We root for any joint that is ballsy enough to open up on Dagu Lu, the strip where many a restaurant has gone to die a lonely, customer-less death. So it was with a considerable measure of hope that we entered Kitchen 88, the few-months-old Chinese restaurant right next to everyone’s favorite DVD stores. Maybe the proprietors here would be able to break from the pack and show a little more lasting power.
With a bit of sadness, we have to say we don’t see it happening. Kitchen 88 does give off a good pre-food impression, with its bright and simple environs. The owners and the chef are from Hong Kong, and this is their first stab at the restaurant biz in either city. One can almost tell how determined they are by how varied and extensive the menu is. When asked what type of Chinese cuisine they served, the owner exclaimed “Everything!” Indeed, the menu cherry picks from traditional favorites from the Hunan, Sichuan, Guangdong provinces, with a dash of Shanghai and Taiwanese selections as well.
Our take on places that try to be a little bit of something from everywhere is that they’re great for convenient dining, but leave more particular customers unsatisfied, as
we they end up comparing each dish to something better elsewhere. We tried the beef with tea tree mushrooms on the owner’s recommendation, which was tasty but forgetful. The H.K. style chicken soup was good, but made us think of Grandma Kitchen’s more titillating stock. The owner also pushed us to try the steamed clams stacked atop a bed of mashed potatoes, which might have been a satisfying combo if the potatoes were actually hot.
While we can see ourselves grabbing a quick bite at Kitchen 88 after an exhausting sojourn at the DVD shops, we can’t see it making the grade for destination diners. We’ll still root for it, and maybe we missed something mind-blowing on the menu, but they’ve certainly got an uphill climb if they want to shirk the Dagu Lu curse.
Kitchen 88 – No. 405-407 Dagu Lu, close to Chengdu Lu (大沽路405-407号，近成都路) Tel: 5375-1308
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.