Classic French Fare at Casual Yet Sleek Bisou

By Sophie Steiner, June 29, 2021

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The Place 

BISOU, a casual yet sleek French restaurant, opened in Taikang Terrace this past April with a lot of warranted buzz (one of the partners is a well-known media mogul). The venue is split into two, BISOU and BISOU Rouge Cellar, a casual wine bar plus cellar, located across from each other. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The space is marked by vaulted ceilings, a subdued, intimate dining room with an off-shooting airy terrace, comfy leather chairs and wooden furniture – ultimately resembling a hunting lodge rather than the timeless French bistro it is.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

On the rooftop within the same building is The Plump Garden, previously the home of Perch by The Nest and much-beloved Botanik, which is once again open for weekend brunch, events, pop-ups and private dinners.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Despite the classically French menu and extensive wine list, BISOU is laid back, deserving of its reputation for high value. It feels like dining in your friend’s living room... if your friend happened to have a beyond impressive wine cellar and a critically-acclaimed chef on hand.

The Food

The food menu is designed by chef/partner Rembrandt Van Der Laan (previously of La Creperie), drawing on his experience working at both the Eiffel Tower restaurant and at Alain Ducasse’s 3-star Le Plaza Athénée.

Seven main courses and about as many appetizers and sides are scrawled in white letters on a chalkboard that is carried tableside for ordering convenience. Flavors are oh so French, making it easy to form a coherent meal, complimented by mostly Old World wines. 

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Being a part of the Oysterlicious Group (Osteria, Plump Oyster, C Pearl, The Plump Garden), it’s expected that the Oysters (RMB49/one, RMB199/six) are of the highest quality. But these New Zealand mollusks are a step above that, with each slurp like being dumped by an ocean wave. The addition of lemon and red wine vinegar transforms the alliance into a veritable ménage à trois, thus bestowing these treasures of the sea with their much-deserved aphrodisiac reputation. 

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Using a leaner cut of beef, the true flavor of the roughly cut meat comes through in the Beef Tartare (RMB118) without being overpowered by extra fat. Dots of fresh pesto, a tangy homemade ketchup and cocktail sauce shmears decorate the plate, along with a regal crown-like tangle of fried shoe-string potatoes. Mixing everything together with the homemade mayonnaise, mustard and raw onions, this unmistakably French tartare is all about honoring that perfectly luscious meat. 

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Under whorls of melting butter, the Beef Bavette Wagyu M6 (228RMB) is 180 grams of pure succulence. Known in the US as flank steak, this flat cut of meat is taken from the abdominal muscles of the cow, with very fine intramuscular fat, making it prone to overcooking.

But chef Rembi sears it quickly over ultra-high heat to achieve a perfectly medium rare steak that is thoroughly rosy, except at the edges, which are charred with a crunchy, salt-flecked crust. Buttery caramelized onions are contrasted by a quenelle of sharp stoneground mustard and a tight reduction of balsamic vinegar drizzle. There’s just a lot to love here. 

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The scored skin of the Duck “Magret” Breast (RMB138) crunches like pork crackling with each bite, a welcomed textural juxtaposition between the melting rosé duck flesh. A creamy morel sauce brings an earthy aroma to balance the meat’s natural sweetness.  

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Like the silk scarf slung across the shoulders of a Parisian woman, parchment paper swaddles the 300 grams of Oven Baked Halibut (RMB148), falling in just the right place to create an extra layer of char. Painted with a clean, focused pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes, the resulting soft flavors enhance this typically mundane fish’s delicate nature, yet are still bold enough to make each bite memorable even the following day. 

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Comfort food bliss is a warm bowl of Beef Cheek Pasta (RMB98). Perfectly al dente homemade pappardelle noodles encircle slowly braised beef cheek chunks soaked in a thick tomato paste. A moat of shaved parmesan cheese acts as a perimeter, but quickly melts into an added layer of creamy indulgence. 

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The only misstep of the meal came in the form of under-salted Cauliflower Gratin (RMB48). When baked with béchamel and cheese, this gooey alternative to potatoes dauphinoise commands the opposite of a deft hand when it comes to seasoning. But if a lack of salt on a particular side dish is the most egregious of errors in an entire meal, it’s a 10/10 chance we will be back again as soon as our stomachs have finished digesting. 

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Dessert spans the usual suspects – Crème Brûlée (RMB48), Chocolate Mousse (RMB58) and – our recommended selection – Mama’s Tiramisu (RMB58). Made according to the chef’s mom’s secret recipe, the unassuming jar reveals an expertly balanced version of this customarily Italian dessert within the first scoop. Cakey lady fingers soaked in strong coffee are interspersed with thick, cold layers of lightly sweetened mascarpone cream, a delicate equilibrium of flavors that is so easily thrown off-kilter, but hits every mark at BISOU. 

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Wines by the glass start at RMB48, with house wine options changing bi-monthly. Every week, roughly ten wines are selected and featured as wines of the week, showcasing the extensive spread of more than 100 unique labels on offer. If your wine knowledge is minimal, all of the waitstaff are well trained to make a suggestion for you based on your budget. Bottles fall within the range of RMB250-1,600, with the most common price coming in at roughly RMB300-400 each. 

The Vibe 

Trading out a four-string quartet for French pop-ballads, you’ll find yourself singing along to songs you recognize, albeit in the ‘language of love.’ Test your French language skills even further by picking a wine from the walk-through cellar, or request a recommendation from the friendly and attentive wait staff – it all falls in line with the easy-going ‘just hanging at a friend’s place’ atmosphere. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We suggest grabbing the most eye-catching bottle, positioning yourself on the sunny terrace with a plate of oysters and preparing for the most lux ‘staying in night’ to date. 

Price: RMB300-400
Who’s Going: Anyone and everyone who works in the wine industry, Old World wine lovers, French food addicts
Good For: Unpretentious date nights, classically French fare, oyster craving satisfaction


BISOU and The Plump Garden are co-hosting the Plump Food & Drink Festival on Saturday, July 10. Four floors of food and drink at Taikang Terrace, featuring some of the city's heavy weight chefs, bartenders and brands. The line-up includes chefs Rembrandt Van Der Laan (BISOU), Sean Jorgensen (The Cannery), Simon Sunwoo (Liquid Laundry) and Carlos Sotomayor, as well as Swirlz ice cream, KKD Korean Fried Chicken, tiki cocktails, 白8 Baijiu, Beast of the East, La Creperie, CITA Session Lager, Baladin Nazionale Beer and more. Free entry, RMB100 for six food and drink tickets. There's a kid's play area, and the venue is dog-friendly.

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

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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