Shanghai's Newest Wine Bar Rōzo芦苇 is So Hot, It's On Fire

By Sophie Steiner, September 14, 2021

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The Place 

How many wine bars is too many? Apparently the answer is infinite in Shanghai, because here comes another one, with a playful angle that already has us pining to return. Rōzo is a chic spot with a tight menu of Latin-inspired plates accented by a creative Asian touch. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The wine cellar in the back offers just over 100 distinct vintages, exhibited on shelves like rare books in the most treasured kind of library. The only thing missing is a rolling ladder to reach those tippity top ledges. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The décor is dim, sleek and sexy. Or is that just the wispy red flames undulating from the central strip of the 16-seater main dining table?

Something about fire in unexpected places seems equal parts dangerous and sultry. Bonus points if it reflects off illuminated wine glasses.

The rest of the repurposed, up-cycled wooden tables are accentuated by rustic plating in dark ceramic, and the walls are fortified by wine cellar bricks.  

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Operating partner Matthieu Thomas (Must Grill, Blanche, Dr. Wine, Raw Eatery), along with three friends, came up with the idea to open a wine bar that they themselves would like to hang out at. Together with business partner Alex Souzy, he designed the mainly French wine program. However – to be clear – this is not the focus. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

In fact, there is no set focus of the wine program. “Whatever we try and like, we stock. Simple as that,” offers Matthieu, in between sips of a punchy Cabernet from Loire Valley.  

The Food & Wine 

The menu is tight – 10 dishes plus meat and cheese platters, and the plan is only to add a handful more in the coming months. Like the wine program, the food, designed by consulting chef Carlos Sotomayor (Blue Plate Consulting), is direct and to the point. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Cubes of yellowfin tuna are interspersed with chunks of mango in the Hamachi Crudo (RMB88), soaking in a bath of milky coconut and citrus sauce. A dollop of fresh wasabi on the side should be mixed in for extra nose-tingling spice, while crispy shards of seaweed add a nautical crunch.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A play on both texture and temperature pits together rectangles of sous vide potato topped with a quenelle of wasabi cream and caviar-laden beef tartare as the Tartare Bites (RMB105)

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A briny Kalamata olive aioli pop lingers after each nibble of springy Octopus (RMB95). Cut into coin-sized slices, we suggest loading a puffed nori chip up with octopus, green apple, a squirt of calamansi and a dab of said aioli for the ultimate stacked bite. 

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How to make a Lobster Roll (RMB158) better? Easy. Add whiskey. This time in the form of a generous portion of whiskey-flambeed lobster claw perched atop creamy crab salad, dribbled with sriracha and nestled inside a plush butter bun.

One order comes with two rolls. If you’re two, double down and get four. Then thank us later for both our math and suggestive ordering skills.

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If you’re rolling up after work and looking for a sizeable dish, the Okonomiyaki (RMB78) should be your go to. The misnomer of a name comes from the Kewpie mayo drizzled-cabbage slaw that hovers over the other ingredients, a common okonomiyaki topping in Osaka, but let’s just call the rest of the dish what it is – 12-hour sous vide beef stew atop roasted potatoes.

And, to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

Sometimes, after a few too many glasses of wine, stew is exactly what the doctor ordered. Word on the street is that it’s the next best thing for your shenti besides copious amounts of hot water. 

There is no more direct of a way to merge the world of wine and food together than an actual set pairing, and the Voyage (RMB150) is exactly that. To showcase idiosyncratic wines, every month will see a rotating selection of three glasses paired with three mini tartines. 

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This month is all about a refreshing sauvignon blanc hailing from Bordeaux, matched with a Cajun butter and crab salad toast; biltong – or a type of cured beef from South Africa – with fried shallot strings and apricot mostarda; and – the funkiest of the bunch – truffle honey-torched brie with pickled grapes balanced by a chalice of Clos Fantine from Faugeres – a barnyard-forward red blend of syrah, grenache and carignane that can be as divisive as stinky cheese and truffle – which is exactly why they paired the two together for those seeking that 10/10 on the complexity scale. 

The Voyage is a welcoming introductory ‘course’ into the world of wine and food pairing, something to spark conversation between guests, no matter the extent of their previous wine knowledge. 

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The team plans to slowly grow the wine selection to around 300 bottles. Wines by the glass go for RMB60-90, with four reds, four whites and a sparkling to choose from, and there are six curated cocktails as well for those that come to a wine bar to not drink wine. (Yes, we know you’re out there, even if we don’t understand you.)

The Vibe 

Matthieu’s background is in fine dining, and while Rōzo is exceedingly more approachable, his aim is for service to still mimic that level of quality. Servers explain each dish and how it should be eaten upon serving, multiple sommeliers are on hand to offer pairing suggestions and staff are attentive at anticipating guests’ needs without being obtrusive. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Yet, it doesn’t feel done up or stuffy; it still holds true to its ethos as a neighborhood wine-focused hangout with a warm atmosphere. Whether it’s the peppy service, the dynamic clientele or the table with actual flames coming out of it, that goal is achieved. 

Price: RMB250-550
Who’s Going: Wine bar fanatics, fans of Carlos’ food, pyros
Good For: Intimate date nights, wine and food pairing explorations, foodie catch-up sessions

See a listing for Rōzo. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover Image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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