The Night I Overdosed at Overdose

By Sophie Steiner, March 1, 2021

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The Place 

Go out to Gubei, and yes, you will most definitely find more authentic Japanese yakitori than Overdose – a hip, semi-unknown izakaya on Huashan Lu – but sometimes our love for a restaurant isn’t solely focused on the food; it’s an amalgamation of what we eat, how we eat it, the music, the service and the atmosphere that culminate into a memorable experience. Food is what’s on the plate, but dining extends beyond that. People forget how powerful the culture of a restaurant can be.  

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Overdose is miniscule – 15 people maxes out all indoor seating, and a tiny to-go counter outside can squeeze another two. The cramped layout coupled with a one-hitter bathroom and an equally narrow kitchen make Overdose look like it’s been designed for quick turnover, yet every time we’ve been we end up staying for hours.

Why? Because when the perfect whirlwind of steaming grilled meat skewers, free-flowing highballs and self-regulated karaoke brings together friends and strangers alike, it’s hard to justify moving elsewhere. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Food

The food is designed to be ordered again and again – as the price on the menu is per skewer – and we do just that, along with countless cheap Highballs (RMB38), Sours (RMB32) and Asahis (RMB20), just like the izakaya gods intended. Nothing on the menu costs more than RMB50, with most skewers falling in the RMB10-20 range. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

With a focus on using every part of the chicken, the menu includes roughly 10 different cuts to choose from. Whether you’re a gizzard gal or into eating ass – Chicken Ass (RMB10) that is, as it’s so properly translated on the trilingual menu – Overdose has you covered. Aside from poultry, there’s pork, beef, veggies and seafood, along with cold and hot small plates for sharing. 

Mackerel (RMB35), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Usual suspects, like sauced or salted Chicken Skewers (RMB10) and charred Chicken and Green Onion (RMB12) form a base, while crispy Chicken Wings (RMB18) and pleasantly chewy Beef Tongue (RMB20) get into the good stuff. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Do not skip the Chicken Meatballs (RMB16). We repeat, do not even think about skipping them. Three golf ball-sized spheres adorn a skewer, each coated in a slightly sticky paste made of soy sauce, mirin, sugar and rice vinegar. The crispy exterior gives way to the juicy meat inside, exactly how any meatball, regardless of cuisine, should.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Chicken Skin (RMB12) can be hit or miss. On this particular night it was crispy and fatty in all the right ways, but other times we’ve visited have involved asking the staff to throw them back on the grill for a minute or two longer. No one wants to gnaw on flabby skin. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Pork Stuffed Grilled Peppers (RMB14) are another win, especially when seasoned with chili flakes, with blistered capsicum halves surrounding fatty ground pork. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Gooey Rice Cakes (RMB12) arrive with a golden-brown hue but come in second to the Grilled Rice Ball (RMB25/2 pieces) that add a necessary buffer lining to your stomach for soaking up another whiskey. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Get in that daily serving of five with any of the vegetable skewers – marinated Shiitake Mushrooms (RMB10), roasted Garlic (RMB10), thick, layered Leeks (RMB10) or luscious Avocado (RMB18).

Tomato Wrapped in Bacon (RMB12) and Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon (RMB15) are for those who believe bacon makes everything better. After all, a vegetable is still a vegetable, even if it’s encased in greasy pork. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Excellent sides for sharing range from pungent Kimchi (RMB18) and crispy-bottomed Grilled Dumplings (RMB25/6 pieces) to Kewpie-glossed Potato Salad (RMB25) and Stir-Fry Vegetables (RMB28) – a heaving plate of sautéed cabbage, peppers, flecks of dried ham and curling bonito flakes. 

The Vibe 

Reservations are usually taken only a day or two in advance, unless you’re a sizeable group (6+ people). The restaurant is packed out most nights, regardless of weather, so definitely do make that booking to guarantee a table, as the line between full and slammed is only a handful of people. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Following a filling dinner of grilled meats and Japanese small plates, entire bottles of Suntory (RMB338) hit the table, along with the remote to the QQ music-connected projector screen that covers the entire back wall. Why change locations when a full night of KTV awaits? 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We are strong believers that yakitori tastes better when served with a side of hip hop. Roll up with a larger group, and you become DJ for the night of your own private meat-skewer filled club. It’s a toss-up as other patrons are just as likely to be offended by the debaucherous singing as they are to join in, but it’s always worth the gamble. You’re in China – the KTV world capital – so the odds are in your favor. 

Price: RMB100-300
Who’s Going:  Expats in the area, young and trendy locals, those craving all things Japan
Good For: Social outings, KTV practice, meat consumption, yakitori cravings

See a listing for Overdose. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s]

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