Another week, another new restaurant in Xintiandi. Or so it seems at least. Glasshouse is a sleek new casual eatery owned by the Gaia Group, a Hong Kong-based restaurant corporation behind Va Bene, Gaia:2, Isola and the Greyhound Cafes.
Situated underneath Va Bene (which recently had a drastic renovation), Glasshouse serves a curiously diverse menu that touches base with both Southeast Asian and Italian traditions. That's right, we're off to the notoriously treacherous realm of fusion food again, so buckle up.
Already doing a very brisk trade despite still being in soft-opening, Glasshouse's extensive menu takes a good 10 minutes to fully peruse. Divided up into sections like 'small bites,' 'bigger bites,' 'pizza bites,' 'robata bites,' 'garden bites' and 'sweet bites,' you'll find yourself considering sausage mac and cheese (RMB88) or spaghetti with clams and chili (RMB108) alongside Singaporean noodles (RMB158) or pad thai (RMB118).
True to form, we start with drinks and cocktails. First up a Starbucks-esque 'sensational ice green tea latte with pumpkin and caramel' (their words) for RMB52. The matcha part of this at the top was pleasant and mercifully un-sweetened, but the bottom was too sugary for our tastes and we'd have preferred it sans pumpkin/caramel.
Glasshouse also has a large bar installed and a cocktail list to boot.
Our 'Perfect East Side' (RMB76), with gin, cucumber, mint, lemon juice and St. Germain was downright refreshing and a good choice for pairing with what would hopefully be Glasshouse's Southeast Asian flavors.
Chicken wings with lime lemongrass and shrimp sambal sauce (RMB58) were pretty tasty. However, the sauce they came with was an all too familiar Chinese oil-based chili one. A fresh, pungent and zesty tomato-based sambal to cut through the oiliness of the wings would have worked better.
Also problematic was the Caesar salad with deep-fried runny egg and spider jumbo soft-shell crab (RMB138). The potential is there, but we found the uncut lettuce leaves rather awkward alongside the long crab legs, all served in a deep bowl. Similarly, the deep-fried egg seemed like unecessary overkill and the croutons too large/hard/crusty. Kudos for putting the dressing on the side though.
The undisputed highlight of the Glasshouse experience was grilled corn on the cob with black truffle butter (RMB38), possessed of a warm, rich and deeply satisfying earthy flavor. We cleared the whole plate of it and would definitely order again.
Another unexpected highlight was a rendition of Singaporean noodles (RMB158), which Glasshouse 'elevates' with lobster, foie gras and serrano ham. We'll admit we didn't quite order this dish in good faith, as we half expected them to miss the mark.
To give a little context, Singaporean noodles is a dish with an unusually diverse heritage; one that draws from various time-honored culinary traditions that broadly trace the migration of the Hokkien, Teochew, Hakka, Hainanese and Cantonese peoples from Mainland China to Singapore, Malaysia and the wider world.
While Glasshouse's version is far from authentic, we have to admit that by and large they pull it off. We're not sure it needs 'elevating' with lobster rather than regular shrimp, but the foie gras was certainly a welcome addition. It's a little pricey, but would satisfy as a main course.
Pizza bites. We tried one with BBQ smoked duck, green onions and mozzarella cheese (RMB118), which was unsettlingly sweet and a little over-priced for the size. We'd sooner go upstairs and eat Va Bene's pizza than this one.
'Candy crush' ice cream with Oreo cookies, assorted candies and rice crispies (RMB88). This dessert literally does what it says on the tin. It arrives at the table looking presentable, served somewhat bizarrely in a mortar bowl with a pestle.
Then, a fuwuyuan comes and literally crushes it up with said pestle...
...To interesting effect. Obviously, this one's for kids. We hope.
Glasshouse is also doing a fondue set (RMB88), served with freshly baked egg puffs, summer fruits, brownies and marshmallows. Nice for sharing, and pretty good egg puffs by Shanghai standards.
Food verdict: 1.5/3
The atmosphere here is laidback, pleasant and to us, pretty inviting. Fuwuyuan are confident, friendly, (some) English-speaking, and all seem to be pretty happy about working at Glasshouse, which makes a big difference. They along with the verdantly decorated interiors make it an appealing and casual place to be, and overall, it's a suitable fit for an area like Xintiandi.
Vibe verdict: 1/1
Value for money
No restaurant in this high-rent spot like this will ever be 'cheap,' and while Glasshouse does offer lunch sets from RMB98, most of the larger dishes come in at over RMB100 each. However, there are a few budget friendly dishes to be found too.
Value for money: 0.5/1
TOTAL VERDICT: 3/5
Price: RMB100-300 per person
Who's going: locals, families, expats
Good for: lunch, brunch, casual dinners, Italian fusion food, Southeast Asian fusion food
See a listing for Glasshouse
Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews