Foreplay Part I: Shaughnessy Steakhouse Has Got Sultry Allure

By Sophie Steiner, December 27, 2021

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The Place 

Arriving at the unassuming building where Shaughnessy Restaurant & Bar resides, situated in no man’s land – somewhere between Xintiandi, People’s Square and the Bund – was all it took for me to instantly shift into judgy mode. It’s supposed to be a high-end steakhouse, so why does the entrance look like a building the government might knock down next month? 

And then the elevator opened on the 22nd floor.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Picture an expansive Sopranos-chic space packed with Shanghai’s glitziest and most glam expense accounters. The type of people who (pre-COVID) would fly to the Maldives for a midweek golf tournament.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a sprawling view of Shanghai’s downtown, while a low set onyx ceiling guides the eye to a glowing, gold-lit spiral staircase centered on a marble platform, flanked by shelves stacked with more than 400 varietals of wine. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

White tablecloths are decked with enough cutlery and glassware to keep silversmiths in business, accented by wooden with cream leather chairs. Private rooms, both upstairs and behind the wine racks, offer larger groups a more intimate experience.

The curving bar, rounded chairbacks and twisting staircase all add up to one thing: sultry allure. We now understand the understated entrance. The purposeful juxtaposition adds to the bougie space’s underlying magnetism – if you know, you really know. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

But this isn’t the first Shaughnessy. Originally opened by Calvin Su and his business partner in Shenzhen in 2018, both outlets are their personal interpretation of a modern, New York-style steakhouse, with a boutique-like, personal touch. 

The Food

We expected the menu to be full of hulking porterhouses and tomahawk chops only the highest or rollers would eat in the privacy of hidden rooms, baked potatoes from some freakishly large alternate universe and knife-stabbed slices of cake big enough for a sumo wrestler’s weigh in.

And it is just that.

Plus a raw bar. And pasta.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Drawing inspiration from American classic steakhouses like Delmonico's, Keen's and Peter Luger, the menu is mainly classics with a few personal twists.

Similarly, the wine list is modeled after French Laundry in Napa, with a focus on champagne, Burgundy whites and a mix of Napa, Bordeaux and Burgundy reds.

Not surprisingly, there’s a pretty stellar whiskey selection.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Straight out of the seafood tank comes the Chef’s Choice Seafood Platter (RMB568/small, RMB998/medium, RMB1,688/large) – featuring Fanny Bay oysters, live local prawns and snappy shrimp and – more importantly – the over-the-top Scampi Martini Shot (RMB158) with bafun uni, ikura caviar, sake and seagrapes for added salinity and pop.

You ganbei it.

Then you short 10 million worth of Tesla stocks. Like a boss. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Caesar Salad (RMB138) is tossed at your table with bacon, anchovies and crispy garlic croutons, and ultra-lush Japanese egg yolks forming the base. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Flecked with tableside shaved Yunnan black truffle, the Spooner Scallop (RMB88) comes with more bafun uni and caviar... or you can swap the sushi-grade scallop for foie gras while calling out to the white-gloved waiter ‘BRING ME MORE WINE.’

Other splurge-worthy hors d’oeuvres span Foie Gras Terrine (RMB168) to Jamon Iberico (RMB328/40 grams) to a Cheese Platter (RMB198), plus extensive seafood offerings. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As for the warm pre-steak fillers, French Onion Soup (RMB78) soaking into a melted gruyere toast breathes new life into an old warhorse, while creamy Lobster Bisque (RMB58) boasts a subtle oceanic richness that permeates throughout the bowl. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Crab Cake (RMB268) is pan-fried and filled only with freshly-shucked crab sans filler, while the 7 Day Dry-Aged Pigeon (RMB188) is succulent and gamey as the dry aging tenderizes the flesh by removing the lactic acid.

It arrives perched atop grilled greens and corn mash, dribbled with a metallic truffle pigeon liver sauce.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

But forget the rest, because it’s time for the steaks – a lineup of USDA Prime cuts of Black Angus beef, dry-aged in house for a minimum of 28 days (and up to 200 days if you ask nicely, or, more realistically, if you reserve ahead of time), seared and served on sizzling plates with salt, pepper and fresh horseradish. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Porterhouse will set you back RMB1,998/1,000 grams while other options like the T-Bone (RMB1,698) and Super Porterhouse (RMB2,300/200 grams) creep upwards to the Mayura M9 (RMB3,998/700 grams) top-heavy status, all served crusted and totally bloodless.

It’s essentially large portions of familiar meats with no frills. Except when there are frills. Then it’s game on. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We are talking add-ons for all the luxury buzz words – uni, caviar, foie gras, fresh lobster and... oh yeah, there’s this power-tool gadget.

Called a Searzall, it is attached to a blowtorch that is wielded with valiant force to create the perfect searing temperature without any off-putting aroma. And it’s blitzed tableside.

It’s testosterone incarnate, but it delivers. And it beautifully sears the shit out of your steak. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The menu doesn’t stop there. On top of all that, there’s pasta. Really solid pasta – twirling ribbons doused in homemade Bolognese with thick chunks of ground beef, ropes slick with bone marrow and even those slathered in fresh uni.

There are also burgers, lobster and king crab too. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Dessert offers the steakhouse classics – Crème Brûlée (RMB68) dotted with Madagascar vanilla bean, delicate Tiramisu (RMB68) with a bonus boozy kick from the addition of rum, and a New York Cheesecake (RMB68) that’s something straight out of The Cheesecake Factory; the opposite of subtle, with its rich, velvety texture and slightly cheesy tang that coats your tongue in a buttery, saccharine goo in the most indulgent of ways.  

The Vibe 

Shaughnessy is essentially ‘Foreplay Part 1.’

It’s sexy, cozy, intimate and leads to whatever your next steps are – be it a date or a business deal. You kind of feel like you owe it to the place to have a cigar between your lips, a glass of whiskey in your hand and a showgirl on your arm.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

It’s impossible to sidestep Calvin’s deep-rooted passion for food and for creating the steakhouse experience he misses from his time spent living in the West.

Shaughnessy plays to a bygone era, one that kowtows to the ballers of Shanghai, without being too stuffy. 

It’s a true reflection of the culture and spirit of the American steakhouse, in all its still-bleeding, grease-dripping, 2-kilo cuts of charred overcompensation glory. 

Price: RMB1,000+
Who’s Going: Steak connoisseurs, those that fly to the Greek Isles on a whim, diehard American steakhouse addicts
Good For: Sealing the deal (interpret as you will), balling out, treating yours

See a listing for Shaughnessy.

Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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