Chef Conrad Van Den Heever Fires Things Up at La Brise 523

By Sophie Steiner, November 9, 2023

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The Place

Chef Conrad Van Den Heever (previously of HighlineDentreeThe NestBloomAnchor & Clover Club) has opened his very own restaurant, La Brise 523 in Sinan Mansions.

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Image courtesy of La Brise 523

The concept is a firepit-roasted proteins bistro with a modern Southeast Asian flavor-leaning menu. The kitchen sports its own firepit, where anything that can be is roasted over open woodfire flames, tendrils of curling smoke adding a campfire aroma to the entire vicinity.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The front area offers an all-day snacking and sipping bar, showcasing a roster of global wines  including an array from Chef Conrad’s home country of South Africa  an impressive whiskey list, and lineup of both classic and signature cocktails.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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, as well as displays of trendy art collector’s items and statues.

The Food 

Chef Conrad’s cooking captures the places his experiences have led him thus far – at once nostalgic and inventive, and constantly refining. Expect big flavors that tie together ingredients from around the globe. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Begin with the Fire Roasted Sourdough (RMB48), the star of which is – surprisingly – the side of butter. 

“In South Africa, I used to churn butter on my grandparents farm,” Chef Conrad says of the inspiration behind this plate.

Milk powder is caramelized for a deeper sweetness, like dulce de leche, then blitzed into an unctuous pâté consistency that spreads across the fire-kissed sourdough like foie gras. 

The quenelle is adorned with crushed pistachios, Guinness chocolate cake crumble, and coffee oil  the latter pair priming the palate for the fire-forward-themed menu to come. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Getting your daily serving of six has never been easier than with the Eat Your Greens (RMB68), a hefty portion of charred asparagus spears plated above an umami bomb of fermented yellow bean beurre blanc.

A crispy red miso bread crumble is the lynchpin, tying the components together through textural crunch and a toasty, savory-sweet flavor that reinforces the bold sauce. 

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Sea Urchin Tagliatelle (RMB188), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A spin on the customary Baja Cali fish taco, the Tempura Soft Shell Crab Tacos (RMB88/2) see lace-like tempura-coated Vietnamese crabs in place of fish, with acidic purple cabbage slaw, jalapeños, lime and a kimchi aioli  for an added kick of fermented fiery funk  all atop a grilled flour tortilla. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Mushrooms season is in full swing, a fact that’s evident in the Smoked M5 Wagyu Brisket Risotto (RMB128), a mushroom lover’s fantasy.

A plethora of Yunnan mushrooms are cooked into the expertly al dente risotto, a sweet and sticky porcini jam adding depth to the bite when coupled with the mushroom’s earthy undertones. 

Thick slabs of 48-hour Australian braised brisket are simultaneously smoked and roasted over lychee wood and bamboo charcoal, resulting in a highly aromatic bark – the charred crust that forms on the outside of the meat from the caramelized sugar, rendered fat and smoke that cooks on the surface, locking in all of its juices.

The beef chunks are effortlessly tender, falling apart with the mere touch of a fork, the ribbons of fat melting on the tongue. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Girthy batons of Fire Pit Roasted Iberian Pork Ribs (RMB228/500 grams) are the poster child for meat that just shirks away from the bone with only the slightest tug.

Ruffly pleats of interlaced meat and fat drip with a sticky, molasses-like BBQ sauce – one that lingers long after the morsel has been swallowed. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Springy BBQ Maitake Mushrooms (RMB48) are charred on the grill, the edges scorched and pleasantly crispy, while the meaty center absorbs the fire’s smoke like a steak.

Bright pops of pickled shimeji mushrooms and homemade matsutake mushroom vinegar add nuanced salinity and tartness.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A seasonal special, the Grilled Catch of the Day (RMB198) luckily featured snapper on the day of our visit, a plump filet that flakes off in buttery hunks, bathed in a laksa-inspired sauce of pungent tamarind, ginger and lemongrass.

The fish itself is first seasoned with lemon salt – made from dehydrated three-month salt-cured lemons – before being thrown on the grill, dribbled in a fermented gooseberry glaze. 

La Brise 523 also offers an already coveted brunch menu – including Benedicts (RMB68-88) topped with soft shell crab; smoked salmon and arctic crab cake; culatello and avocado; or grilled portobello.

There are also Brunch Sandwiches (RM58-88), Pancakes (RMB58), Nutella French Toast (RMB68), Bacon Carbonara (RMB88) and Steaks (RMB298-888).

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Brunch isn’t brunch in Shanghai without a burger, and Chef Conrad delivers with the Burgers with Pickles Matter (RMB88).

A Wagyu beef patty is stacked tall with bacon, smoked cheddar, pickles, a fried egg, and a crispy, oversized onion ring, all nestled between two plush brioche buns.

The chili aioli slathered across the top mingles with the runny egg yolk, resulting in a smarmy, sloppy, mess of a burger in the most delectable of ways. 

