Da Papa Mario’s 爸爸马里奥[Shanghai] – closed

What is Papa Mario’s?
Every neighborhood needs a casual pizza joint, where everyone knows your name. Even in Shanghai, you’ll find just such one, Papa Mario’s. Near peoples’ square, Da Papa Mario’s is a simple Italian restaurant that strives to serve Italian favorites of pasta and pizzas. The owner, Mario, is like the loving uncle who comes around to each table to make sure you having a good time. And when you’re done with your meal, you’ll get a nice shot of limoncello to complete the meal.
What did I eat?
We ordered the Quandris di Pasta and the Capricciosa pizza. The Quandris is a combination of different pastas including Rosette della mamma, mushroom ravioli, strascinati rabbit sauce, tortellini in chicken broth for 130 RMB. The presentation was almost unappetizing with the presentation of the pastas in individual glumps on a plate. Each of the little piles didn’t exactly have me salivating when it arrived. But after getting past the unenthusiastic looking pasta – the pastas weren’t all that bad. They had pretty good flavor. The capriccios pizza with extra dough, tomato, mozzarella, ham, mushroom, artichoke, fresh sausage, oregano for 110 RMB, wasn’t exactly mind blowing as well. The crust, which I think is the most important part of the pizza, was chewy and had a cardboard texture. Nasty. The only thing I liked was our Mozzarella Alla Capriese appetizer with tomato, mozzarella, fresh basel and oregano for 65 RMB.
Constructive Criticism
The food was just not acceptable. I wouldn’t bring my friends back here, even for a 2nd chance. But I think quality and consistency with the pizzas needs to be readily improved. The presentation of the pastas could also be improved.
The Last Word
Da Papa Mario’s has a pretty nice following, since when we went it was raining, and the place was packed.
Location Rating
爸爸马里奥 Da Papa Mario’s
大沽路370弄1号 近成都路
No.1, 370 Dagu Lu, near Chengdu Lu
+86 21 6340-1386
1 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

Catch! [Shanghai] – closed

What is Catch?
Catch! is a small roadside stand of an eatery, with a couple of outdoor sidewalk tables, that does fish – deep fried fish. Arguably the most famous British culinary contribution, fish and chips (what the Americans call fries), is a simple meal consisting of 3 or 4 large pieces of batter fried fish fillets on a bed of golden fries. Accompanied with vinegar for the fish and ketchup for the fries. The restaurant is located on Yongkang lu, which also has a bunch of other cool joints.
What did I eat?
The menu, interestingly, had choices of different fish for meal, which included seasonal ones like monk fish and hoki. Unfortunately, they were out of both. They did have a special for sole. Usually, I hate to order a fish that’s on special, due to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential – never order any fish special mantra. When a fish is on special – it usually means that the fish is about to go bad and needs to be sold out. Anyways. . .the sole came out and tasted ok. The fries were quite good. The vinegar didn’t really add much to the over all taste though.
Constructive Criticism
I understand the trend with restaurants catering towards the Shanghai and local markets, so localization is important. But why don’t they at least try to present it in the way it ought to be. My younger days in the US at the chain HS Salt – with a basket of fries and large pieces of fish. But at Catch! – the fish portions were small and they included sliced veggies? veggies – WTF. Anyways. . . .at least the fish as ok. Wish I could have tried the other ones.
The Last Word
This is Jerrica Lee’s, from Craft, place, which I do commend in trying to use the different type of fish for taste and texture. I only wish I had a chance to try the other fish. Look for my next post about Sailor’s – the other fish & chip restaurant – just meters away.

Location Rating
永康路63号, 近襄阳路
63 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Lu
+86 139 1798 5763
1 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

The Purple Onion [Shanghai] – closed

Where did the Thirsty Pig Go?
The Purple Onion, part of famed Shanghai restauranteur David Laris empire, nice little European bistro. Though it is tucked away in a small alley, it is still conveniently located in the heart of the Shanghai French Concession. I thought we made a wrong turn somewhere, as we continued down the dark small alley of Shanghai old houses. Opened just a year ago, the Purple Onion is a favorite among my friends. Immediately as we walked in, I could see why this quaint little restaurant has regulars. The spacious outdoor al fresco area looked inviting, for the pleasant weather months, but not on this December night. The main dining area, with barely 10 tables, allows for intimate dining. Good for small groups and dates.

