So you’re walking down that much talked about half of Wujiang Lu that has been torn down and built back up as a
blandclean and modern commercial pedestrian street. You notice this section between Shimen Lu and Maoming Lu is bookended by a Costa Coffee on one end and a Starbucks on the other. A Coffee Bean is located in between, just in case you simply do not have enough time to reach the other two places for your emergency corporate caffeine fix. You notice the more homegrown Il Panino has reserved a spot here, and regional chains Awfully Chocolate and Honeymoon Dessert have taken root as well.
Just when you’re about to give up on finding a fresh, independent voice amongst this cadre of franchises, you notice a second-floor restaurant called UTO hovering over the rest of the pedestrian street. Finally, something new! You walk up the steps and learn that UTO stands for “Ultimate Take Out.” Wow, what incredible cheesiness! You grab a seat next to the window during the busy workweek lunch hour. Nary a person is inside. You ask so the waitress tells you: the owner is Shanghainese but has spent time in Australia, hence the menu full of Western basics. You pass on the sandwiches and burgers and pizza, instead fixating on the lunch special: 48 RMB for a salad, soup, pasta, and dessert. What a bargain! Your fettucine comes. There’s a thick layer of rubber cheese on top, and watery, undercooked egg noodles underneath. Your friend’s Prawl farfalle has two prawns in it and a whole lot of pumpkin chunks; it tastes a lot like pumpkin, and not in a good way. The carrot cake arrives after you ask the waitress to quickly remove the uneaten pasta; it tastes like it’s been sitting on a camel’s back under the hot Gobi desert sun for two weeks. You go downstairs and get a sandwich from Subway. This day, at least, the corporate franchises are victorious.
UTO – 200 Wujiang Lu, near Taixing Lu (吴江路200号2楼,近泰兴路) Tel: 3219 09528
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.