Azul Group Bring the Bacchanalian Vibes to Shanghai

By Ned Kelly, October 27, 2022

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If you were concerned COVID had sapped Shanghai of its Bacchanalian spirit, think again. And, it is no surprise that it is the ever-undefeated, always-ebullient Eduardo Vargas and his Azul Group that is breathing life – and fire – back into the city, with wine and a wood grill that can't be beat.

Located on the second floor in The Weave – Shanghai's latest, greatest F&B hub on Wuxing Lu – Bhacus Wine & Wood Grill features a warm dining room dominated by an open kitchen with grill and Josper.

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Bhacus also boasts a huge wrap-around terrace – perfect for this time of year.

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Named after Bacchus, the god of wine (as well as fertility, festivity, insanity, divine ecstasy and ritual madness – so all the good stuff) the restaurant also features a walk-in wine room with more than 180 labels, all affordably priced with a markup on each bottle only around 1.5-1.7, "so when you come here you can have two, three bottles without feeling ripped off," explains Vargas. This is why we've always liked Eduardo.

As mentioned, at the heart of Bhacus is the hearth, the grill turning out exceptional wood-fired meats, seafood and – as you are about to find out – much more besides.

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We sat down with Azul Group Executive Chef Will Colmenares and asked him to introduce the concept and talk us through some of their must-try signature dishes.

"With Bhacus we wanted to do a higher end wine concept and grill – the grill because, with my five years in the CHAR brand [in the Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund], I'd like to think I’m very good at beef!

"As you can see, we have a fantastic Japanese wood grill that is the centerpiece – and masterpiece – of the kitchen. It is beautiful, and excellent for cooking. And next to it we have a charcoal oven. 

"Everything is related to charcoal, wood or stone. Every dish has a little bit of representation.

"Now, onto the dishes!"

Small Bites

"We have a selection of little bites. The idea is for people to come and have a little snack that pairs well with a glass of wine as they wait for people."

Oyster Bite – ¥58/piece

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"The Oyster Bite is a freshly shucked oyster with a yellow chili passion fruit sauce and a coriander granité to keep the oyster very, very fresh. On top you have salmon roe and pickled ginger jelly, literally grated on top to give it a little bite.

"You should get the spiciness first, then the refreshing granité, and then the pungent coriander and the little bites of salmon. Perfect to go with a chilled white wine."

Tuna Toast – ¥68/four

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"As I said, everything is related to charcoal, wood or stone. This dish comes on a base of stone. Tuna tartare, avocado puree, wasabi, Thai chilis and nori seaweed – that's the black element of this dish.

"And the marination is sesame, shallots and soy sauce. It's more towards the Asian style."

Beef Tartare – ¥88/four

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"The last one is the beef tartare; I wanted to do something different than everybody does. The idea is a potato gratin with a little beef tartare on top, finished pickled mustard seeds made to look like caviar, and actual caviar.

"It looks like you have two different colors of caviar, but one is spiciness and one is freshness. And, on the edge a little bit of mustard sauce and a black garlic puree."

Starters

Beef Tataki – ¥138

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"One of the first signature dishes we created for the Bhacus concept. Wagyu marble seven steak tataki style, smoked with herbs, tea and hickory wood chips, finished with a salad of spring onions, shallots and crispy garlic.

"It is served with some smoked chili pepper and a lime and soy sauce dressing. It's a little bit spicy, a little bit sour, a little bit crispy, a little bit everything. It's a very nice dish."

Foie Gras Ice Cream – ¥218

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"This is a duo of foie gras; it was a dish I just woke up one day and wanted to do. We spent a week playing with foie gras in different ways.

"The Bhacus concept is about wine and grilled, so we did a reduction with muscatel wine, infused the foie gras and sous vide it at 65 degrees, and after reducing the amount of fat, create an emulsion. After making the ice cream – more like a sabayon of foie gras – we then freeze it.

