By Hart Hagerty
January 20, 2017
Courtesy of Light & Salt

Dozens of restaurants open up in Shanghai every year with much fanfare and high expectations. Yet the fireworks soon fade, leaving only a few survivors in the crowded market. This year has been no exception. It witnessed several great chefs of leading restaurants spread their wings and set out on their own. One such example is Ling Huang, who used to run the kitchen at Willy Trullas’ upscale, modern Spanish restaurant Elefante. Pirata, her very own tapas kitchen and bar on Xinle Road, is already one of the most talked about openings of 2014. The Bund also saw a new crop of stylish, trendy imports like Hakkasan, which has all the glamour the Michelin-starred chain is famous for, but didn’t quite outshine other new Bund offerings like modern Korean BBQ at Chi-Q and the throwback to 1920s Shanghai at Light & Salt. My favorite opening this year is away from the glitz of the Bund. Launched by John Liu, the man behind Shanghai’s successful Italian trattoria Scarpetta, Coquille presents European seafood dishes in a supremely elegant, contemporary setting.

Pirata

Pirata is the popular tapas kitchen and bar helmed by Ling Huang, former chef at Willy Trullas’ upscale, modern Spanish restaurant Elefante. In the intimate dining room, all eyes are on the central open kitchen, where Huang puts on a culinary show preparing plates of Spanish cuisine remixed with global influences. Taking inspiration from different countries, the tapas menu is divided by gourmet ingredients—seafood, meat, veggies and sweets—sourced from around the world. It’s already tough to get a reservation here, so book far in advance or go for a late-night indulgence.

Via Modern Slowcook

Via Modern Slow Cook is a communal eating concept where guests are made to feel like they are dining at the home of a close friend who is a very talented cook. Ranging from RMB380-580, set meals are served family style along with affordable bottles of wine. It’s all about high-quality, slow-cooked comfort food that is hearty and wholesome, like the most perfect suckling pig and beef ribs that fall off the bone. With an open kitchen and just a few tables, the space is a favorite amongst the foodie crowd. 

Chi-Q

They say behind every great man is a powerful woman. This seems to be true of famed French chef Jean Georges, whose wife, Marja Vongerichten, recently opened Korean eatery Chi-Q. Decidedly more low-key than its glamorous neighbors at Three on the Bund, the restaurant lacks the sweeping views of Lujiazui but is big on style. Chi-Q’s central communal table—equipped with traditional Korean BBQ grills—sets the fun, laidback vibe for the rest of the 90-seat restaurant. The menu serves semi-authentic Korean favorites jazzed up for the fancy palettes of the Bund (warranting the inflated prices of the Bund too). Think bibimbop rice bowls topped with a hunk of foie gras and premium cuts of wagyu beef to grill at the table yourself. 

Light & Salt

Housed in the site of China’s first Y.W.C.A., Light & Salt is a literary-themed “Old Shanghai” concept, which binds restaurant, bar, and bookshop. The restaurant Miss Ding’s Dining has a menu inspired by the western cuisine that was popular in Shanghai in the 1920s and ‘30s. Highlights include duck pie filled with bone marrow and foie gras and creamy rice pudding topped with rhubarb compote. The space also features a craft cocktail lounge, Library Distillery, which touts itself as a speakeasy (password included). Light + Salt’s generous three-course set menu ($65) make it one of the more reasonably priced fine-dining experiences on the Bund.

Coquille

Coquille is a premium contemporary European seafood restaurant in a quieter side of town, just south of Xintiandi on Mengzi Road. This is the second restaurant for John Liu, the man behind Shanghai’s successful Italian trattoria Scarpetta. To lead the kitchen, Liu tapped Anna Bautista, a Filipino-born Californian with Michelin stars under her belt. Bautista expertly endows classic French seafood dishes with subtle Asian twists, like escargot seasoned with red curry and kaffir lime leaves. Coquille is full on elegance, with classically tiled floors, mirrored walls and polished marble tables.

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