Fumin Road in the former French Concession is already a hotspot for trendy restaurants and bars so newcomers face major competition. As far as statistics go, Chala Bar has a very good chance. Opened by the guys behind Burger Bistro (it’s right next to it, in fact), Chala specializes in tapas from all over the Spanish-speaking world as well as cocktails and a lengthy wine list. Set against a trendy atmosphere, it’s a nice space to relax and enjoy small bites and drinks.
Just off of the main road is A Mansion, a large building housing other restaurants and businesses. The outside is simple with glass doors, and the name “Chala” emblazoned in bold red type. Inside, illuminated by dim lighting is a dark wood bar and tall tables as well as low booths toward the back. Splashes of brightness come from the mosaic-styled walls and the blue neon sign behind the bar. Along one wall is a book shelf housing several different titles, but they seem just for show or as one patron remarked “nothing you’d actually want to read”.
The food and drinks are the highlight here. Among the cocktails offered they serve a very good Caipirhina and a solid Manhattan. All cocktails come at 48RMB, rather decent considering the skilled mixing involved. Wine prices range from 50 to 70RMB per glass, bottles 200-700RMB. There are several lovely bottles from La Rioja in Spain, a Zinfandel from California, and many from France and Australia.
Mixed seafood ceviche with sea bass, shrimp, and squid
The tapas are plenty and pull from a variety of cultures. There are different versions of causas, a mix of mashed potatoes and toppings like bacalao or white fish, and vegetables and meats. They range from 38RMB to 68RMB. There are also chicaronnes or fried dishes like chicken or beef, usually paired with garlicky aioli or spicy tomato sauces. 50RMB. Then there are ceviches, raw fish and vegetables marinated in lime juice. They have Chala, the namesake sea bass with sweet potato and corn, as well as mixed seafood with tomato and onion 68RMB. I tried the latter option and while all of the ingredients were tasty and well-prepared, the acid was far too strong. It completely blew out my palate and I could no longer taste any of the other flavors. There are plenty of rice dishes and salads as well as desserts like flan and rice pudding.
Overall Chala is a prime example of a fusion restaurant done well. They have tasty cocktails and food and I believe there is room for growth in the future. Check it out for yourself and decide where you stand.
Chala – A Mansion, 1/F, 291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu, Xuhui district (富民路291号1楼，近长乐路, 徐汇) Hours: 3-12pm daily. Closest metro: South Shaanxi Rd, Lines 1/10.
By Noelle Albert
Noelle Albert is a contributor for the Shanghaiist Food desk. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates to [email protected]!
See a complete list of our bar reviews here.