Le Bistrot de Racine
Add: 609 Chang De Road, Shanghai 常德路609号
Tel: +86 (21) 5271 5067
Hours: closed Mon; Tue-Sun 11:30am-12:00am
Visited: October 2017
Will return: Yes
Secluded just a stone’s throw away from the busy thoroughfare on Chang De Lu, Le Bistrot de Racine opened this summer with little fanfare, joining the already crowded pond of French bistros in Shanghai. With just over three months under its belt, the restaurant is already hitting its stride with both food and service.
The dining room is quite elegantly furnished, all white tablecloths and sparkling wine glasses, suffused with warm brown tones from the wallpaper and a few paintings of bucolic autumn landscapes. But if weather permits, choose a table in their lovely garden, which offers all the peace and tranquillity of a true urban escape. With cherubic-faced figurines and lush greenery dotted among red and white chairs, the garden feels more lively and relaxed than the dining room.
The extensive menu sees plenty of straight-up French classics like foie gras terrine and moules marinières. But many of the dishes are inflected with modern touches in presentation and flavor.
One of their most inspired pairings is beef tongue with sea urchin. The beef tongue is slow-cooked to melting richness, perked up with just enough acidity and a whisper of saffron. The briny freshness of the sea urchin comes in at the end carrying a memory of the ocean.
Slow-cooked Australian beef tongue, Canadian sea urchin, sea urchin foam (158)
The autumn salad holds few surprises in its ingredients, with ribbons of 48-month Iberico ham curled over tender roasted pumpkin, pear, walnuts, blue cheese, and raisins. The combination is classic for a reason, but it is the honey mustard and cumin dressing that helps the salad stand out. The delicious balance of sweetness, acidity, and spices makes it the best-dressed salad in recent memory.
5J 48-month Jamón Ibérico ham, roasted pumpkin salad, cumin honey mustard dressing (108)
The pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the beef Wellington, a beautiful parcel of crisp puff pastry, salty prosciutto, and earthy mushroom duxelle wrapped around a tender fillet and a piece of foie gras. The fillet leans closer to rare than medium-rare, but manages to impress with its flavor. The accompaniments are not to be overlooked, including a wonderful potato Dauphinoise, rich, smooth potato purée, tender carrot, and juicy mushroom.
Beef Wellington with Rougie foie gras, truffle red wine jus (288)
The buttery sweetness of slow-roasted wild cod is underscored with cheese-laden cauliflower purée and a rich cream sauce. The combination of heavy flavors definitely asks for some brightness, but it probably shouldn’t come in the form of slices of lemon flesh, glaring in their naked acidity.
Slow-cooked Alaskan wild cod, cheesy cauliflower purée, Russian caviar, clams, mussels (238)
All four desserts on the menu (soufflé, crème brûlée, Napoleon, and opera cake) are French classics to a T. The raspberry Napoleon is good, if nothing to write home about, filled with a nice pastry cream and accompanied by refreshing raspberry sorbet. The soufflé is a little disappointing, the texture airy at the top but coagulated to a custard-like consistency on the bottom. However, the vanilla ice cream on the side redeems the dish slightly, complemented by a truffle-flavored powder. Still, we can’t help but expect a little more from the RMB88 desserts.
Raspberry Napoleon, raspberry sorbet (88)
Soufflé with vanilla ice-cream (88)
The bread basket, on the other hand, deserves to be mentioned. The baguette is one of the best we’ve had in Shanghai, and is available at their bakery, Fournil, next door to the restaurant.
In a city with no shortage of French bistros, Le Bistrot de Racine holds our attention by riding comfortably between laid-back indulgence and refined elegance. Service is highly attentive without feeling obtrusive. The food might not be anything groundbreaking, but is generally well-executed and reasonably priced, which for us is enough reason to go back.