Expect the Unexpected – Diner Becomes Chef Gabo's Eat By Diner

By Sophie Steiner, December 18, 2023

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Beloved Shanghai legend Austin Hu’s final remaining venue, Diner, has been rebranded as Qie Ve by Diner – or Eat by Diner, as it means in the Shanghainese dialect – now helmed by Chef Gabo (of 8 by Anarkia, located in the same building). 

Remaining true to its classic American diner roots – think elevated comfort food like meatloaf, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, burgers, French toast, and loaded 'disco fries’ – the lineup of dishes sees that same concept, but through a modern metropolis lens. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

American diners in cultural melting pot cities like New York, LA and Chicago no longer cut it with the standard stack of pancakes, instead opting for a mishmash cuisine that represents the diverse culinary makeup of these cities.

Pulling inspiration from Asian dishes, South American flavors, or Middle Eastern ingredients – to name a few – is much more representative of these globally-influenced urban locales. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And this is exactly what Chef Gabo has achieved with his first menu iteration.

In true Gabo fashion, the menu is cheekily broken into Small Bites, Not So Small Bites, Definitely Not Small Bites, I Don’t Want to Share, and The End.

Plus, there’s brunch, and a lot of new plates to come – like pizza bagels, a gochujang bulgogi meatloaf sandwich, Venezuelan-style arepas, and a Reuben that Gabo guarantees the city has yet to see the likes of before.

So buckle up, Shanghai, this is just the beginning.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

“Small Bites,” he says… for who, the Hulk?

The Prawn Toast (RMB68) is at least a half dozen “small bites” worth of mango marinated-Chinese red prawns slathered in bird’s eye chili-studded soy milk aioli atop a toasted bun.

A lava-like overflowing wave of ikura roe cascades down the volcano-shaped mound of seafood, adding a briny pop to juxtapose the shrimp’s natural sweetness.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Embodying the concept of brinner – or brunch for dinner – the Late to Brunch Again (RMB88) sees Spanish morcilla so soft and velvety it could be spread like butter across the scallion shirazi flat bread on which it’s perched.

Cutting through the richness, pickled fennel contrasts the unctuous blood sausage and salted egg yolk dusting. 

DSC03977.jpgPeking Duck Croquetta (RMB88) foie gras, scallions, hoison, sriracha sauce
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Beijing duck finds its way onto the menu in two ways, the latter of which is the One Layer Duck Lasagna (RM108) cooked chapa style.

A creamy miso bechamel is the glue that holds together the shredded Peking duck, pasta, and caramelized layers of mozzarella and parmesan. 

DSC03964.jpgSteak Frites (RMB198)
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Situated at the sublime cross-section of a Chipotle BBQ spice rub and a Shanghainese hongsharou marinade, the smoked Pork Ribs (RMB138) boast a saccharine stickiness followed by a lingering heat – made up of a secret blend of over 44 spices – that pulls you back in for another morsel of fat-pleated pork.

Resting on a gluey dollop of butter and cheese-loaded mashed potatoes and gravy, you can indulge in a salted egg yolk crumble for lunch and dinner or – for brunch – swap it out for two eggs any way you like. 

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Arguably Shanghai’s naughtiest hamburger, the Smash Burger (RMB108) is as classic a diner dive as dipping fries in your milkshake.

Composed of two in-house ground, griddle-fried brisket and sirloin burnt ends patties topped with American Kraft singles for that oozy goo perfection, this burger is stacked tall with fried onions, tomato chutney, and thousand island. 

It’s a zero-to-60 gluttonous indulgence in all its grease-dripping, cheese pooling, sauce shmearing across your cheek glory. 

Equally noteworthy, the hand-cut, twice fried to order, paprika-spiced fries are a homerun – an expert balance between fluffy interior and crunchy exterior.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Japan meets Italy in the Carbonara & Tonkatsu (RMB108) – a carbonara backbone of duck egg, parmesan and bacon – plus the smarmy addition of both smoked wagyu beef fat and in-house cured mentaiko, all tossed with fettuccini noodles.

Next, Chef Gabo deep fries a 200-gram slab of panko-crusted pork chop for a tonkatsu base which becomes the pasta’s anchor, married together with a soy sauce and black vinegar molasses-like reduction. 

Brunch sees a handful of old school winners – Pancakes (RMB78), French Toast (RMB88), Avocado Toast (RMB78) and a revamped version of The Reuben (RMB128) – plus a smattering of some newcomers that align with the whole “amalgamation of cuisines” ethos of the overhauled menu. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Lusciously fatty yellow chicken from Guangdong is the star of Eat by Diner’s rendition of Chinese drunken chicken – brazenly named Hangover Chicken (RMB138).

This is a fowl that clearly had one helluva night with Shanghai’s first craft baijiu, 白8, the winner of the 2023 Chinese Spirit of the Year awarded by the Hong Kong Spirit Awards, instead of the more customary (and tamer) Shaoxing wine.

The baijiu is infused into the poultry’s flesh before being slowly charred over open flames, revealing puckering, taut skin that tears open with a bite, unleashing an onslaught of succulent, juicy meat.

The humble base of baijiu, star anise and vinegar left us scratching our heads wondering what kind of dark magic is going on in that kitchen to make a chicken this drool-worthy. 

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The Chicken & Croffle (RMB118) is just a ‘chicken and waffles’ like Michael Jordan is just a basketball player or Prince was just a singer.

In fact, it’s a superlative version that merely shares the same DNA with a standard plate of this American south brunch specialty. 

The lovechild of a Hong Kong bubble waffle and a croissant, the foundation is flaky, buttery perfection on which 白8 baijiu-marinated, squid ink and black garlic tempura-coated fried chicken sits.

A veritable menage a trois of sauces – mango Sichuan peppercorn and lemongrass, sour cream, and cheddar gravy – are dribbled in excess across the top, finished with a sprinkling of fried garlic.

With each bite your life is guaranteed to improve. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The drinks front predominantly showcases Chinese and natural wine by the half bottle, going for RMB78-180.

Full bottles are divided into three price categories, RMB288, RMB488, and RMB688. And there’s funky highballs, like 白8 baijiu high and more.

While Shanghai repeatedly has the same copy-paste openings lately – bistros, casual Italian and French, and wine bars – chef Gabo continues to push the boundaries of what a restaurant can be, with experimental dining spaces that barely contain this whirlwind genius of a chef.

READ MORE: 8 by Anarkia: Breaking Every Fine Dining Rule in the Book


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The man with a larger-than-life personality – and equally out there menus to back it up – is not done there, either; having taken over the entire building on the bustling Wulumuqi Lu-Wuyuan Lu corner, he will soon launch his third concept – a 22-course / by reservation only / chef’s dining table / third floor experience set to open in the coming weeks. 

Here’s what we know so far: you serve yourself drinks from an ice cooler; no silverware nor chopsticks are allowed (eat with your hands or don’t eat); you need a key card to enter; it won't be on Dianping; and you have to know Chef Gabo personally to make a reservation. 

Per usual, he has our attention.

Eat by Diner, 145 Wuyuan Lu, by Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, 五原路145号,近乌鲁木齐中路.

Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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