“You’d think Mister Tsuri would’ve tasted the food before he opened his stadium,” slurred a jovial member of our dinner party, as we spilled sake down our throats in a red-shag-carpeted cube.
“There is no Mister Tsuri,” we explained. “It’s called Matsuri – it’s a restaurant name, not a person.”
“Shut up and drink,” he shouted, toasting over a table littered with half-eaten dishes.
That pretty much summed up our experience at Matsuri 123 Japanese Food Stadium, Shanghai’s wackiest all-you-can-eat-and-drink establishment, located in the bowels of Hongqiao. It’s a massive collection of all things edible and Japanese (and a few, sorry-looking foreign offerings) under one roof. There are a dozen stations specializing in a certain style of cooking: Grilled yakitori, crispy kushiage (little breaded fried things on sticks), sushi, sashimi, stews, oily tempura of all shapes and sizes, okonomiyaki (a sort of squid-studded pancake), salads, desserts and much more we can’t seem to remember. This is probably because the best stuff we consumed came from the Hamilton Bar, the final stop on the foraging circuit before you return to your padded room.
The food is not exceptional, though it will probably satisfy fans of open-ended, Japanese eating. The sashimi was not terribly fresh, the sushi was passable, and the yakitori wasn’t cooked with the precision you get at places that specialize in it. But there’s a lot of stuff to try, and some of it is good: Particularly the crunchy fried eel bones (don’t knock it till you try it) and the deep fried balls of bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms. Mmmm. Deep fried bacon.
But the biggest attraction here is one of Shanghai’s quirkiest dining rooms, which makes eating at Matsuri considerably more fun than at your average Japanese joint. There are booths molded in the shape of peaches that appear to float on water, those dozen cooking stations which are done up in colorful Japanese kitsch, and a kids area where Ultraman keeps a watchful eye on the little ones. Opposite the bar, a giant brass Buddha surveys this tacky gastronomic orgy with a wide smile. It’s hard to keep a straight face in these surrounds.
This entry is cross-posted on Jarrett’s Shanghai-based food blog, Chewed Up and Spit Out.
Matsuri 123 Japanese Food Stadium is located at 2789 Yan’an Xi Lu near Hongxu Lu. It costs 198 per person for dinner, all inclusive. Call ahead at 6262 7123 and reserve your very own shag-carpeted private room.