This past year’s influx of Chinese-run Western restaurants is a testament to how cosmopolitan Shanghai’s dining scene has become. But like many movements in their early stages – ie., Western-run Chinese concepts in the US – the recent Chinese-helmed Western digs seem unpolished at best. And Macasa, a global cuisine restaurant and the first solo venture by Mandela Zhu of the Peninsula Hotel, really feels like a first solo venture.
Decor and service
The ambience proved the high point of the evening. I was grateful to enter the first casual sit-downer in eternity that didn’t have that “witness protection video” lighting scheme that’s apparently all the rage now. Instead, a fully-glazed facade allows for ample sunshine during the day, and dangling fixtures and an open kitchen light the way at night.
A sofa placed in the center of the dining room and rustic window shutters without windows accentuate the homey feel.
Staff could use some direction. We received deer-in-the-headlights stares when asking about the menu, and had to flag them down like at a dumpling dive. I know that’s the norm in Shanghai, but here, it butts heads with the pleasant ambience they’re trying to convey.
Crispy pork belly
Global cuisine packaged in tapas-style bites. The menu’s split into five sections: Egg, Ocean, Meat, and Main, and Healthy (compilations of assorted greens and meats, although it’s a bit misleadingly-titled, as we’re not sure about the health benefits of Iberian ham with chorizo crisps).
The egg section includes, you guessed it, different preparations of eggs. They recommended the Scrambled Eggs; Truffle and Chives (Served With Garlic Toasted Bread) for 58RMB, which entailed scrambled eggs with garlic bread/stale croutons, chive bits, and truffles that were arrayed so sloppily on top you’d think the dish was seasoned by Jackson Pollock. The merciful few mushroom discs acted as tasty life preserves in a hostile ocean of egg goop that should’ve been scrambled quicker and at a higher heat.
Obviously you’re not going to get buckets of truffles for 58RMB, but at the very least, the eggs could’ve been infused better with their essence. After pecking the few slices off the top, we faced slogging through the bottomless vat of bland egg gruel. We didn’t finish.
From the Ocean section, our marinaded scallop skewer wrapped in pancetta with cherry tomato (78RMB) seemed like a cocktail party gimmick, but a foolproof one. It was not. The usually reliable bacon couldn’t mask the gummy scallops.
The one item with potential was the 6 Hours Crispy Pork Belly; Brandy Apple & Beer Sauce (118RMB). It bordered on being a solid porchetta, save for the concealed bones and slight toughness.
Macasa presents another lackluster entrant into the Chinese-run Western scene. However, we suspect that the recent spate of amateurish Chinese-run Western joints is a necessary step before the scene follows Chinese wine and other products and evolves into something worthwhile.
Macasa – 1690 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Wuxing Lu, Xuhui district (徐汇区淮海中路1690号, 近吴兴路). Tel: (0)21-5456-1214. Hours: 10am-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].