in addition to an atrium and outdoor terrace for al fresco dining.
Let's start with Cross Yu's cocktails, six of which are RMB88 and buy-one-get-one from 2-9pm daily through April. Yup, RMB44 craft cocktails. Our standouts from that list include the New York sour, featuring Jim Beam and port wine along with the lemon, sugar and egg white. That one slipped down way too easy, and prompted a second round. The London bark is a refreshing gin take on the Moscow mule, with Beefeater Gin, ginger beer, lime and mint leaf.
Those with a sweet tooth (and strong constitution) can opt for the Absolut, lemon juice, sugar and vanilla extract lemon drop, while the bramble features Beefeater, lemon juice, hibiscus and is topped with an amazing elderflower foam that was so good we asked for a spoon to scoop it out and eat.
Looking for adventure, we strayed from the BOGO list to try the black & co on the signature cocktail list, and adventure we found; a combo of Olmeca Altos Tequila, hazelnut syrup, squid ink, lemon juice, egg white and rose sea salt. We were not disappointed with the inky, nutty concoction.
Cocktails ventured, we got the dining experience going with the New Zealand venison tartare (RMB128). The sweet sun-dried blueberries strike a nice balance with the gamey meat, smoothly brought together by juniper mayo and mustard seeds (which give it a subtle kick).
The scallop ceviche (RMB118) sees creamy-textured shellfish mixed with avocado and topped with radish blackened by an onion and nori ash, making for a deep and sooty experience (and sooty is certainly a good thing in this case).
Now for the umami bomb Napa cabbage (RMB68), which is given a go on the grill, emptied out and then filled with buttery truffle cream and puffed buckwheat. Just take a look at it – indulgently rich. If Elvis Presley did a vegetarian cabbage...
Arguably the dish that gets the most from the flame treatment is the grilled dry-aged maitake (RMB88). Charred on the outside, tender on the inside and with a coffee bean sauce, it's like a mushroom steak; meat lovers would be missing out on nothing with this order.
The smell of the maple and applewood smoked chicken (RMB138) hits you the moment it approaches the table, the smokey taste matched by the tenderness of the poultry.
One of the most interesting dishes of the night was the allium-glazed Atlantic cod (RMB188). Mandela says he was replicating the flavors of his youth and mother's cooking, through its sweet Shanghai-inspired aroma and sheen, complemented by a nutty sunchoke puree.
We rounded things off with the white chocolate mousse (RMB68); fresh fruit layers of gooey goodness, silky white chocolate mousse and crunchy sweet lime meringue.
Food Verdict: 2.5/3
What COVID-19 crisis? We've been twice and the place was packed both times, with 70s disco classics on the playlist and a buzzing atmosphere. When you combine Cross Yu's craft cocktails with Mandela Zhu's cuisine in this setting, then we guess this was always gonna happen. The shisha pipes that come out after 9pm only add to the swank.
Vibe Verdict: 2/2
Total Verdict: 4.5/5
Price: RMB300 and up
Who’s Going: Cocktail aficionados, grill gourmands, shisha smokers, the cool crowd
Good For: Lunch, dinner, dates
[All images by Rachel Gouk]