“36-month-aged, acorn fed, Joselito Gran Reserva Iberian ham from free-range Salamancan pigs.” With a description like this, it would be pretty lame if Pata Negra’s specialty wasn’t palate-implodingly stupendous. And it is, as are most of the eats from this newly-opened bodega on Julu Lu.
Not as snooty as you’d expect a ham and wine lounge to be. The restaurant’s name is graffiti’d onto a wall of unevenly-hewn gray bricks, and I’m pretty sure they borrowed their lighting scheme from Vietnam’s Củ Chi tunnels. Sparsely-spaced candles light the way, and a circular bar area conjoins both a room with long communal table and a more intimate space with two-person tables. In typical Shanghai fashion, the staff is a bit terse and sullen, which doesn’t really fit the laid-back decor. But all is forgotten with the first nip of Iberian ham.
Naturally, the celebrity is the 36-month-old Iberico, pata negra (hence the Restaurant’s name), offered in 60 gram (280RMB) or 120 gram servings (550RMB) with the traditional tomato and bread. Eat a couple shavings without condiments first. They say a good piece of iberico sticks to the plate when you slap it down. We never tried but the fat-laced strips certainly stick to your ribs. Had this been the ham in Green Eggs and Ham Sam I Am would’ve had me at “I am Sam.”
You can also go for the younger and cheaper shoulder ham, paleta (150RMB for 60 grams and 280 RMB for 120 grams), but while you’re there you might as well top shelf it. Forgoing the 36-month-old Iberico at Pata Negra is like going to Jia Jia Tang Bao and skipping out on the tang bao.
Don’t sideline the other offerings though. Both the cold cut platter with chorizo, morcilia (Spanish blood sausage), coppa, and ham shoulder (260RMB) and the cheese plate (148RMB) are equally sumptuous, and Pata also offers a small selection of tapas like meatballs with tomato sauce (60RMB) and a pancake-like spanish omelette (52RMB). The sandy baby calamari (38RMB for small, 58RMB for large) proved the only disappointment. A squeeze of lemon and a dab in their salacious tartar sauce spruces it up a bit.
We’d rank Pata Negra’s pizzas among the top 10 pies in the city. You piece together your pizza from a collage of ingredients including buffalo mozzarella, asparagus, parma ham, spicy salami, pancetta and others all to be mingled with cheese atop a crunchy crust so keen you could shave with it. Or you can go for the Pata Negra special with paleta (188RMB). Disclaimer: don’t order the pancetta as it has little bones that stun your teeth when you bite down on the pie.
Wash the hammy goodness down with Pata Negra’s wealth of Spanish wines or the Pata Negra vodka martini (RMB68) or Moscow Mule 2.0 with house-brewed ginger beer (68RMB).
Many Shanghai Western places seem to offer a plethora of dishes, all done poorly. Here’s one that not only perfects one dish, but features a worthy backup chorus of eats too.
Pata Negra – 1/F, 913 Julu Lu, near Changshu Lu (巨鹿路913号1楼, 近常熟路). Tel: (0)21-5403-2976. Hours: 5:30pm-1:30am Sun-Thu, 5:30pm-2am Fri-Sat.
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].