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

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 II here.

Lucky Diner

If small town middle America in the 1950s got mixed up in a time warp with a retro 1970s Tokyo diner, Lucky Diner would be its love child. 

The devil is in the details, and Lucky Diner nails each element; from the checkered floors and linoleum booths to the plastic laminated menus and pre-wrapped branded mints, it all screams Grease with a hint of Godzilla lore. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

After the successful opening of Lucky Mart in April, Lucky Diner expands on the same concept with all day, full service dining. The food is mostly a Japanese spin on timeless eatery options we all know and love. 

In addition to snacks, sandwiches and salads, Lucky Diner offers all day brunch, a mix of hot and cold mains and happy ending desserts to satisfy even the most particular sweet tooth. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The drinks menu is also quite expansive, with diner heavy hitters like coke floats and milk shakes, and konbini favorites like high balls, sake bloody marys and Japanese-Irish coffees.

In line with other Happy Place Hospitality Group venues, the wine list includes an impressive spread of natural wine options as well as small-batch produced sakes.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Lucky Diner

Lucky You

A Chinese-American restaurant, in China, where patrons eat an American take on what Cantonese food is – Lucky You Cafe is the ultimate Chinese food inception. 

There are (MSG-laden) layers, and as we dropped deeper into nostalgia-inducing dreams of Char Siu, Beef and Broccoli and General Tsao’s Chicken, we felt that the key message being planted into our subconscious was that this ultimate meta dining experience could only exist in a city like Shanghai.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The menu is divided into American favorites, soups, specialty items, mains, claypot dishes, vegetables, roasted meats, cold dishes, dim sum, small plates, noodles and rice. 

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There’s also a Charlie’s Burger menu insert with crossover favorites like burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes and chicken wings (owner Charles Zeng is the Charles behind Charlie's), a wine fridge, coffee drinks, dessert soups and a separate menu for between 2-5pm – it’s a lot, but in keeping consistent with American-Chinese restaurants that hand you a small tome for a menu, it’s accurate.  

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The massive space that once was Tsui Wah hasn’t changed much. It’s girthy and fully equipped with lazy susan-topped banquet seating as well as booths. The iridescent, washed out lighting is bright enough to really see all the wrinkles, gray hairs and smudged eyeliner of your dining companions – nailing that truly genuine feel of a late night diner in New York’s Chinatown.

Read a full review here. See a listing for Lucky You Cafe


Mavis rounds out the new French wine bars hitting Shanghai in 2020. This 30-seater 'neo bistro' features natural wines, French culinary techniques and a hip unpaved cement wall surfaced with graffiti by local artists.

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Located on Wuding Lu in the space that used to be Tribeca, Mavis houses a noticeably roomier layout. The tables and positioning between them are quite spacious so you don’t feel like you’re being bumped or jostled every time a server tries to squeeze past. 

This all boils down to Mavis’ strong emphasis on high quality service that ensures guests inside have the best possible and most tailored experience, even if that means turning away extra revenue to pack more people in.


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The tight menu of 10-12 items, plus three to four desserts, is written on a blackboard instead of printed, as it changes almost daily, allowing servers the opportunity to engage with customers, describing dishes and potential wine pairings in detail to make that personal connection. 

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While most direct competitors, like SOiFBar À Vin or Blaz, focus on the Funky category, Mavis puts a strong emphasis on traditional wines to pair with some of their more traditionally French dishes. That being said, they don’t actively sport any big-name wine brands; niche is still the key to a well curated and interesting list.

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


MESS by name, but not by nature, it would seem. The new restaurant out by the Modern Art Museum is the full character embodiment of its larger-than-life, human dynamo, gregarious host of a head chef, Shahaf Shabtay, and it involves throwing an ambitious amount of elements together. But it works.

