2 New Spring Menus: Sober Company & Scarpetta

By Sophie Steiner, May 4, 2024

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Sober Company 

One of the most anticipated (re)openings of last year, Sober Company made a comeback, bigger, badder, and better than ever.  

READ MORE: Sober Company is Back! Award Winning Venue's Long-Awaited Return

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Owned by SG Group CEO and founder Shingo Gokan, the Japanese bar industry tycoon with venues in Tokyo, New York, Dubai and Shanghai (Speak LowThe Odd Couple, and the newly opened Swirl), Sober Company now consists of four concepts under one roof: Sober Kissa, Sober Izakaya, Sober Sakaba, and Tipsy.

Together, this creative bar concept scores a coveted spot on the Asia's 50 Best Bars and World's 50 Best Bars lists year after year. 

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Leading the charge on the venue is much of the same Sober team as before – including the famed management duo of Kazu and Xiao Shingo, as well as head chef Shunojo Iyoda (previously of Kaisha). 

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After the initial menu launch in the fall of last year, the team is back at it again, this time with an Omakase Set (RMB280) that includes five temaki rolls – the Ho Chi Minh City, Lima, Mexico City, Casablanca, Napoli – and a dessert – the Kyoto.

There is also the option of adding on a Japanese spirit-leaning “mini” cocktails pairing for just RMB100 more – an absolute steal

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The set begins with tuna belly dribbled in fish sauce and adorned with torn mint and coriander as the Ho Chi Minh City.

Pickled radish and garlic flowers create the multitude of herbs and spices that cover the five tastes – sour, sweet, salty, bitter and umami – an integral component of Vietnamese cuisine. 

Further enhancing the citrus notes, a Lemon Sour – shaken with Yamanokotobuki sake and lemon juice – is poured tableside, a riff on the same cocktail offered in the Sober Kissa bar on the first floor. 

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The Lima sees raw scallop smothered in a coconut cream-forward leche de tigre, striped with julienned red chilis and baked corn kernels  integral components of a typical Peruvian ceviche.

Further augmenting the bite’s brightness, a fruity mini cocktail pairing named after the team’s newest venue, Swirl, sees a blend of white wine, Momo Cloud sake, calvados, fig and guava. 

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Sitting at the cross-section of a taco and sushi hand roll, the Mexico City is a base of yellowtail paired with tomato salsa and pickled jalapeños, finished with crushed tortilla chips and cilantro micro greens.

An equally balanced sipper, the Cold Brew Martini pairs coconut water cold brew coffee with apricot juice, tequila and 紀土Kid sake. 

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Next, travel to Morocco’s Casablanca, where mackerel is slathered in a creamy bessara paste – a thick reduction of a bessara stew that’s customarily made from fava beans, chickpeas, onions, garlic, and cumin.

Crushed pistachios – a cornerstone of Moroccan cuisine – add texture, color and an earthy nuttiness. 

The optimal pairing of Hoji Tea Whiskey and Pinot Noir offers a nip of spice, playing off of the heat of the bessara sauce. 

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Our final savory stop on this global culinary excursion brings us to Napoli; the newest addition to the temaki lineup is inspired by the Neapolitan dish polipetti affogati – or octopus in tomato stew.

Sprinkled with mozzarella cheese, freshly torn basil, and a crispy bread crumble – a tribute to the famous Napoli pizza of the region – the tomato’s natural sweetness is amplified by the team’s take on a Bamboo, made with Mancino dry vermouth, manzanilla sherry, and a splash of aromatic Japanese Amabuki Peach liqueur. 

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Less of a temaki and more of a spoon sweet, the Kyoto (only available as part of the set) combines piped Kyoto matcha cream, a dot of anko sweet red bean paste, and sticky rice with crispy rice crackers for a mouthfeel that mimics mango sticky rice.

It pleasantly pairs with Jasmine Lychee Rum and sake. 

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Not currently offered on the omakase set, but totally worth springing for, the Texas (RMB75) lives up to its name – being the heftiest temaki on offer.

Brown sugar-brûléed bonito fish is torched to order, glazed in a sticky Carolina-style vinegar-forward BBQ sauce and shmeared with ginger and green olive relish. 

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Crispy potato chips, pickled gherkins, and sliced green chilis lend both crunch and a lingering hit of that backyard BBQ heat, rounded by a final spritz of liquid smoke. 

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If you’ve still got room after all that, snag an order of the newly released green tea-smoked Beef Tartare (RMB135), made with UYYU Wagyu filet marinated in a tosa soy sauce – made from soy and dashi – crowned with glistening Hubei sturgeon caviar and chopped scallions.

The nutty tea aroma impregnates each meaty morsel, amplified by nature’s butter – diced avocado cubes. 

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The aforementioned Omakase Set, along with a la carte snacks and sips, are available daily from 6pm. To reserve a seat, send a direct message on Instagram to @sober_company or book through Dianping.

Sober Company, F106, 109 Yandang Lu, by Nanchang Lu 雁荡路109号F101室, 近南昌路.


Scarpetta

This past October, Scarpetta owner John Liu welcomed Roman-native chef Lorenzo Merolle (previously of Frasca and Amanyangyun) on board, with his debut menu launching just three weeks ago. 

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While Scarpetta has gone through a rollercoaster of menus and chefs over the last 12 years, the core ethos has remained – one that is all in the name.

Derived from the Italian phrase 'fare la scarpetta,' meaning to 'make the little shoe,' it is a concept familiar to anyone who has indulged in a delicious plate of saucy pasta – the shoe, in this case, being the requisite piece of bread used to mop up every last drop of goodness on the plate. 

