Shanghai Food & Drink Gossip: June 2021

By Sophie Steiner, June 22, 2021

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We are in the thick of it. May Holiday saw a slew of new openings just in time for patio season to kick off, and now things *may* slow down as the city becomes more and more sauna-like. Probably not though, since once the creativity starts flowing, it doesn’t quit. Without further ado, your monthly dose of Shanghai’s food & bev gossip is served.

Malabar has been closed for a few weeks due to ‘renovation,’ but after nearly nine years, it's undergoing a rebirth. While design and decoration are being seriously upgraded, Malabar's core energy will remain. Focus will shift towards the creative tapas menu being developed by Executive Chef and co-owner Juan Campos

Drinks are also getting a facelift. Curated by Yao Lu (Union Trading Company), they'll be moving away from the current club-like party scene. Looks like no more late night drunken makeout sessions with sexy Latin Americans – sad day – but the silver lining is more good food is coming to that already popping area. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Ilyà Khokhlov (previously of Botanical Basket), partnering with Igor Mustafaev, have launched The Drinkery on Ruijin Er Lu, just south of Huaihai Lu – a casual bar hangout reminiscent of an old school house party. 

It’s all about simple cocktails, bar snacks, live DJs and all things chill, with everything circling back to the Shanghai community through art, jokes and local memes. The concept is essentially, “there are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet.”

More in the bar news, COA of Hong Kong – No.1 bar in Asia’s Top 50, and the World’s No. 8 bar – is opening a second location in Shanghai. This Mexican-inspired craft cocktail bar is all about bringing agave spirits to the forefront of Asia’s beverage scene.

One of the OG bar team members, Robin, is moving over to help get it up and running, and Jay Khan, the mastermind behind the whole operation, will swing through as soon as he can – here’s to hoping for more lax quarantine rules in the near future. Exact location and opening date are still hush hush, with more details in the coming weeks. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A modern take on a traditional tea house, Wulu on Fenyang Lu offers a refreshing alternative to always grabbing a coffee or cocktail. Partners Ting Huang and Dinguo Zheng offer guests everything from sparkling teas to nitrogen teas to cold-drip teas, along with Chinese fusion sharing dishes that highlight local ingredients in a bright, outdoor-like urban garden atmosphere 

Forage, an eatery and wine bar on Maoming Nan Lu, just kicked off their soft opening on June 19. Focusing (as the name suggests) on foraged, organic ingredients, artisanal decor and an extensive natural wine list, this spot can be added to the never-ending wine bar list of places that have opened in the last year in Shanghai. 

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Even the dancing-in-the-park ayis know that Five Guys opened in the end of April; lines were insane. Actually, they still are, but even after the ephemeral hype has passed, we are still not planning on returning anytime soon. They do have milkshakes available now, which weren’t ready yet by grand opening, but the buildup killed the burger. 

READ MORE: Post-Ephemeral Hype, Does Five Guys Hold Up? Nah.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Named for the international bank that the 100-year-old, neo-classical building was designed to house, Grand Banks – a NYC aesthetic lounge on Sichuan Zhong Lu – officially went into soft opening around the end of May, and has since launched a brunch menu in addition to their worldly dinner menu.

The food is an intermingling of the chef’s Chinese roots, French culinary training and other pan-Asian cuisine elements, paired with Chinese-ingredient inspired crafted cocktails. The vibe is very Tribeca loft chic with a loungy upstairs for VIP guests. 

READ MORE: Grand Banks – Manhattan Chic Meets Shanghai's Historical Bund

IMG_74981.jpegImage by Sophie Steiner/That's

Mi Mian Hui Xin in Wukang Market went into soft opening in May (only open on weekends for now) as a middle of the road, everyday dim sum and Hong Kong diner focusing on nailing the classics with just a few surprises.

The menu is large, spanning steamed and fried dim sum, roasted meats, diner fare, sharing plates, Canto soups, desserts and drinks. Whether someone of Cantonese descent would fully approve of the state of dim sum at this diner is up in the air, but the fact remains that, regardless of rustic authenticity, it’s tasty. 

READ MORE: Not Your Mama's Dim Sum at Mi Mian Hui Xin

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Italo has rebranded as Italo Trattoria, your neighborhood go-to Italian joint for back-to-the-basics Italian cooking with a modern thread. A combination of bringing chef Lucky Lasagna on board, revamping the cocktail list, plus upping the service game by welcoming Sebastian Dallee (previously of Heritage by Madison) to the Funka team as group GM has given the entire space a totally new feel, with incredibly delicious Italian food at honest prices. 

