SOiF materialized quietly at the end of 2019 on a somewhat unlikely stretch of Wuding Road. The tightly edited wine bar would feel at home anywhere from New York to Paris to Copenhagen. With physical travel now a distant dream, this tantalizing spiritual getaway is possibly just what I need.
This latest project by the OHA Group is one of those rare places where food, wine, and space are all entirely comfortable with one another. You can spend a whole evening wandering through Mr. Mimmo Zhou’s adventurous wine list, comprised exclusively of natural wines. The menu, on the other hand, holds our attention in an entirely different way. Mr. Blake Thornley seems to take his cues from the easygoing Italian osteria, whipping up honest, unfussy starters, gently smoky wood-fired pizzas, and some of the most engaging pastas I have encountered in Shanghai.
It might have taken a few months for Heritage by Madison to settle, but when it did, it settled beautifully. Through half a dozen visits in as many months, I have witnessed a restaurant slowly come into its own. Mr. Austin Hu brings together a loose patchwork of curious-minded ideas, united by a gentle Asian bent and an unbridled spirit.
On paper, Table d’Hôte, Mr & Mrs Bund’s new “social table” concept, sounds a little like those supper clubs that have been picking up steam over the past few years. Yet our evening flowed on with less self-consciousness than supper clubs often carried. Everything felt so nonchalant and familiar that when our hosts, at one point, described it as “grandmother’s table,” it didn’t feel far off the mark — that is, if our grandmothers could manage the level of exquisite precision that Mr. Paul Pairet’s kitchen turns out on a daily basis.
Just as Shanghai is bemoaning the sudden departure of Botanik, The Nest group has taken over the newly vacated rooftop haven with a new concept, aptly named Perch by The Nest. Mr. Freddy Raoult has brought an entirely different sort of cooking to this familiar setting, showing off a creative streak previously unseen at the group’s other operations. A distinct contrast from Botanik’s knowledge-laden dining experience, an evening at Perch is, more than anything else, just a very good time.
There is no other restaurant in the world that I know as intimately as Taian Table. From that first encounter in 2016, two months into the restaurant’s life, through dozens of visits stretching over the next three years, Taian Table steadily grew to be my favorite restaurant in Shanghai. And if the past, entirely unexpected 17 months of working with the team have changed my view in any way, it is only to offer new perspectives and insights into this restaurant that I have loved from the first.
Tasting menus can come across as forced and hollow when a chef doesn’t have much to say. At Table Black, Mr. Blake Thornley seems to have binders of stuff just waiting to be said, presented in eight exceedingly thoughtful, unapologetically adventurous courses. His menu dances between the whimsical and the comforting with a keen eye for the ebbs and flows of flavors, flirting fearlessly with sensory overload without toppling over.
The newly relocated and restyled Pelikan looks decidedly more Nordic than its former self, even as its Danish chef, Mr. Kasper Pedersen, moves away from a Scandinavian bent. Yet it can probably be seen as a sign of evolution that by taking a step back from obvious references to his heritage, he is able to create a menu that feels more intimate and approachable than ever.
Enshrouded in a lush rooftop garden stolen straight out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Botanik is nothing like Shanghai has seen before. The wholehearted exploration of locavorism that Chef Elijah Holland and his team have embarked upon is so exceedingly rare in China that it would deserve a fair share of limelight in its own right, even if the cooking weren’t remarkable. Yet Botanik’s food proves to be vivid, robust, and almost invariably satisfying.
Brunch has become a rather predictable affair in Shanghai, yet Coquille manages to turn our expectation on its head. Under owner Mr. John Liu and chef Mr. Patrick Leano, Coquille’s production of this weekend midday meal is not so much a Benedict-and-avocado-toast brunch as it is an excuse to bask in Mr. Leano’s version of indulgent French fare for those of us too impatient to wait for dinnertime.