It’s worth noting that the brunch prices are reasonable across the board – you don’t have to dole out all that hard-earned (smoked) cheddar to enjoy a meal here – making La Brise 523 a viable daily option.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Reuben Sandwich You Won’t Forget (RMB88) earns its name with chunky slices of 48-hour braised M7 Wagyu chuck at the foreground, that have been slowly smoked over lychee wood and bamboo charcoal, resulting in a 'Reuben-meets-steak sandwich' of sorts – a detail we're definitely not mad about.  

A shmear of basil mustard is found on the bottom slice of toasted sourdough, while a dollop of homemade thousand island is – you guessed it – on the top, coupled with pickled onions, fermented purple sauerkraut, gooey Emmental cheese, and house pickles. 

And if you happen to be stopping by in the afternoon (which we highly suggest you do), Head Pastry Chef Raina Shan has put together a slew of afternoon tea desserts (also available during dinner) that could put any other bakery in the neighborhood to shame. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

From the New York-style Classic Cheesecake (RMB48), that is idyllically dense, draped in homemade mixed berry jam and vanilla cream…

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

... to the tiered Rum Chestnut Cake (RMB48) – alternating stratum of airy chiffon and rum mousse studded with rum-soaked raisins, piped on top with chestnut cream (to resemble a classic Mont Blanc) and a candied chestnut…

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

... to the La Brise 523 Tiramisu (RMB58) – classic in every sense of the meaning, with Kahlua coffee syrup-soaked ladyfinger sponge and whipped mascarpone mousse.

It really should be mandatory to order dessert here.  

DSC09643.jpgChef’s Selection of Daily Ice Creams (RMB28/scoop), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Drinks span Classic Cocktails (RMB68-88) to more inventive Signatures (RMB78-88), like the Scarlett Sour (RMB88)  a purple ruby-hued sour sipper, its color owed to the combination of beetroot and raspberry with a creamy aquafaba topper...

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

... and the Peanut & Sesame (RMB78) – sesame fat washed rye with clarified peanut butter and brown sugar, reminiscent of a nutty old fashioned. 

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Golden Age (RMB88), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Vibe 

The entire space seats 40, with views over the Sinan Mansions square (or through a window that peers into the kitchen), plus outdoor seating that perimeters half the venue and is dog-friendly.

Approachable and trendy, the restaurant feels like a place you want to hang out, regardless of time of day or day of week. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And, while this is majorly owed to the food and drink, the eclectic music selection deserves its fair share shoutout; a lineup of bangers from the ‘80s to aughts, you’ll find yourself singing (and probably dancing) along to these nostalgia-inducing tunes throughout the meal – an atmosphere we didn’t want to part from. 

Price: RMB250-500
Who’s Going: Chef Conrad Van Den Heever groupies, torched protein aficionados, Sinan Mansion passers-by
Good For: Grilled meat consumption, brunch catch-ups, dog-friendly dining


Thanksgiving Chef’s Table at La Brise 523 on November 23

The holiday season is upon us, which – for some – can mean the added stress of sourcing ingredients, planning, prepping, cleaning, and cooking... all of which can take the fun out of the holidays.

Instead, leave the heavy lifting to the talented chefs at La Brise 523, and treat yourself to a Thanksgiving Chef’s Tasting meal instead.

On November 23, a festively themed holiday menu will be RMB1,288 per person, including wine pairings. Here’s a peek at what's on offer:

Amuse Bouche: Champagne Oyster & Oscietra Caviar
Cream sauce, compressed apple, dill oil

Cold Starter: Sea Urchin & Wagyu Beef Tartare
Aqua Faba aioli, pickled mustard seeds, feuillie de brick

Breadboard: Fire Roasted Sourdough
Dulce de leche butter, milk stout & chocolate cake, coffee oil, pistachio nuts

Appetizer: Yunnan Truffles and Foie Gras Parfait
Morel mushroom, porcini jam, smoked portobello mushroom, matsutaki vinegar, chestnuts 

Hot Starters: Fire Roasted Boston Lobster
Ash baked pumpkin, miso yaki glazed corn, fermented tomato bouillabaisse, pineapple consommé 

Main Course: Six Hour Slow Roast Australian M7 Wagyu Prime Ribe
Cognac and black pepper veloute, smoked mashed potates, confit carrots, broccolini, balsamic glazed shallots

Dessert: La Brise 523 Tiramisu
Ladyfinger sponge, Kahlua coffee syrup, Mascarpone mousse  

Petit Fours:
Amarula chocolate truffles, Orange & bergamot pate de fruit, Yuzu tart, St-Germain meringue

To reserve your spot today, scan the QR code below. Spots are limited, so make sure to snag one before it's too late!

La Brise 523,  #4-6, 523 Fuxing Lu, by Sinan Lu 复兴路523弄4-6号, 近思南路.


Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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