3 New Brunches: Bonica, Shanghai Love & Crush

By Sophie Steiner, March 10, 2023

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Bonica is staying true to its Mediterranean Spanish-rooted cuisine concept, now with flame-grilled meats and seafood ideal for sharing at brunch.

It’s all about the smoky char aroma and high-quality proteins, plus delectable cocktails and free flow bubbles – exactly what we are looking for on a sunny Saturday. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Begin with the charcoal-grilled Chicken a la Parilla (RMB208/half, RMB368/whole), a flame-licked fowl with scorched, crispy skin surrounding tender flesh.

The bird perches atop a chicken gravy reduction, alongside creamy mash. For a real chicken-and-the-egg situation, there’s an olive oil-fried egg on top… because brunch.  

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Baked into a meticulously folded and salted pastry crust, the three-day dry-aged Snapper a La Sal (RMB688) is theatrically sliced open, paired with all the “oohs” and “aahs” deserved by this sea-dweller's tableside debut.

The generous portion easily feeds two to three people for sharing, flaking off in buttery chunks that pair perfectly with layered, lasagna-like garlic potato gratin.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Pan-seared ceps and morels sourced from Yunnan add a meaty component to the Yunnan Mushroom Omelette (RMB358), while still providing a vegetarian-friendly main.

The buttery eggs are souffléd, anchored to the plate by an unctuous mushroom cream sauce.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The brunch’s pièce de resistance is the Wagyu Roast Beef (RMB548); juicy licks of thick-cut USDA Prime ribeye, with ribbons of gorgeous marbling running throughout, quick-seared and served ruddy at a succulent medium rare.

A moat of velvety mashed potatoes encircles the steak, while an expertly poached egg nestles in a bed of caramelized onions, dribbled with a red wine reduction; it’s a straightforward love triangle of beef, potatoes and onions, only further enhanced by a brunch-worthy runny yolk. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

If an entire slab of roast beef feels a bit heavy for your weekend morning, we highly advise perusing the all-day available a la carte menu and ordering the Roast Beef & Frisée (RMB158), a refreshingly crunchy frisée-based salad tossed with a zippy mustard vinaigrette, all rolled up in a thinly shaved slice of melt-in-your mouth USDA Prime ribeye.

Subtly sweet basil and aged parmesan cheese round out the plate.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Dessert sees rippling waves of sliced fig fanned across the top of a buttery crust as the Fig Tart (RMB72). Inside rests a thick layer of Fig Newton-esque jam below strata of tangy cheese, pistachio and whipped citrus cream. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As spring is in the air, both the Lemon Pound Cake (RMB88) and the Pavlova (RMB72) offer lighter alternatives, the former stuffed with ice cream and tangy homemade lemon curd, crowned with shards of candied lemon and orange rind...

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

...while the latter sees a one-day dried, shatteringly crisp meringue crust filled with kiwi and mixed berries, plus more of that addictingly tart lemon curd. 

Is it even brunch if the bubbles aren’t flowing? At Bonica, the answer is a resounding: NO.

So of course they also offer Champagne (Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve) and sparkling wine (Cava Roxanne) unlimited drink packages – both including red and white wine as well – at RMB398 and RMB198, respectively. 

Bellini (RMB68) and Hazelnut Spritz (RMB68), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Craving a cocktail instead? The Hazelnut Spritz (RMB68) still delivers on the bubbles with prosecco and soda water, but the addition of hazelnut liqueur adds a rounded nuttiness, with a hint of chocolate and warm vanilla. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An equally refreshing brunch libation, Bonica's Bloody Mary (RMB68) is less heavy than its Sunday morning sports bar sister, due to the partially clarified tomato and lemon juice, resulting in a concentrated pop of sweet tomato, with a spicy Tabasco finish. 

Matcha Sea Salt Latte (RMB45), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Bonica, 110, Bldg 5, Lane 273 Jiaozhou Lu, by Xinzha Lu 胶州路273弄60号5幢2楼,近新闸路.

Shanghai Love

So much more than a local taproom, Shanghai Love is all about approachable yet upscale dining, centering around Asian tapas, an ethos that now expands into brunch.

Each dish takes a typically Western brunch classic and puts an Asian twist on it – be it Thai, Japanese, Korean, Southeast Asian or a combination. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Korean Bulgogi Benedict (RMB128) sees a hefty portion of a secret family recipe of bulgogi stacked atop airy milk toast, smothered in a gochugaru hollandaise and finished with an ooey-gooey-yolk-filled onsen egg.

Toppings are reminiscent of Korean BBQ banchan – pungent kimchi, sesame oil bean sprouts and spinach with nori flakes. 

Shanghai Love Paloma (RMB78), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

For a Southeast Asian twist on the typical eggs benedict, the Prawn Cake Benedict (RMB98) star is a hockey puck-size, katsu fried king prawn cake, with a supporting lineup of Thai-spiced hollandaise, an onsen egg, fried shallots, chilis and fresh cilantro. 

