The group that brought us the popular Bellagio chain is clearly aiming to offer something grander and more upscale with the opening of Fontainebleau Cafe (风丹白露). Located on the nondescript corner of Hongxu and Yan’an roads, a block north of the backside of the Hongmei Pedestrian strip, this new venture combines Bellagio’s distinctive flair for presentation, competent cooking, and beloved desserts and refreshments with a newer and broader canvas of regional Chinese cuisine. The result is an utterly delectable pan-Chinese offering that is bound to make Fontainebleau a preferred destination for diners located in the Hongqiao/Gubei area as well as for those of us closer to downtown.
One of our favorite restaurants in all of China is Dan Gui Xuan (丹桂轩), and we were pleased to learn that Fontainebleau’s head chef and general manager were brought over from the high-end Cantonese restaurant chain famous for its high quality food and incomparable service. From an atmospheric perspective, Fontainebleau is best described as a Bellagio cranked up on steroids. With a sleek waterfall, a bevy of private dining rooms, and imported fixtures, it’s clear that the owners wanted to invest heavily in creating what has indeed turned out to be a beautiful restaurant space.
The selection and quality of the dishes also matches the decor. Gone is the former’s core selection of traditional Taiwanese specialties; the new menu focuses on the food of southern China, but includes regional standards from all over the country. Traditional dishes like crab vermicelli, shark fin, and Chaozhou seafood congee, all clocking in at the 200-300 RMB range, serve as an indicator that, for all the familiar Bellagio visuals (all servers here have cropped hair, for example), this place is aiming for a higher mark. Rest assured that most of the menu items are in the double digit price range. The black pepper beef flambe (120 RMB), drenched in mao tai, was exquisitely tender. Our favorite (pictured) dish was the steamed fish head with picked yellow peppers (69 RMB), served with irresistible rice noodles and packing quite a spicy wallop for the buck. We also tried some items from the dim sum menu (each item around 16 RMB), which is served during lunch and holds its own with some of the more well-known Cantonese restaurants in town. And closing out the meal were many of the same desserts that made Bellagio its name; the mango and coffee smoothies were just as we remembered them: perfect.
All in all, we can see how this establishment fits in nicely as the premium leader in Bellagio’s growing portfolio of ventures (see Bellagio Ice, the recent dessert house located next to the superclub Babyface on Jinling Lu). We wouldn’t mind a Fontainebleau closer to home, but if it catches on like we hope it does, maybe it’ll follow its sister restaurants’ expansion record. In the meantime, we’ll find plenty of excuses to make our way to Gubei.
Fontainebleau Cafe – 951 Hongxu Lu, close to Yan’an Lu (虹许路951号近延安西路) Tel: 6242-5466, Hours: 10am-11pm
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.