While many places on Yongkang Road are for happy hour drinks or a stop on a late night expat pub crawl, El Luchador is creating a different option for folks headed to this part of the French Concession. The newest addition from the guys that brought us The Camel Bar, this Mexican-style restaurant is open to the public now and will be expanding its menu as it gets closer to its grand, official opening on the 14th.
Decor and service
Diners get more than just a burrito wrapped in tin foil when coming to this spot. The giant, colorful masks filling the walls on the first floor represent the masks of the Mexican fighters who used to take part in “lucha libre”, or free wrestling. According to the history lesson provided by El Luchador on their site, these masks were originally used in the Aztec days of lucha libre sporting to distinguish fighters but have since evolved into an elaborate and intricate decoration that fighters use to create images of everything from animals to gods on their faces.
As for the space, it breaks away from the style of the bars on Yongkang Road further down to the East where it’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall with chairs, tables, and expats spilling out onto the streets. The corner restaurant has a massive bar first floor with high tables and chairs and then a second floor that can hold 40 diners shoveling tacos and heaps of guac down their throats. The vibe is a lot less rowdy, much more casual, and a good spot to line your belly with some carbs before going to down a few happy hour drinks at the places further down the street. The connection between servers and customers seems to be a key part of the restaurant as well, as they begin to develop their restaurant culture. The head chef is going to be looking at customer demand and catering the menu to demands as well as implementing his Mexican heritage into the dishes that will be added to the menu every few weeks over the course of November.
Food and drink
Mexo at the Bund’s head chef, Eduardo Gomez, has worked with the team to create the new menu at El Luchador, and he has now transferred out of his job on the Bund to now work in the kitchen as head chef at this new Yongkang joint. While all of the Mexican food standards can be found on the menu, like the chips and salsa trio which includes salsa roja, verde, and pico de gallo (30RMB) some of the more out-of-the-box offerings include the chocolate mole enchiladas. Three corn tortillas stuffed with chocolate mole, cabbage and sour cream? And vegetarians and carnivores will be happy with this dish with veggie options for 75RMB and chipotle chicken (80RMB), pork carnitas (85RMB), and beef (90RMB). As for desserts, Mexican corn Cake and passion fruit gel at 50RMB sounded interesting for those who want to stray from the more predictable churros con chocolate (45RMB).
As for drinks, there is a decent selection of red and white wines, as well as some beers. For those deals, it might be better to just hop down the street for the happy hour deals. But what is worth the stay is the fighter themed drinks, like the Blue Demon Margarita. For 50RMB, enjoy the lucha libre drink consisting of Jose Cuervo Gold, Grand Marnier, and blue Curacao. And the Bloody Maria (because it’s a Mexican restaurant, get it?) is 60RMB of a double shot of Jose Cuervo Gold, Grand Marnier, Tomato Juice, and Worcestershire Sauce. They also have some Tequila deals, with a three tequila combo ranging form 130-190RMB. The Blanco deal is 130RMB and the Reposado deal, which allows customers to select three “rested” tequilas, will cost you 150RMB.
There is the definite appeal of a chair to sit in while gobbling down a taco or two before a night of standing and mingling on Yongkang Road. And the extensive food and drink menu selection is also tempting, especially since it is going to be Bund quality food for a much lower price. This is probably not the spot to go if you don’t want to be swarmed by foreigners while consuming an enchilada, but then again, if you are wanting an enchilada, it’s pretty likely you aren’t looking for the most Chinese of nights out on the town, so El Luchador would be a good spot to go for a simple, no-nonsense Mexican meal.
El Luchador, 83 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Nan Lu, Xuhui District. (永康路83号, 近襄阳南路). Tel: (0)21-6422-8653. Nearest metro stop: Shaanxi Nan Lu.
By Charlotte Evans
Charlotte Evans is a food contributor to Shanghaiist’s Food Desk.
Email tips, news updates, and recommendations on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].