By Dara DiGerolamo
Recently, we stumbled upon an invite from fancy schmancy French Concession restaurant, Sasha’s, begging us take a (free!) sneak peek at their newly renovated dining room while sampling their upgraded menu. Without much thought, we blew off our happy hour dates and made reservations.
Upon arrival at the former Soong family villa home, we were escorted up the wide wooden staircase to the second floor where we found ourselves in a large room dimly lit by oversized lamp shades, scrawled with black abstract swathes reminiscent of traditional （山水）shan shui paintings, hanging from the high ceiling and tea light candles resting on square glass pillars at each table.
It’s a far cry from the space’s last iteration as PRIME, something like a steakhouse. The white walls have been painted a warm shade of dark, the lights have been dimmed, the ambiance unstuffed and the prices have been lowered.
A semi-circle bar in one corner of the room was playing host to an after work crowd, while some early bird patrons dined throughout the black and deep red decor room and others on the outside terrace.
Sipping on champagne and wine, we started with grilled scallops and jumbo prawns with watercress puree (115 RMB), and fried calamari served with aioli (45 RMB). The sea creatures on both dishes were perfect – the scallops were just this side of raw and the calamari batter was as light and crispy as the calamari pieces were huge.
It was an auspicious start to the meal. Up next for us was grilled sea bass with gnocchi salsa verde and roast vegetables (115 RMB) and five spice salmon with lemon grass noodles and greens (115 RMB). One member of our party preferred the salmon to the sea bass (which was a little tougher), others preferred the gnocchi to the noodles.
The red meat lovers at the table went for the carpetbag tenderloin with hollandaise (165 RMB) and the fillet with potatoes (165RMB) – daringly, rare. Perhaps its because of its former experience as a kind-of steakhouse but both dishes were done exceptionally well.
The fillet diner mentioned that this was the first time he had ordered a rare meat dish in China that didn’t taste like bloody meat. Meanwhile, for those wondering what a carpetbag tenderloin is – it’s steak with something stuffed in it. In this case: mushrooms. Sasha’s version was also an Eggs Benedict (with cow substituting for pig). A poached egg sat on top a crust, itself perched on top of the steak, with the whole concoction wrapped in bacon. It was as delicious and heart-stopping as it sounds, if a little out of place next to the rest of the decidedly not breakfast-like menu.
No meal is complete without a sweet treat and although we were beyond stuffed, we deemed dessert necessary. We opted for the apple pie with ice cream (45 RMB) and the lemon tart with raspberry sauce (45 RMB). The apple pie wasn’t exactly the apple pie we were expecting, but it was a decent attempt and we enjoyed the crust. We were much more enamored of the lemon tart, which was complimented very well by the sweet sourness of the raspberry sauce.
Would we go back (and actually pay this time)? Most likely yes. While our wallets can’t make the new Sasha’s second floor a regular outing, we’re keeping it in mind as a celebration spot. If the food stays as good as it did during their debut, it’ll be worth it in spades.
Sasha’s, 2F, 11 Dongping Lu, near Hengshan Lu 东平路11号 近衡山路; Tel: 6474 6628
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