Shanghai Food & Drink Gossip: August 2023

By Sophie Steiner, August 29, 2023

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August rounds out the hot and humid season – when just the mere thought of cooking strikes fear in the depths of our hearts.

Luckily, there are some new restaurants eager to help us avoid that chore.  

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Image courtesy of Cometa

Suzhou Creek’s F&B scene continues to expand with the opening next month of Sage, located right next to sister-restaurant Cometa.

Partnering with Cometa’s owners Alan Grillo and Anqi Xu, Singaporean chef Jun Ishiyama – whose impressive pedigree includes six years at Shanghai’s top-rated restaurant, Paul Pairet’s Ultraviolet – is creating a tasting menu centering around local, seasonal and organic produce, plus an a la carte menu of more familiar plates.  

Expect an accessible fine dining bistro with seating for 20 – definitely one to put on your radar. 

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Image courtesy of Highline

Muse Group Executive Chef Conrad Van Den Heever (currently of HighlineDentreeThe Nestpreviously of BloomAnchor & Clover Club) is opening his own restaurant, La Brise 523 in Sinan Mansions.

The concept is a firepit-roasted proteins bistro with a modern Southeast Asian flavor-leaning menu. The kitchen will sport its own firepit, so expect 80% of the menu to be roasted over open woodfire flames. 

The front area will offer an all-day snacking and sipping bar showcasing a roster of global wines and an impressive whiskey list.

But the real kicker comes when the “artsy hipster designed” main dining room opens daily at 5pm, revealing two backsplash wall art murals by a local graffiti artist and displays of trendy art collector’s items and statues.

Soft opening is slated for September. Mark those calendars.

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Image courtesy of Scarpetta

After closing its doors for a three-month full refurb – demolishing the interior down to the studs, redesigning the menu, and launching a wholly new concept – Scarpetta reopened on August 8 under the same name, but with a more contemporary Japanese-themed feel. 

Owner John Liu has a strong affinity for Japanese culture, recognizing the similarities between Italian and Japanese cuisines – both of which are about highlighting and honoring the best quality products, simple cooking techniques and elevated attention to detail.

And now he has chosen to share that affinity through the revamped Scarpetta.

As one of Shanghai’s longest standing Italian premium casual dining spots (11 years of history!), Scarpetta still remains fundamentally Italian at its core, but with a Japanese twist, using mostly local ingredients.

Think “umami” pizza with konbu, clams, whitebait, capers and olives; Sakura shrimp pasta with seaweed and spring onions; buttery uni alfredo; and fennel citrus salad with Taiwanese bottarga and Russian-imported sweet shrimp.

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Image courtesy of Scarpetta

Similarly, the layout is the same (it’s a community-based restaurant after all), but there are nods to modern, wabi-sabi Japanese design aesthetic – the world view of perfection through imperfection – as well as miegakure – the idea of hide and reveal used in Japanese gardens and architecture... like a crack through the newly placed wall to ‘catch a glimpse’ of their pizza oven behind it, instead of it being fully out in the open.

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Image courtesy of Popeyes

Another resurrection, American South fried chicken chain Popeyes is making a comeback after being shut for four months, this time under the Tim Horton’s parent company – TH International Ltd.

This month saw the reopening of its Chinese mainland flagship shop right here on Shanghai’s Huaihai Zhong Lu. 

The menu will be slightly altered, offering more seafood burgers, rice dishes, seasonal drinks, and snacks, along with more DIY chicken dipping sauces.

Fast food lovers rejoice – another 10 shops are set to open by year’s end, with a total of 60 locations in Shanghai expected by the end of 2024. 

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Image via Dianping

Wine bar La Cava de Laoma has taken up new residence on Xinhua Lu this past month, with about 50% Chilean wines and some interesting New World finds from boutique wineries and small batch producers. 

The space is laid-back – just roll up, grab the bottle of your choosing, and feel free to order in or bring your own snacks. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Last month we broke the news about the opening of nightlife hub INS in Fuxing Park, and the lineup of venues continues to grow by the day.

One of the spots we can’t wait to swing into is a second, more casual location of ma-ia-ki, serving up high quality izakaya skewers to the party going crowd until 5am. 

READ MORE: A Rollercoaster of a Meal at Japanese Izakaya Ma-ia-ki

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Image by That's

Vermuthology – Shanghai’s only fully dedicated vermouth bar – has opened a location on the second floor of the Westin Bund Center Shanghai, serving up over 50 kinds of the Spanish fortified wine.

The house pour is owner Robert Vicencio’s family’s vermouth brand – Mentrida – from Bodegas Garva in Toledo, Spain.

The bar also offers casual cocktails and Spanish-inspired mixers, plus occasional live music on weekends.

La Baracca on Yongkang Lu is welcoming contemporary pan-Asian brand Yuzu for a kitchen takeover beginning September 11.

Look forward to getting your hands on ramen burgers, salmon tacos, Korean fried chicken and Yuzu cheesecake, among other fusion bites.

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Image courtesy of D.O.C. Gastronomia Italiana

Over on Dagu Lu, La Baracca's sister restaurant D.O.C. Gastronomia Italiana is turning 10 this weekend, an impressive innings in Shanghai F&B.

Expect free arancini balls and pizza as well as a DJ on the Friday, and an Aperol spritz happy hour and a whole load of buy-one-get-one food deals all weekend long.

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Image courtesy of The Pearl

The Pearl has been closed for a couple weeks while house band The Red Stars were on vacation and to do some restoration work to the wood floors, walls, bars, etc.

Most exciting of all, however, is the installment of a full new sound system by the French pro-audio company, L'Acoutics!

"The old system was a workhorse that somehow survived through the years," explains Pearl co-owner Grant-oh! Buchwald. "But it will be great to have a full new system with crisp sounds."

They reopen tomorrow evening – Wednesday, August 30 – with a Queen Tribute Show.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Onto the gloomier news, Homeslice in Found 158 closed, but don’t fret, Shanghai’s fave NY slice still has six locations around the city, including their newest spot for pizza lovers in Qibao.

An eight-year run was all she wrote for food delivery platform Saucepan and their meal plan service Revo as they closed up shop last month. 

A bit shorter of a lifespan, nightclub Basement Never Sleeps lasted just six months before shutting down unexpectedly in July. 

And, in global news, as Japan began releases Fukushima radioactive water into the ocean, China swiftly replied with a rigid import block on all Japanese seafood as of August 24 to protect marine ecosystems, food safety and public health.

What this translates to on a micro level for Shanghai’s dining scene is a lot less (think zero) Japanese imported oceanic products for the foreseeable future.

Goodbye Hokkaido scallops, and hello China-farmed replacements. 

READ MORE: Japan to Release Fukushima Water Amidst Global Concern


Got a hot tip? Feel free to email all juicy rumors to sophiesteiner@thatsmags.com. 

Read more Shanghai Food & Drink Gossip.

[Cover image via tricycle.org]

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