Year of the Rat Recap: New Restaurant & Bar Openings – Part II

By Sophie Steiner, February 10, 2021

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And so we bid adieu to the Year of the Rat – a lemon of a 12 months that changed the course of history and life as we know it. Yet, the show must go on, and that means enjoying it in the way we know best – through good food and drink. Here is an A to Z recap of some of the major restaurants and bars that had the tenacity to open up in a city that was forced to shut down. See Part I here and Part III here.


Cellar to Table

Cellar to Table popped on the scene as yet another French wine bar in the heritage villa on Donghu Lu that used to house elEFANTE. Owners Philippe Huser and Karen Ma have a leg up, in that they also own Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen (currently closed for renovation, with the rest of Bund 22).

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Cellar to Table is the everyday, cozy casual alternative to NAPA – like dining in your friend’s living room... if your friend happened to have a beyond impressive wine cellar and a critically-acclaimed chef on hand. 

From the warm lighting and homey fireplace, to the friendly yet curt service and unpretentious menu, to the magnum pours of house wine served on arrival (starting at just RMB40, we might add), everything feels intimate, relaxed and comfortable at this classically French spot. 

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In a world of ‘modern’ and ‘inventive’ twists, Cellar to Table’s menu stands out, in that it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. Straightforward and to the point, each dish has its purpose without the unnecessary sparkles and frills that can so often detract from a dish.

From appetizers through to dessert, each plate is executed with precision by Chilean head chef Francisco Javier Araya and his wife Fernanda, the restaurant’s head of pastry.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Cellar to Table.


Charcohol

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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. 

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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.

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Cocktails are inventive, borderline whimsical and full of surprises. The food menu has gone through a few iterations since inception, but is heavy on all things grilled - whether it be seafood, poultry or meat.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Charcohol.


Chihuahua

Like walking into a Mexican abuela’s casa in Guadalajara, the brightly lit, inviting space at Chihuahua is colorful without being obnoxious, and homey without feeling contrived. Pastel yellow and teal are warmed by the daylight streaming through the Southern-facing casement windows, making the entire venue welcoming for some afternoon productivity. 

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Chihuahua fills a culinary gap in the Shanghai food scene for true Mexican street food at everyday prices. With many of the recipes coming from co-owner Estef Casas’ (previously of El Santo and El Luchador) grandma, the dishes are rustically wholesome. Although the menu warns that ‘these are not pretty tacos; they are real tacos’ we disagree, and find beauty in how genuinely delicious they are.

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The menu is tight and cohesive, focusing on executing the classics exactly as you would find them in Mexico. Falling into the comida corrida category, or a ‘meal on the run,’ the style of food at Chihuahua is the ideal meal for busy workers who need a filling lunch served quickly. Usually found at fondas, or small taverns, comida corrida dishes are bucolic – like something your mom would cook – in a friendly, casual space.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Chihuahua.


Commune Reserve

Shanghai craft beer lovers can rejoice, as the spacious venue that was Stone Brewing Tap Room has reopened its doors on Yuyuan Lu under new ownership and the new name of Commune Reserve

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Founded in Wuhan in 2016, Commune Reserve is a social dining bar brand with venues in 21 cities across China. However, the new owners have taken steps to preserve a connection with Stone Brewing, retaining its staff, concept and style.

There are over 30 craft beers on the menu, but within that collection, 15-20 remain permanent Stone taps shipped from the US, and the Stone merchandise continues to be on display.

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Seeing as most diners at Commune Reserve will probably be drinking beer, the menu is an eclectic list of global comfort food favorites – chicken wings (Korean and Japanese), sticky ribs, pasta dishes and burgers. 

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Salty, sweet umami flavors abound, complementing the house beverage of choice; beer holds a complexity of flavors, interacts with many food combinations and, of course, provides refreshment.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Commune Reserve


Duli

Duli, Shanghai’s first fully plant-based casual bistro, opened quietly in the end of July, amidst the summer rush of events and launches that had been previously postponed due to COVID. Owner Thijs Bosma, a lifelong vegetarian from the Netherlands who found himself inspired by the vegan lifestyle in Chengdu, is beyond passionate about his mission of sharing how good plant-based food can actually be.

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Through the use of bold flavors and his focus on honoring each ingredient for what it is rather than trying to make it into something that it’s not (aka ‘meat’ in a vegan disguise), he has created something truly unique that normalizes the whole experience of eating vegan for plant-based eaters and carnivores alike. 

