Shanghai Food & Drink Gossip: January 2024

By Sophie Steiner, January 31, 2024

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It’s the dawn of a new year, and we are eager to find out what delicious treats 2024 has in store for us. 

From the number of openings coming up this month, we predict the Year of the Dragon is going to be breathing some serious fire into Shanghai F&B, and chock-full of excitement surrounding new trends, fads and phenomena.

Cheers to the foodie rollercoaster to come!

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Image courtesy of NABI

The ride begins with Chef Tom Ryu (previously of Jeju Sagye and Pado) launching his own restaurant group – P.I.E. – with not one, but two new venues.

Hinted at this in last month’s Gossip roundup, in the past 30 days the dust has settled and what has emerged first from its chrysalis is NABI – the Korean word for butterfly – on Wuyi Lu. 

The modern design aesthetic is a key focus of the 16-seater space, with collaborative partnerships between the P.I.E. team and artists in glass, metal, ceramics, fashion, as well as multimedia art spanning everything from glassware to dishes to visual art at the entrance. 

The 12-course set menu will go for RMB1,088 (+10% service charge) with an optional RMB388 for Korean sool – or alcohol pairing – an essential element to the dining experience.

The alcohol pairing is all about traditional Korean spirits – rice wine, soju, and the like – but boutique renditions (brewed by the first master of traditional fermented yeast in Korea, for example). 

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Image courtesy of NABI

Compared to Chef Tom’s previous work at Jeju Sagye, the menu at NABI will focus on seasonal ingredients, changing every three months.

Placing a strong emphasis on the correlation between art, design and cuisine, NABI will be higher end and larger when compared with Jeju Sagye’s cozy, izakaya-like atmosphere with an intimate open kitchen.

There will also be a moveable terrace that can be connected and detached.

Reservations open for the month of March tomorrow – February 1 – through NABI's official WeChat account, with the first seating taking place on March 1. Reservations for the following months will continue to open on the first of the month preceding it.

Just below NABI, and opening by mid-March, will be WULI – meaning 'we, together' or '我们, 一起' in Chinese.

WULI is purely traditional, authentic Korean cuisine, coupled with a Hanjeongsik experience – a Korean full course meal; no modern twist necessary.

More approachable, the menu centers around the concept of sharing together – hence the name. The result is a table covered edge to edge in colorful banchan, rice dishes, soups, stews, and meats.

A communal meal amongst family and friends, the slogan of the venue – around which all details orbit – is jeongseong (정성), meaning "made with our hearts."

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Image via Dianping

Another hitter from Jeju Sagye alumni is NAMU, situated in The Shanghai Center.

The brainchild of trio Shin (previously of Jeju Sagye), Dean (previously of Belloco Group and Jeju Sagye) and Jaeus (previously of Botong Sikdang), its RMB588 nine-course set menu features a rotating selection of contemporary Korean bites.

Think shrimp croquettes with uni cream cheese and Manila clam salsa; or konggumul (yellow bean) tiramisu, to name a few.

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Image courtesy of Shanghai Modern Tapas Bar

Shanghai Modern Tapas Bar (sister restaurant to Shanghai Modern Restaurant) is set to open on March 18.

They are both located in Artyzen New Bund 31 Shanghai, an immersive social hub and hotel made up of a variety of restaurant concepts and sophisticated event venues that converge in one lifestyle destination.

READ MORE: NEW BUND 31 - Destination for Great Music & More!

The restaurant, lounge and tapas bar cohesive concept – the brainchild of Corporate Director of F&B for all Artyzen hotels, Christopher Pitts (previously of HIYA, Sir Elly's, Table No. 1) – is currently helmed by Executive Chef Peter Lin (previously of Café Gray Deluxe, Sir Elly's).

Combining a modern European grill with Asian influences by day, a lounge space 'Secret Garden' for afternoon tea, and a lively tapas bar with Asian-influenced bites paired with equally sumptuous cocktails in the evening, this all-encompassing venue is definitely one to keep your eye on. 

Next, we head up to Jing’an, around the waiguoren haunt of Wuding Lu-Yanping Lu. Here, hoarding has been spotted at the old Bar Centrale location (that closed a few months back) for… 

Drum roll please… 

A new Eli Falafel!

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Eli Falafel, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

After checking in with the Eli team, it is still up in the air if doors will open before or after Chinese New Year (as it goes with all work around the holidays).

What is for certain is that it will soon be serving up smashingly good Lebanese fair, the likes of which just scored Eli Falafel a third consecutive Middle Eastern Restaurant of the Year title at the That’s Shanghai Food & Drink Awards. 

READ MORE: Who Won What at the That's Shanghai Food & Drink Awards

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Sloppy Gin, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Looping up north on Yanping Lu, Shanghai’s most wanghong donut shop, Sloppy Gin, has found itself relocated into more spacious digs at the cross-section nearest Changping Lu.

We do hope this added square footage translates to more donuts…

Wishful thinking or delusional dreaming? 