"The rest of the dish came along after we developed the foie gras ice cream – 'We got the foie gras ice cream, now what do we do with it?!' If we served it by itself, it is a dessert, but we wanted to make it a savory dish.

"So, we did a pan-seared foie gras with a pain d’épices, but I didn't want a classic pain d’épices, so I did a kind of molecular, microwaved sponge. Big chunky pieces of fluffy, freshly-made sponge. It was too sweet at first so we added some lemon puree to give it a bit of sourness.

"Then, we did the same sponge and made a crumble with a lot of different spices, some apple puree... and we needed a kick of alcohol, so we added black cherries soaked in kirsch.

"The result I think is fabulous; I love the combination, very wintery."

Charcoal Octopus – ¥128 

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"I took a yucca foam – very warm, fluffy and light. Then the octopus is marinated in spices and just put in the Josper at 500 degrees to make it very smoky.

"Then we served it with diced chorizo confit, romesco sauce a little more towards the Spanish side, crispy garlic and roasted baby onions.

"A lot of different flavors; I think the combinations are great."

Mains

Charcoal Lamb – ¥368

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"Another one of the first dishes created for the Bhacus concept. We really wanted a dish that was all about chargrilled. And we came up with this beautiful dish.

"It is a saddle of lamb, the best end of the lamb; everything loin. It is a very unique lamb too – salt marsh lamb. I used to use it in Michelin star restaurants in England. You don't have that strong mutton flavor, it is very mild.

"We cover the lamb with a mix of black garlic puree and Moroccan spices. The Moroccan, we make them black with dried black garlic – it gives it that charcoal look."

"Then we cook it in the Josper, directly on the charcoal. It really gives it that charred look.

"We take egg plants and also put them directly on the charcoal in the oven, get them burned down, take the skin off and make a puree and use that as the base for the lamb.

"We then finish it with roasted chipotle peppers, some jalapeños that we burn on the chargrill and peel; we add some hazelnut for punchiness.

"And then the whole dish we put in a box and smoke it in hickory again, to get all the unified flavors. And that is how it comes to the table, so the first thing you get is the smoke wafting with all the flavors.

"You have this black piece of lamb that really looks like it has been burned, but when you put it in your mouth, it is completely soft, completely juicy. It plays with your expectations."

The Beef! –  ¥498-2,250

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"We've got everything from tenderloin to tomahawk, imported marbled beef from Australia to Uruguay to USDA certified.

"It is all charcoal grilled to your preference, giving it the smoky aroma. We use hickory woodchips, because I believe it is the best for beef. And I know my beef!

"Choose three sauces from port peppercorn, Champagne mustard, sherry béarnaise, pinot noir mushroom, Spanish red mojo and chizo chimichurri.

"It is simple perfection."

Sides

Baby Corn – ¥58 

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"Baby corn on the skin, chargrilled with smoked jalapeños, Parmesan and bacon powder.

"I think it is the perfect combination; not complicated."

Portobello Mushrooms – ¥58 

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"We cook cauliflower and almonds together and blend then into a purée. It is a very unique combination of flavors; when you eat it you think it is cauliflower, but you don't know. I think it goes very well.

"Then afterwards we add a little truffle into it, a little of sesame oil. And that's it – very simple."

Brunch

As if all the above was not enough to tempt you to Bhacus for dinner, they have also just started up a brunch (did we mention their huge wrap-around terrace?) with a whole load of brunch specials, favorites from the dinner menu, and a two-hour free-flow deal at just RMB250.

That runs 11am-3.30pm Saturday and Sunday – check out all the details below.

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So there you have it, Shanghai newest must-try restaurant. And, be it brunch or dinner, treat yourself to that affordable extra bottle of wine. Bacchus implores you!


For reservations or more information, contact Jaime at Bhacus by scanning the QR:

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Bhacus Wine & Wood Grill, The Weave, 2/F, 277 Wuxing Road 吴兴路277号, 2楼.

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