If it’s a greasy burger and fries you’re after, that ship sailed with the closing of White Castle. But – in tribute to the fast food chain that used to be housed here – the menu bestows upon us a souped-up alternative; one that sits at the unexpected cross section of indulgent and trashy, sandwich and burger: the Shanghai Love Signature Steak Sando (RMB108), previously known as the Ode to White Castle...

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

One hundred grams of thick-cut tenderloin is breaded and fried – katsu-style – slathered in a tamarind glaze, flanked by creamy cabbage slaw and cushioned inside plush Japanese milk toast.

It's excess at its finest, a worthy accolade to burgers of the world. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An interlude to the heavier bites, the Son in Law Eggs (RMB38) are a Thai spin on hardboiled eggs. Said hardboiled eggs are flash-fried, served with a lashing of sweet and sour tamarind sauce, crispy shallots, dried chili and cilantro. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Taking it back to his Iranian roots, Kia is also offering his version of green eggs and ham with the Koo Koo Sabzi (RMB88), a thin pancake fresh herb frittata, served with dried pomegranate seeds and walnuts; a bite that tastes and feels healthy despite washing it down with a couple of spritzes. 

Shanghai Love Ginger Mule (RMB78) and Sunset Spritz (RMB78), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We have been known to get down with the chicken and waffles...

READ MORE: Bargain, Balanced, Ballin': 9 Chicken & Waffles For All Budgets

... and Shanghai Love’s take on this classic American South favorite – the Fried Chicken and Waffle (RMB138) – is one of the funkiest we’ve seen.

A Hong Kong-style bubble waffle boasts a sweet vanilla aroma and a pale green color due to the addition of pandan, while half a chicken is breaded and fried, doused in a spicy Thai curry sauce and balanced with a sweet honey butter drizzle.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Mac’n’cheese but with a Japanese twist = Ram’n’Cheese (RMB68) – a springy Korean shin ramen noodle base smothered in a luscious bechamel, mozzarella and American cheese goo.

The shin ramen’s spice pack also gets tossed into the mix, cutting through the cheese’s heart-clogging richness to bring you back for another mouthful.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An homage to the retro Rice Krispies Treats of our childhood, mixed with Thailand’s best dessert – mango sticky rice – comes the Mango Sticky Rice Krispies Treats (RMB58).

Cubes of sticky mallow puffed rice are interspersed with sweet diced mangos, brought together by a viscous coconut milk sauce.

Shanghai Love, 221 Maoming Bei Lu, by Weihai Lu,  茂名北路221号, 近威海路.

Crush Wine Bistro

At upscale yet approachable New York-style wine bar Crush Wine Bistro on Shaanxi Bei Lu, owner Elliot Shay (who has been in the wine import and distribution industry for years), and chef Dylan Briley (previously of Goga, Mr & Mrs Bund), are serving up (and pouring out) good times, great eats and even better sips in an already bustling area. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The brunch menu offers 15 options, with a deal to choose any two dishes plus a coffee – cappuccino, latte or Americano – or juice for RMB198. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And, as a wine bar, of course there are five wines plus selected cocktail free flow packages for RMB198. The cocktails include bellini, mimosa, Aperol or Campari spritz and Bloody Mary's with a housemade mix. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As one of the only places in the city with real donuts (no, an overly processed Krispy Kreme does not count), the cakey Brioche Donuts become a necessity, served warm and dusted with cinnamon sugar, with strawberry jam and vanilla mascarpone for dipping on the side.

Unlike the Dunkin’ Donuts of the world, these are lighter, fluffier and not greasy – so you don’t feel like you need to beeline to the gym afterwards. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

One of the restaurant’s signature dishes, the Tuna Tataki (RMB188, add RMB70 for brunch set) hails back to Chef Dylan's (now shuttered) Goga days; a California coast inspired dish that saw its rebirth with miso mustard, furikake seasoning, pickled ginger and baby cilantro. 

A ramped up version of your everyday bacon and eggs, the House Cured Bacon with Scrambled Eggs and Avocado Toast should really be listed with ‘BACON’ in all caps. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

It’s always all about the bacon. And this bacon is note-f*cking-worthy – unlike any we have found in Shanghai. It’s double C thick, crispy and glazed.

That’s because it’s cured in-house for a week, drenched in maple syrup and a secret spice blend, then smoked.

Yeah, the eggs are good, the avocado toast is, well, smashed avocado on bread… but that bacon, WOW. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A behemoth in size, structure and stack, The Crusher (RMB118, add RMB30 for brunch set) is a ‘no frills’ burger, with each element meticulously accounted for.

A house-ground, M3 Wagyu mix of 25% dry-aged beef with 75% fresh results in the optimal juiciest patty, flanked by gooey smoked provolone, house-cured bacon, beetroot-pickled shallots, truffle mixed arugula and a generous dollop of stoneground mustard horseradish aioli shmeared across a homemade brioche bun. 

This structurally sound sando maintains its shape, so you don’t lose half the ingredients onto the plate (or down your shirt) with each bite.

And the hand-cut, fried-to-order French fries are righteous. 

DSC02416.jpgBasque Burnt Cheesecake (RMB70), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Crush Wine Bistro, 819 Shaanxi Bei Lu, by Changping Lu,  陕西北路819号, 近昌平路.

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