Photos from Shanghai Tang Cafe press materials
The Shanghai Tang Cafe opened a few weeks ago and, curious about the thought of a store opening their own restaurant (though, yes, I know, lots of “lifestyle pimping” stores do it), I went to check it out. Turns out the eatery is exactly like Shanghai Tang proper: expensive traditional Chinese dishes with twists(!) that ranged from nicely thought out to confusingly off.
The cafe actually isn’t located in the same complex as Shanghai Tang’s Xintiandi store. Instead, it’s in a three story building across the street. The first floor is dedicated to other retail spaces, the top floor contains the bar and the second floor is the actual restaurant.
The decor of the place leaves no doubt that it’s made by the Shanghai Tang folks. Dark woods in ye jazz age Shanghai style are offset by couches and cushions in lime green, hot pink and bright orange. Everything screams “Hey, it’s Chinese… but NEW. MODERN. AND YET STILL OLD AT THE SAME TIME” from the plateware to the birdcage chandeliers.
And, as stated above, the aesthetic translates to the food too. In some cases, it translated well. The braised pork knuckle (88RMB)was thoughtfully sliced, almost meat loaf style, and placed into two rows – every piece touched the savory sauce, so that you didn’t have to rip through the flesh yourself and dip like normal ti pang. Similarly, the wrapped sichuan chicken (48RMB) was artfully presented and delightfully sprinkled with pistachios along with the regular peanuts.
Unfortunately, not everything was a hit – the foie gras appetizer with hawthorne jelly (68RMB) was… well, for lack of a better word, pretty gross. I like foie gras. I like hawthorne-flavored things. But putting the two together causes this sensation where your tongue shrinks back into your throat in an effort to prevent it from going down. It’s a flavor profile that just doesn’t work (unless, I guess, you’re City Weekend) like salmon and strawberries.
Portions for everything were on the small side, but particularly shocking was the miniscule sweet & sour mandarin fish (128RMB). It was about a third of something you would get at a Shanghainese location, and they were strangely stingy with the sweet and sour sauce. Maybe that was their idea of making this old favorite new.
Shanghai Tang Cafe also does twists(!) on martinis – the twist being that they’re made with baijiu. While this might sound slightly horrifying, the juices manage to hide that baijiu bite enough so you barely notice it while it’s going down. Their house specialty, the Shanghaitini was 58RMB – which, for Xintiandi, is about average.
So would I go back again? Maybe on somebody else’s bank account. There are enough stylish joints in town that this one doesn’t particularly stand out. Most of the food was decent, sure, and the decor will certainly please fans of the brand – but honestly, it should have opened somewhere other than Shanghai. The restaurant is peddling the same sort of Asia Mystique that infuses all of its designs… only in a city – nay, even its own shopping district – where everyone else is doing the same thing with just as much, if not more, polish.
Shanghai Tang Cafe is located at 333 Huangpi Nan Lu near Taicang Lu 黄陂南路333号2-3楼近太仓路. Tel: 6377 3333