Temple to the Agave Gods – Coa Shanghai is Back!

By Sophie Steiner, June 20, 2024

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The No. 1 Bar in Asia for three years running – Coa Hong Kong – graced Shanghai with its (brief) presence when it opened on Jiaozhou Lu in 2022.

READ MORE: A Sit-Down with Jay Khan: Owner of Coa, Asia's No. 1 Bar

Then, in January of this year, Coa Shanghai sent shockwaves through the F&B community by suddenly shutting its doors (due to a government renewal project”), but vowing to relocate.

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Owner Jay Khan. Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Whispers fluttered, gossip arose, and borderline riots ensued; would Coa ever actually reopen? 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Luckily, this past week put all those rumors to rest as the new-and-improved Coa Shanghai swung open its doors to lines of eager imbibers snaking their way down the block just to snag a coveted seat. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

In the name of the jimador, the mezcalero, and the catador, we praise you agave gods for bestowing us this offering. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

First, a little background for those who have been living under the Nanpu Bridge for the last five years…

What is Coa 

Debuting with the Highest New Entry Award in 2019 at the Asia’s 50 Best Bar Awards, followed by Coa’s owner-bartender Jay Khan winning the Bartenders’ Bartender Award in 2020, it’s been apparent since day one that Coa, as a brand, boasts that superstar-worthy 'something special.'

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Last year, Khan’s Coa in Hong Kong accomplished a feat unmatched in the history of Asia’s 50 Best Bars, becoming the first-ever bar to be thrice-awarded the coveted No.1 position.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Named after the machete-like tool used for harvesting agave – the plant from which both mezcal and tequila are distilled – Coa pays homage to a range of agave-based spirits, offering the city’s largest collection, clocking in at roughly 200 bottles.

Khan has visited every distillery on this list, so all pours are served up with a side of his own liquid knowledge.

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Image courtesy of Coa

In 2022, he took his concept a step further by opening Coa in our own backyard of Shanghai, a natural extension of the brand into China mainland, followed by an entirely new concept, The Savory Project, in Hong Kong in May of 2023 with partner (and Coa Operations Manager) Ajit Gurung.

Out With the Old, In With the New 

The new Coa Shanghai sits on bustling Fuxing Zhong Lu, stacked four floors high... and four concepts deep.

Each of the four 'venues' has a totally different model, menu, music, and mood, ensuring a weekend’s worth of indulging under one roof. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

From casual to crafted, the concepts build upon one other, catering to agave nerds and noobs alike. 

Count em’...

Taqueria

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An ode to Mexico City’s street eateries, the high-energy first floor is about tacos, smashable margaritas and boozy slushies, encouraging spill-out onto the street corner.

Cantina

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Image courtesy of Coa

Inspired by 1930-40s Mexican cinema, the second floor is a traditional Mexican bar boasting classic cocktails with a twist, plus some more substantial mains like chilaquiles, quesadillas, and pepper beef tenderloin.

Salón

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Image courtesy of Coa

Passing agave illustrations, guests climb to the third floor, where the focal point is the same Aztec agave bottle display and two-ton volcanic stone bar that was housed in the previous Coa Shanghai location. 

Expect innovative Coa signatures libations coupled with Mexican murals and artwork.

Mezcaleria

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Image courtesy of Coa

A temple to all thing agave, the eight-person communal table plays host to bespoke tasting sessions for serious drinkers.

Orbiting around the Agave Bible (a compilation of all 200+ agave spirits on offer, organized by variety, appellations, microclimates and even soil characteristics), agave specialist (and walking agave encyclopedia) Ben Chen pours only the highest quality 'liquid gold' into Baccarat glassware. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The common thread that weaves it all together is the idea of presenting Shanghai with el sabor de México – a taste of what modern Mexico has to offer through an immersive experience.

To clarify, unlike other multi-concept venues around town  *cough* Sober Company *cough* – guests don’t need to visit the first three floors to be granted entry into the fourth.

So it's dealer’s choice, based on how much you’re aiming to impress your date.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

What to Order

We spent an evening working our way through the maze of floors, sipping tipples, sampling agave, snacking on savories, and – let’s be real – shamelessly hoovering tacos (all in the name of research, of course).

And after all that back-breaking, tummy-stretching work, here are our veritable suggestions, in order of floor descension...

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Cacao Husk Rosita (RMB128) – Altos Reposado, cacao husk, vermouth, Campari, 75% cacao aged for two days

Where? Available at the Salón

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Smacked Cucumber (RMB128) – Del Maguey Vida, Altos Blanco, cucumber, chili, ginger, honey, Chinese cucumber sauce

Where? Available at the Salón

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Chino (RMB128) – Del Maguey Vida, Altos Blanco, pickled onion, chipotle, passion fruit, lemon, tomato, Chinese white vinegar, litsea pepper

Where? Available at the Salón

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Bloody Beef Maria (RMB128) – Del Maguey Vida, Ocho Blanco, beef stock, chipotle chile, Sichuan peppercorn, tomato cordial

Where? Available at the Salón

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Piña Asada (RMB108) – La Venenosa Taberna, clarified roasted pineapple, chipotle, coconut, honey

Where? Available at the Cantina

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? La Chinesca (RMB108) – Altos Blanco, Del Maguey Vida, cilantro, jalapeño, honey, lemon, ginger, sesame oil, Tajin

Where? Available at the Cantina

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Chicken Chilaquiles (RMB88) – Chicken, cheese, corn chips, pickled onion, jalapeño, salsa roja

Where? Available at the Cantina and the Salón

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Gambas al Ajillo (RMB68) – Shrimp, smoked paprika, parsley, thyme, garlic, olive oil, garlic bread

Where? Available at the Cantina and the Salón

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Pepper Tenderloin (RMB128) – Beef filet, black pepper, rosemary, onion, garlic, garlic bread

Where? Available at the Cantina and the Salón

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? House Michelada (RMB88) – House michelada mix, clamato, lime, lager

Where? Available at the Taqueria

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s

What? Tacos (RMB38/1, RMB98/3) – Pictured here: Cochinita (braised pork knuckles, pickled shallot, chili, cilantro), Beef Mixta (braised beef brisket, turnip, assorted beef tripe, pickled shallot, green pepper, cilantro). Note: Other taco fillings span Carnitas, Guajillo Chicken, Shrimp, Mushrom, and Beef.

Where? Available at the Taqueria, Cantina, and Salón

And this is just the beginning. By regularly rotating the menu for the four concepts, Khan continues to expand his unfettered love for agave, all in the name of preserving the craftsmanship of this Mexican cultural relic’s legacy. 

Coa, 580 Fuxing Lu, by Ruijin Er Lu, 复兴路580号, 近瑞金二路.


Read more Shanghai Bar Reviews.

[Cover Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s]

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