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DSC01805.jpgBrine on Brine – Italian green olives stuffed with gherkins and harissa aioli, homemade grissini. Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And – whether Chef Merolle’s meal clocks in as your first or 101st visit to Scarpetta – we can attest to the fact that you’ll be mopping your plate clean regardless of what is ordered. 

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As referenced in the name, bread is a requisite part of any meal at Scarpetta, and it is evident that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into the baked goods, from the Garlic Focaccia (RMB48) to the pizza dough, from the crostinis to the cakes.

The aforementioned focaccia is served warm – a high hydration bread, proofed for 48 hours, that translates to a fluffy center with a thin and crunchy crust.

Less oily than some of its Italian counterparts, the pillowy dough is akin to biting into a pock-marked cloud, finished with a dusting of rosemary and thyme. 

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The four-slice portion is presented alongside an Italian tricolor of sauces: red – piquant nduja tomato aioli; white – confit garlic with chili; and green – sesame shiso pesto, rather than the conventional basil and pine nut variety.

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The Fresh Burrata (RMB88) is sourced by none other than Korean sensation KJ – a woman who cultivated her craft for cheese making in Italy, and now sells some of the city’s top quality burrata to famed restos like Mercato, Jeju Sagye, and the like.

Featuring a 50-gram portion of the utmost silky and milky Inner Mongolian cow’s milk cheese around, it is available in your choice from a quartet of flavor profiles – olive oil and sea salt; berries and culatello; truffle and apricot; tomato and basil. 

Following the motto of “sweets before eats,” the berries and culatello is a no brainer – not unlike a melting berry ice cream.

Anchored to the plate by a berry coulis, the burrata is encircled by fresh raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and a ribbon of culatello – the choicest portion of cured pork most commonly found in Emilia Romagna, Italy.

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The sweeter of the two sexes, female squid is scorched over charcoal before being stuffed with tomatoes, olives, and capers – or panzanella accoutrement (sans bread) – as the Baby Squid Panzanella (RMB198).

To maintain that necessary crunch, toasted crostini is added in just before the cephalopod is plated atop a creamy chickpea mash, and finished with a bright pinzimonio parsley and lemon sauce. 

DSC01880.jpgWarm Octopus Tonnato (RMB198) – Tonnato sauce, caperberry. Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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The Wagyu Beef Carpaccio & Tartare (RMB268) features a duo of meats – seared and sliced M5 Wagyu carpaccio and M9 tenderloin tartare. Yet its meatiness is tempered by acidic pickled shimeji mushrooms.

Layers of smarmy truffle aioli and rosewood smoked quail egg are amplified by the heavy musk aromas of copious amounts of truffle.

A fresh sprinkling of rosemary salt, mustard seeds, lemon zest and basil culminates in a balanced bite.

Now, onto Scarpetta’s bread and butter – aka pizza and pasta...

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... with gourmet artisanal tableside theatrics pizza – replete with all the bells and whistles required in this wanghong, Douyin-driven world we find ourselves living in today. 

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The chef’s signature pizza, or Chef Signature Burratona (RMB368), sees a Mutti tomato sauce slathered base complete with freshly made ricotta, mozzarella, and aged parmesan.

It is topped with a rotund behemoth of supplier KJ’s burrata, a whopping 250 grams of gooey globular goodness – Scarpetta being the only place in the city you will find one this size.

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The cheesy orb of this 'next level margherita' dimples when pressed, then slices open before diners’ eyes to spill its stretchy stracciatella strands all over the pizza in the sauciest of ways – scattered further with a salad’s worth of tableside cut basil, a lashing of basil oil, and shaved cured egg yolk. 

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Romans are known for their carbs, so it’s no surprise to learn of Chef Merolle’s passion for all things pasta. 

And that passion translates directly to the plate with the Tomato & Gragnano Fusilloni (RMB168), a seemingly simple red sauce and pasta that couldn’t be further from basic.

A 48-hour labor of love, the red sauce sees a blend of three kinds of tomatoes – cherry, goji, and local beefsteak – simmered with 0.5-to-1 ratio of onions to tomatoes for the ultimate sweetness. 

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Like a tomato hug, the sauce seeps its way into every nook and cranny of the corkscrewed pasta, ensuring a tomato onslaught in each forkful.

The poster child of this standout menu iteration, this plate deserves to be licked clean, 'fare la scarpetta' style. 

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Continuing the trend of fine dining quality pastas, the Lobster Sardinian Gnocchetti (RMB358) features lux ingredients (sea urchin and lemon butter poached lobster) resting over an Italian’s take on ghocchetti-coated lobster bisque – one that swaps the anise-forward Ricard for brandy, flambéed alongside a fresh sofrito of celery, carrots and onions. 

The corrugated beetle-like shells are dusted with a pinch of chili, a subtle heat that calls diners in for another moreish mouthful. 

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An homage to chef Merolle’s first drinking story (that involved mixing Baileys with Batida de Coco – a Brazilian coconut liqueur), a white chocolate and coconut mousse shell surrounds a whipped Baileys cream atop a salt and olive oil chocolate sablé butter cookie as the treacliest of desserts.

Peppered with – well – black pepper and crushed popcorn, this sweet and savory finish is the crucial cherry – or coconut – on top of an absolute showstopper of a meal. 

Scarpetta, 33 Mengzi Lu, by Xujiahui Lu, 蒙自路33号, 近徐家汇路.


READ MORE

3 Meaty New Menus: Cages, 18 Hours BBQ & Alimentari

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2 Fiery New Menus: High Yaki The Sea & La Brise 523

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50 Shades of Green at Fu He Hui & 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana

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2 Sexy Spring Menus: Little Catch & Tomatito

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2 Swanky Spring Menus: 18 by Fréderic Anton & COLLECTIF°

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[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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