The new Barbie flagship store aims to capture the attention of more than just those with blonde ambitions, and nowhere is this effort more apparent than the Barbie Cafe.
Perched on the top floor of this orgiastic display of Barbie worship, the Barbie Cafe is a brasserie mixed with an American diner and doused with a splash of fanciful pink. Her presence is subtle, but everywhere; from the monochromatic mosaic of the restaurant’s floor (an homage to her debut outfit, we understand) to the icons adorning the dessert plates. Yet this isn’t merely some blinding gimmick to seduce the curious or the obsessed. This is a David Laris project, and as such the food never takes a backseat to the whimsy.
Head chef Tessa Thompson, a newcomer to the Shanghai scene, has devised a varied menu of European and American classics, with some slight and playful thematic twists. The blossom that sat atop our potato salad was initially confused for tuna, given its bright red color. Turned out it was salmon marinated in beetroot, in keeping with the pink hotness along one side of the restaurant. The mixed green salad, dubbed the “Fashionista,” was light, cheery, and covered in walnuts and crisp, juicy mandarin. The seafood linguine was conspicuously traditional, but nevertheless delicious. We’re pretty sure Barbie isn’t allowed to touch sugar, but the gelatos were a winner, as was the signature dessert: a blondie (what else) chock full of pralines and fatty butterscotch goodness.
Thompson assured us that although first impressions of the restaurant may be that of capricious femininity, there are still plenty of items that would satisfy the manliest of rugby players, starting with the burger. We didn’t get a chance to try it, but the chef claimed she played it by the book: juicy, cheesy, and bacon-y. Yup, exactly the things we associate with Ken.
Burgers and pastas and sandwiches clock in mostly well under 100 RMB, with larger mains straddling the century mark. Set lunches top out at 80 RMB, and currently there’s a buy 3 get 1 free deal with the business sets. Yes, businessmen in suits, they’re giving you every reason to shirk your preconceptions about dining in the Barbie store, now go and get your pink lemonade on!
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.