READ MORE: 3 New Spring Menus: Italo Trattoria, Urban Café & Oxalis

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Another exciting rebrand comes with a side of BBQ. Well, actually a table full of it, as The Camel has teamed up with Matty Waters, owner and founder of Smoke KCQ, to launch The Smokehouse. Surprise! It’s a lot of meats. All the meats. Meat for days. #meatporn.

It’s regional agnostic American ‘slow and low’ BBQ (with a strong emphasis on Kansas City, Matty’s hometown) with all the grease-dripping, heart-clogging, finger-lickin’ good fixings that are best enjoyed in Daisy Duke cutoffs or overalls, shotgun in hand. 

READ MORE: #MeatPorn-Worthy Smoked Meats and KC BBQ at The Smokehouse

Word on the street is that they just launched their brunch menu to accompany their already expansive lunch and dinner menu, with offerings like biscuits & gravy, smoked fried chicken on honey maple bacon-glazed waffles and pulled pork and scrambled eggs breakfast tacos.

Are you drooling yet? Because we’re definitely drooling. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

LatinLand restaurant just opened in Wheelock Square, just above Shanghai Brew House, as a space dedicated to all things Latin America – from Peruvian lomo salatado to Colombian empanadas to Chilean Pisco sours, all flowing out of the kitchen and bar to the beats of reggaetón, salsa, bachata and merengue. 

This is also a precursor to LatinLand District, an event space with food trucks, live music, lifestyle brands and entertainment in A La Town that aims to launch by August. In the meantime, there are events nearly every weekend with loads of food vendors, craft beer, cocktails, DJs and live performances. 

READ MORE: Latin Eats, Beats and Beach Vibes at LatinLand

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Shanghai’s unanimously favorite vegan restaurant Duli is finally expanding, with a second location in Xintiandi’s Foodie Social by late August. This means even more healthy yet flavorful eats in a much wider delivery radius

READ MORE: Shanghai Restaurant Review: Must-Try Plant-Based Bistro Duli

Winner of the That's Shanghai New Restaurant of the Year 2020, Bar à Vin has now taken over La Saleya on Changle Lu, making it La Saleya Bar à Vin. With more of a 'home-style' feel, the French food is more rustic, country and classically simple, yet still paired with a delicious wine selection.

READ MORE: Shanghai Restaurant Review: Bar à Vin

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Photo courtesy of Gentle by the Artist

Gentle by the Artist, a Japanese-Western fusion restaurant, is now open on Jiangguo Lu. This is the second venue by the same owner as The Artist Bar & Bistro. Think mentaiko spaghetti, katsu curry rice and lots of grilled proteins at more than reasonable prices.

After some delays, Dusk Till Dawn, a new bar hidden behind also brand-spanking new Thai street food cover restaurant Soi Thai (with actual legit Thai food), is planning on opening before the end of the month, next to Up.

The drinks are all going to focus around movies, with storylines imbedded in the recipes. Expect dance music most nights of the week, in collaboration with Sound of Shanghai (previously of Unico). 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Lucky Diner across from ShanKang Li sadly closed a few weeks back, but Yugo Grill has since taken over the space. That means Pljeskavica – or Yugoslavian-style burgers – Every. Damn. Day! Plus, now they also offer some hearty Balkan specials, like goulash. 

READ MORE: Pljeskavica – The Late-Night Yugoslavian Burger Eats You Need

Another closure took place this past month, in the form of Paulaner in Xintiandi, one of the longest running brewpubs in the city. As craft beer culture gains more ground, we guess competition is that much more intense. 

Along those same lines, Neil Playfoot, previously the brewer at Humdinger in Kunming, took over the position as head brewer at Shanghai Brew House about two months ago, and we're looking forward to see what kind of bubbly brews he has in store for us.

Talib Kweli at Le Baron
Photo courtesy of Le Baron

Le Baron on Donghu Lu is closing for good after a seven-year run, ending with a blowout party on June 26. But fear not, the owners are throwing their club creation wizardry into a new project, GRNDCNTRL, set to open in Xintiandi by late summer.


Got a hot tip? Feel free to email all juicy rumors to sophiesteiner@thatsmags.com. 

Read more Shanghai Food & Drink Gossip.

[Cover image via tricycle.org]

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