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The Israeli chef graduated from the École Grégoire-Ferrandi culinary school in Paris, and then worked his way around the world. The result? An integration of different cultures, connecting the worlds of East and West – via the Middle East, of course – to an experience of colors, tastes, textures and techniques.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Chef Shahaf has taken the basics he was grounded in through his studies and brought them to the Asian kitchen. His area of expertise is Southeast and South Asian cuisine – Singapore, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and India. This is not to say he limits himself to just that; he intertwines all he has found on his travels and his culinary explorations.

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


This Danish brewery and taproom Mikkeller finally made it's way to China this year, with it's first location off Yanping Lu. With over 20 taps, a beyond extensive bottle list and every weekend events and pop-ups appealing to any interest imaginable, it's no surprise that this beer outpost has garnered quite the following. 

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Word on the street is that Shanghai’s new favorite craft beer bar is also opening a second location in the old El Luchador spot in Xintandi. Split across two levels, the beer bar will also feature Danish food (and we're talking more than just bar snacks that the current Jing’an location does). A lot of the details are up in the air, but they are hoping for an April start date with a Danish Michelin star chef on board.

See a listing for Mikkeller.


Only morbid curiosity would bring one to Surpass Court on Yongjia Lu, a somewhat ‘cursed’ area where many a restaurant has gone to die. But in late December, co-owner of the auspiciously renao SOiF, Li Ze, decided to put an end to that streak by opening Ottimo

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The interior’s most prominent feature is its walk-in wine closet, presenting mostly Old World wines – many from Burgundy or Bordeaux, with a few Super Tuscans sprinkled in. Like SOiF, there is no wine list and the selection is constantly changing.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The food is mainly Italian braided together with French cuisine, seasonal Asian ingredients and a bias for assertive flavors. Approachable, casual and somewhat playful, the menu is not intimidating – be it a first date or a 101st date, selections are straightforward. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Like its sister restaurant SOiF, Ottimo is humming with lively energy. The strategized flow of plates whizzing past, wine pouring into glasses and laughter emanating from various corners of the space is a choreographed dance, rather than chaotic shuffle.

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


A pocket-sized natural wine bar with an eclectic wine selection, European fusion nibbles and a vibe that screams it's time to drink, SOiF is busy every hour of the night. The collaboration between Li Ze, Francois Séguin and William Zhu makes this biodynamic and organic wine bar a success. 

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Freddy Raoult put together the food menu, which is anything but an afterthought. Although tight in size, each dish is memorable, well thought out and perfect for wine pairing – the food does not come second to the wine in this case. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A popular hangout amongst the industry crowd, it's often hard to get a seat, but well worth the effort as every time we've gone, it's been exactly what we are looking for.

See a listing for SOiF.


As you step inside the unassuming front door of 404, the newest venture from the Oha Group (Oha EateryBar No. 3, Pass ResidenceDead Poet), the smell of grilled chicken skin, crispy charred meat and a hint of miso fill the air of this cozy, dimly lit restaurant.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The emerald green tufted sofas and lounge chairs fit the jazz music emanating from the speakers, creating a whiskey and cigar bar vibe that seems like a curious choice for a Japanese yakitori spot – a place that usually involves a bustling shotgun bar with smoke-laden layers of controlled chaos composed of speedy skewers and flowing highballs. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The menu is divided into yakitori, mains and snacks with an extensive cocktail list. Cocktails are in the style of other Oha Group venues – inventive and whimsical with clarified this and fat-washed that, ranging in price from RMB65-90.

We can really get behind the loose operational definition of highballs applied on the menu – spirits plus bubbles of any kind. The modest highball’s essence is expanded from a simple interpretation to a higher-end version, replacing soda water with anything from Moscato to tonic. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

404 wants to be a more refined izakaya, but doesn’t seem to take any steps in that direction when it comes to the food. We understand the demand for a place to enjoy souped-up versions of Japanese ‘street food’ per se – balanced with an upscale vibe. However, in this case, the venue setting and the food execution do not match – the value just isn’t there.

Read a full review here. See a listing for 404.

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

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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