A newcomer to the laid back strip of South Shanxi Road near Yanan Road, Manigua offers a cross section of Latin American dishes. It evokes Eduardo Vargas’ Ceviche crossed with MAYA – which figures since the man behind the concept, Leonardo Gandulfo, was at the helm of MAYA when it first opened.
Despite its location in the City Hotel, Manigua swaps the typical sullen table cloth-candle layout with a festive ochre tone and contemporary works on almost every wall. It’s what you’d picture as the natural habitat for those Oaxacan carved animals if they were alive.
The biggest players from Latin America, including Mexican pork carnitas (69RMB), Cuban moros y cristianos (black beans and rice), Peruvian ceviches, Argentinian steak, etc. Fortunately, aside from a Beijing Duck quesadilla, few fusion aberrations rear their heads.
Parties of two should start out with two or three “Tappetizers” listed on the front of the wooden menu tablet. We recommend the pork carnitas, blocks of lush rib meat stacked with fat, dolloped with tomato jam, and arrayed atop a hill of purple yam.
If you’re craving something more refreshing to prep your palate for the main course meatvalanche, dig into sea bass ceviche, called Native American Fish (RMB75) on the menu. The room-temp sea bass is scallop-tender, and complements its especially punchy lime-chili bath marvelously. We’d liken it to its counterpart at Ceviche, but with a more creeping spiciness. The first bites tickle your lips like static, but by the last, those unaccustomed to chilies will be sweating like in a hostage vid. One setback was that the two or three chips provided weren’t enough to tackle the pond of fish, veg, and marinade. But lucky for us, the staff brought a full basket of reinforcements to aid in the dipping.
The mains keep up the scrumptious status quo. Sink your teeth into either the ropa vieja (153RMB), a traditional Cuban dish of simmered beef shreds peppers, tomatoes, onions and olives, or the chimichurri-rubbed Argentinian rib-eye (220RMB).
Desserts include tres leches cake, flan, arroz con leche (45RMB across the board) and other manner of relief from the bloated chocolate monstrosities found at too many fine-dining places.
Wash it all down with Manigua’s signature sangria (60RMB per glass, 160RMB per jar), caipirinha, margarita, mojita (60-70RMB per glass) or beers and sodas.
Most restaurants attempting to cover over a continent’s worth of dishes succumb to hotel buffet syndrome; creating shallow, forgettable renditions of each. Manigua is an all-star squad of the tastiest fare from across Latin America.
Manigua – 5 Shanxi Nan Lu, near Yan’an Lu (陕西南路5号, 近延安路). Tel: (0)21-6255-3051. Hours: 9am-12am (only serves food from 5pm onward).
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].