READ MORE: 12 Droolworthy Donuts for a Guaranteed Dopamine Dump

Regardless, we will do anything to get our hands on more of those stuffed berliners, glazed crullers, and sugary confectionaries. 

For those in Xuhui, we're afraid this means you now need to make the trek north, as the Nanchang Lu Sloppy Gin shop is no more.

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Gin and Juice, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Our proverbial rollercoaster continues its uptick yet again, this time over at Shankang Li, where Gin and Juice sadly held a two-night end of an era party on January 12-13, before shutting its doors for good.

The silver lining is that the space will reopen again in March with another Shanghai favorite, Totino Panino

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Totino Panino, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A similar story to Sloppy Gin, Totino Panino is crushing it business-wise and ready to expand not only to a roomier spot, but also with a broader menu that will include more Italian street snacks and hot dishes. 

Think arancini for everyone. 

Plus – of course – the same beloved behemoth paninis that feed the hearts and souls of the Shanghai masses.

READ MORE: A-Z of Shanghai's Top 20 Sandwiches – Part II

This does mean, though, that the Changshu Lu spot will close so that the team can put all efforts towards the bigger, brighter, bolder space in Jing'an.

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Bubba's, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Also in Shankang Li, American BBQ joint Bubba’s is changing ownership from tomorrow – February 1 –from long-standing Shanghai legend Ken Walker to Smoke KCQ founder Matty Waters

READ MORE: Glistening Fat-Laden Brisket and Smoky Ribs at The New Bubba's

DSC01888.jpgThe Hai, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

You might be familiar with Matty’s name – he’s the man behind The Hai’s new comfort eats menu that still has us drooling months later. 

READ MORE: Big Mac Tacos & More! 2 New Menus: The Hai & Tacolicious

The two have partnered before on many BBQ-fueled events, so we look forward to Matty respecting the Bubba’s legacy while simultaneously bringing his own magic to the smoker and building on it with his already existent cult following.

One block down, on the corner of Wuding Lu and Shanxi Lu, the shuttered corner venue that once housed Guillaume Tu’s Spread Bar à Tatine (read on for an update on him) is now ToT.

It's a new craft cocktail bar concept backed by Joseph Guo – a cocktail blogger, GINSM!TH brand creator, and one of the co-owners of Lemon Twist, which currently has two locations on Changle Lu and Yanping Lu. 

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Image courtesy of ToT

The bar team lineup sees all-stars Chris Wu (previously of Speak Low and Seedlip Brand Ambassador) and Carlos Huang (previously of Sober Company, Union Trading Company) shaking up luxury cocktails.

Expect to see premium spirits used as drink bases – like Michter’s whiskey, award-winning London Dry No. 3 Gin, and Beluga Noble vodka – paired with snacks of scampi tartare, king crab salad, and beef tartare sandwiches, to name a few.

Drinks mainly fall in the RMB108-118 range. 

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Image courtesy of Babar

So what of Guillame Tu (previously of Villa Le BecMr & Mrs Bund) now that Spread Bar à Tatine is no more? He recently teamed up with owner Simon Briens (Blaz) to help open Babar on Donghu Lu.

Honing in on petite portion plates for sharing while sipping, think French bistro-meets-bar-meets-comptoir.

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Image courtesy of Babar

The menu has a French backbone... with a twist. Meaning there are no rules.

Be it Southeast Asian, Japanese, Chinese, or even Mexican flair – as long as it's tasty, it can find its way onto the roster of plates.

Expect bites like black boudin gyoza, mac & cheese with Chinese yellow wine, and French mussels in coconut milk with Thai basil, lemongrass and kaffir lime.

There's also a slew of homemade ice creams for a sweet finish that can be ordered during the daytime from the takeout window. 

The venue, which seats 35 inside, currently focuses only on dinner, but the goal is to expand into daytime dining around March. 

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Image courtesy of Fiama

Fiama, a Mediterranean restaurant helmed by Italian Chef Nico Bianchi (also of Senso), soft opened on January 2 on Ruijin Er Lu just south of Jianguo Xi Lu.

Taking its name from 'flame' in Italian (fiamma), it's no surprise that Fiama's menu pays tribute to this method of cooking, with the majority of mains charred on a Teppan Grill (think Japanese teppanyaki, with Mediterranean ingredients and flavors). 

The menu sees the likes of roasted steaks, stewed oyster pots, flamed prawns, and more, with the majority served tapas style for sharing. 

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Image courtesy of Malaya 19th

Malaysian resto Malaya 19th opened on Nanyang Lu this past month, serving up a taste of Southeast Asia.

The venue earns its name from the 19th Century Chinese migration to Malaysia, an event that ultimately led to a fusion of the two nation's cuisines – and the creation of a third 'hybrid' Nanyang cuisine. Which also happens to the be the restaurant’s bread and butter – or kaya.

The menu sports popular Malay dishes like laksa, chicken rendang, nasi lemak, satay skewers, and pandan cake. 

