Despite housing big names like Bubba’s and Xiao Nan Guo, Wharf 1846 feels eerily deserted like a once bustling area that was ravaged by the zombie plague from 28 Days Later. But if the crowds didn’t have a reason to go before, now they do in Y2C2, a superb Cantonese eatery brought to us by the group behind Mr. & Mrs. Bund and Ultraviolet.
Both extravagant and surprisingly intimate. You overlook the Huangpu without having to hear the street-level ruckus you suffer dining at hotel restaurants on the Bund’s main strip. There’s an elevator attendant and the dining hall is spacious, high-ceilinged, and decked out in white linen, but the tables are small and secluded – perfect for any romantic occasion. The waitstaff is sparklingly friendly and anticipates your needs before you even know what they are. Our only nitpick is that the title, Y2C2, an abbreviation for “yin yang, classical contemporary,” sounds more like the name of a K-pop group or a Star Wars droid that didn’t make the final cut than a Cantonese Restaurant serving fabulous food. But we digress.
Don’t let Y2C2’s traditional-contemporary ideology fool you into thinking fusion. The 60-page iPad menu features the classic Cantonese spread of roast meats, cold dishes, whole fish, and more exotic creatures than a Natural History museum’s taxonomy chart, with some slightly-tweaked eats like sweet peas with kale borecole and dried scallops (68RMB), and Chinese Bacon in Pu’er Tea (68RMB). All are executed with the same amount of flair, and both staunch traditionalists and those looking for something new will find themselves satisfied.
For starters, check out the aforementioned sweet peas with kale borecole, the Chinese Bacon in Pue’er tea, and the sweet, unctuous pork neck that’s carved table-side (98RMB).
Of the roast meats, we recommend either the succulent goose (230RMB/half, 460 whole) or the roast suckling pig, labeled “roast pigling” on the menu” (168RMB/small order, 398RMB/half, 698RMB/whole). The crackling pork skin dissolves after a few crunches like crystallized caramel and the fat, which is the exact right amount, seems to evaporate when touched by chopsticks rather than bouncing between your teeth. We also enjoyed the distinctly porky essence, which is absent from pork dishes at too many restaurants.
Though the roast platter sounds both enticing and relatively cheap (128RMB), it consists of only a few blocks of pork, a lackluster roast chicken, and no roast goose. Skip it.
Fish-vores can spend big on the mouth-watering miniatus or strawberry grouper, among several other types (which run you upwards of 1,000 depending on the day), or go with the cheaper God-speed Turbot (198RMB), the chef’s darling. The flounder’s triangular, crepe-thin body is battered and fried like good fish and chips fish while the flaky, tender meat hunks are heaped next to it with tree-ear mushrooms and snap peas. A statuette of a wispy-bearded fisherman overlooks the scene.
And if you’re in the mood for exotica, there’s sea cucumber, goose web, abalone, cordyceps, and fish maw dishes galore. The chef’s signature soup of abalone, seahorse, scallops and morel mushrooms (68RMB per person) is a decent bargain.
Y2C2 proves a winning addition to the all-too empty Wharf 1846, and a worthy homage to what many would deem the greatest cuisine on earth.
Y2C2 – Fifth Floor, 579 Waima Lu, near Xinmatou Jie, Huangpu district (黄浦区外马路579号5楼, 近新码头街). Tel: (0)21-6339-1188. Hours: 6-10pm daily.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].