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Plant-based eating is a trend that the rest of the world is moving towards, and while eating vegan usually gets a bad rep as flavorless, dull or boring, Duli is breaking through that stereotype like a boss.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Duli


Gin & Juice

Gin & Juice, winner of the That's Shanghai Food & Drink Awards 2020 Best New Bar of the Year, was one of the first spots to open in Shankang Li this past summer. The focal point is the entire display wall full of every bottle of liqueur, spirits and tinctures known to mankind (as it should be in a bar that prides itself on cocktail creations) that lines the back wall. 

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The bar setup always remains orderly – each aromatic spray, eye dropper bottle of bitters and herbaceous garnish meticulously kept in its place. The OCD that sits inside all of us can rest easy. 

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Regardless of the G&T pull, we were most surprised about the playful inventiveness of the cocktail menu. We expected a lineup of fancified G&Ts with garish garnishes to match, but what we found was legit cocktails, using modern techniques that rival some of the best in the city (at a fraction of a cost, we might add).

Read a full review here. See a listing for Gin & Juice.


Hakkasan 2.0

Back in mid-April, Hakkasan announced doors were closing, and everyone thought it had fallen prey to the COVID closures. Luckily, we were all proven wrong when they reopened in October, with Hakkasan 2.0 sporting an updated look. 

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The main improvements took the form of a new bar, re-configured layout and an upgraded kitchen. The lounge area at the entrance has expanded with the addition of a two-seater sofa, and the long bar at the front has been shortened to accommodate more dining guests. 

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Decorative elements, like light marble-surrounded windows and wooden ornamental framing, mimicking traditional Chinese gardens, are on display throughout the main dining areas, combining both modern and authentic design features, Hakkasan’s underlying concept. 

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The menu has also seen a few updates, most notable of which is the addition of a dim sum heavy lunch option available on weekdays from 11am-3pm. For those into the free flow brunch (who isn’t into free flow brunch?), have no fear, the menu has only expanded with the same drinks deal still available.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Hakkasan.


Huma

At Huma, the fresh, clean ingredients found in Southern Yunnan cooking are easily recognizable in every dish. Veggies and herbs are no longer an afterthought, but rather one of the main focuses. 

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This doesn’t mean that Huma is a place just for small appetites, though – in fact, depending on which dishes you order, you could easily find yourself stuffed. The quality of the ingredients and proteins make the portions match the price. But that satisfying sense of fullness won’t weigh you down.

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The open layout fits 70 people, but, like a well-oiled machine, service and food prep is quick, keeping the line moving so you don’t miss too much work during your lunch break. Bonus: delivery and takeaway programs will be launching soon, making it that much easier to get your Yunnan food fix.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Huma.


Italo

After the closure of Funkadelino and the short-lived Funka del Sur experiment, the Funka Group is stepping up its game with Italo. The full-service lounge with modern Milano style is just above the group’s flagship Funkadeli on Fumin Lu. With the curvature of the bar as the focal point, you can post up there, or hang out on the outskirts for a more intimate experience.

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Italian-inspired comfort food is the name of Italo’s game, with a menu including fritto misto, raw appetizers, gourmet pizzas, family-style pasta, roasted meat and fish entrees. Numbing peppercorn and cinnamon-spiced caponata with burrata or Sichuan chili oil in clam pasta add interest. Still, nobody’s reinventing the wheel with items like arancini or grilled artichokes. 

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In contrast, the imaginative cocktails – such as twists on apperitivi and nifty negroni variations – tell an entirely different story.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Italo.


KOR Shanghai

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The famous Taiwanese club chain KOR launched in Shanghai at the beginning of the year, bringing it's award-winning super lounge glamour vibe to our dear city. The lux design, oriental-inspired cocktails, mouth-watering Taiwanese fusion food, and hip hop dance music make for an ideal upbeat date night spot, friend gathering or night out on the town. 

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After visiting multiple times, we were blown away by the quality of both the service and the food. Attentive yet respectful, servers operate in both English and Chinese. The food itself is just as picturesque as it is delicious. With over 50 items on the menu to choose from, there is something for everyone, regardless of your taste (or spice) preferences.

See a listing for KOR Shanghai.

Read our Year of the Rat Recap: New Restaurant & Bar Openings – Part I here and Part III here.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]


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