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Image courtesy of Canopia

Inspired by the Jing Mai mountain rainforest of southern Yunnan, Canopia is an innovative culinary project by the team behind Wengwa Rainforest Discovery, set to open in a luxury villa within Amanyangyun hotel (about an hour's drive from downtown Shanghai) in April. 

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Image courtesy of Canopia

The result of a gastronomic study that has been underway for six years, the team's concept of 'jungle to table' hones in on indigenous-inspired cuisine that will be presented in a set menu representing each of the four layers of the rainforest.

Using ingredients that embody the ecosystem of each layer's biodiversity, the aim is to "bring the rainforest into the restaurant."

To deliver on this promise, the team is working with a local horticulture specialist to grow a "mini replica rainforest" within an onsite greenhouse right here in Shanghai, from which the restaurant will source its ingredients for the 12 diners that visit the space each day. 

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Image courtesy of Canopia

As part of this holistic culinary endeavor, guests will dine "under the canopy" – hence the venue's name – amongst freshly growing herbs, wild vegetation, and an aquaponic pond, all within this self-sustaining gastronomic destination of a restaurant. 

Another newbie in our favorite, ever-growing category of Shanghai’s dining scene – Contemporary Chinese – Cila is a modern Xinjiang and Xibei fusion restaurant along Wulumuqi Lu.

READ MORE: 13 Venues Pushing Boundaries with Contemporary Chinese Cuisine

The name comes from the sizzling sound of hot oil cracking on a grill or splattering in a pan; an allusion to the open fire that is a key component of this region’s cuisine. 

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Image via Dianping

If some of the dishes seem familiar to you, that’s because the head chef used work as sous chef at Jean Georges and Mercato, so diners can expect to find dishes – like homemade ricotta with sea buckthorn berry jam – that are ever so reminiscent of the famed whipped ricotta with homemade seasonal jam at Mercato.

Other equally inventive plates span calabash-style chicken wings with apricot sauce to Ningxia cabbage salad with sultanas.

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Image courtesy of Papito Pancakes

Papito Pancakes opened its fifth outlet on Minfu Lu in Yangpu District in mid-January, with free Nutella crepes for all visitors, thus continuing to spread the love for crepes in all forms to new Shanghai neighborhoods. 

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Image courtesy of La Matcha

Speaking of new locations, La Matcha will be opening another one this Friday in Shanghai's Bicester Village on Shendi Lu.

This opening is riding on the coattails of the closure of their original Jinxian Lu location that happened last November, but the Xiangyang Lu outpost still remains for all your matcha needs.

WechatIMG1333.jpegImage courtesy of Somewhere Kitchen

Somewhere Kitchen, a sister restaurant to The Willis Group’s Something in Wukang Market, is opening soon in EKA Tianwu Creative Park in Jinqiao, Pudong.

READ MORE: Craig Willis Is Always Up to Something – This Time on Wukang Lu

Diners can enjoy modern Western cuisine – like kingfish crudo, fried chicken bites, hot smoked salmon, and braised beef cheek pappardelle – in a setting that feels like dining in a secret garden greenhouse. 

The spacious restaurant will be a six-meter-high, plant-filled steel and glass cathedral, bringing the outdoors inside. And, as the weather warms, diners can also enjoy outdoor seating on any of the three terraces.

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Image via Dianping

Tomorrow – February 1 – the team behind Nepali Kitchen is soft opening Mars Wine Station, an afternoon tea plus wine and cocktail lounge on the ground floor space of the current Nepali Kitchen along Julu Lu.

To kick off the flowing of said drinks, the entire month of February sees a 40% discount on all beverages daily from 4pm-2am.

Note: Nepali Kitchen still remains open – the lounge and drinks are just a bonus to an already stellar food offering. 

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COA, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A quick spin over to COA gave us a shock, by – ohmygod – closing!

No, wait... it’s not for good.

They are just relocating to the corner of Ruijin Er Lu and Fuxing Lu after Chinese New Year.

Phew!

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As for real, genuine, full-on goodbye-sayonara-adios-zaijian closures, first up, there’s ØSP, who packed up shop mid-month; a big surprise, especially after only recently bringing Chef Francesco Andreoni (previously of Frasca) on board. 

DSC04228.jpgSideways by Cellar to Table, mage by Sophie Steiner/That's 

Another hard-hitter is the closing of Sideways by Cellar to Table, cutting losses with what the team deemed as a difficult location.

On the bright side, NAPA (also backed by ownership team Philippe Huser and Karen Ma) is well underway and set to open still by mid-year. 

Wuding Lu was hit hard this month, with the closures of both Solana and Sevenwich, and the impending closure of neighborhood hangout and community-beloved bar Post No Bills, which is set to hold its last day on February 4 after sadly just a year and a half.

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Kin Urban Thai Kitchen, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Finally, up a block, Kin Urban Thai Kitchen will close on February 8 – so, Jing’aners, get your Thai fix in now or forever hold your peace – although the Yongkang Lu shop will still remain. 


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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