What did the Thirsty Pig Eat?
We decided on the Christmas menu, since we were in the mood. If you choose a starter, a main, and dessert the combination is 300 RMB. Unfortunately, they were out of the their chestnut and truffle soup, but they had their regular Artichoke Soup – which was pretty good. But I have say, I kinda like the sound of the chestnut and truffle for a soup. We also had the Soft Boiled Duck Egg, with Pancetta and Mustard Fruits for 78 RMB. I liked this salad – for the runny yolk and crunchy pancetta. Next up were the mains, the Roasted Pork, Stuffed with Apricots and Pistachios served with Parsnip Puree and Fennel for 168 RMB and Roasted Turkey stuffed with Prunes and Armagnac served with Caramelised Witlof for 168 RMB. I wasn’t sure what Witlof was, but I now know that I like it. The turkey and pork, both are notoriously dry, and unfortunately, Purple Onion’s was a bit dry as well. But I think they understood this and made sure that the sweet accompanied sauce blended the dryness to produce a nice meld. I was fine with this. I liked the turkey much more than the pork. (And I usually go for pork, regardless of the menu) Lastly, we had the Christmas Mince Pies for 48 RMB and Christmas Pudding with Brandy Cream for 78 RMB. The mince pies were these bite sized baked goodies. But they kind of reminded me of a holiday fruitcake (not a good thing). The Christmas Pudding was really tasty and moist – nice way to finish the meal.

Final Words
Since we tried the Christmas menu, I nary a look at their regular menu. I do intend to return try their regular menu.

What to Order: I have heard their Pizzas as really good
What not to Order:

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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The Purple Onion
No 16, Lane 351 Huashan Lu, near Changshu Lu
+86 21 6248 8747

The Geisha [Shanghai] – closed

Where did the Thirsty Pig go?
The Geisha is a Japanese themed restaurant with a dance club and bar lounge in a multilevel space. Situated in the heart of the French Concession of Shanghai 上海法租界, Geisha is the latest place to go for dining and dining. The Geisha, which opened toward the end of the Summer of 2011, is part of the Collective Concepts group, that brought The Apartment and Food Central to Shanghai.

I like the design and space of The Geisha. The dark lighting and red accents gives puts you immediately in the mood. The first floor restaurant features a sushi bar. The 2nd floor is the nightclub with couches and dance floor. I like tables with the built-in ice bucket, basically a hole in table for the bottles and ice. The center of the dance floor includes a raised bathtub for the go-go dancers. You can’t help but be drawn to the bathtub, even without a dancer. The third floor lounge, is my favorite, with a nice large outdoor deck. Unfortunately, you could probably only use this deck a few months out of the year, not during the sweltering summers and bitter winters.

What did the Thirsty Pig eat?
Our group started off with some of their signature cocktails. I liked how they are creative with their concoctions with infused vodkas. Nowadays, Shanghai bars and lounges need an edge with special and exclusive drinks. The Republic of Earth was pretty good, but not cheap at 65 RMB. The California in me, also liked the different rolls. I wasn’t really looking for a true Japanese experience with sashimi or sushi, so rolls, almost anytime, are fine with me. Cool names and nice combinations. Aside from the rolls, I didn’t care much for the mains. But I won’t get into that much.

Final Thoughts
The Geisha is a cool venue. But for dining, I wouldn’t necessarily go. I would just go prior for some light snacks or munching with drinks. The night club is cool, as well as the lounge.

Here is New Year’s Eve diner menu.

What to Order: I liked the Lucky Seven and Ho Chi Min’s Horse
What not to Order: Didn’t care much for the Yellow Tail Carpaccio or the Blue Fin Tuna, Foie Gras Torchon On a Spoon or the Sweet Soy Braised Chicken

2 Pigs
Price Range 3 $/¥/NT

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The Geisha
390 Shanxi Nan Lu, Fuxing Lu
+86 21 6403 0244

Dr. Beer [Shanghai] – closed

Dr. Beer is a new entrant in the Micro-Bewery or gastropubs in Shanghai. Dr. Beer will compete on a few different fronts with other establishments. Related to Dr. Wine, just located down the street on Fumin Road, Dr. Beer has a different type of vibe – more of a loft/warehouse industrial look, with a cool DJ, a female no doubt, blaring above on the catwalk gantry. I like how these gastropubs now offer food that is considered more than just a footnote – like peanuts or pretzels.

With the Kerry Hotel’s Brew, Brix and Boxing Cat Brewery, Dr. Beer will have to step up its brew game. From other reviews, I have read that the beer isn’t as good as its competitors. I had the Pilsner and Wheat, which I thought was both pretty good. But I do confess that I am not a beer aficionado, so I can’t claim to know a lot about beers. Additionally, places like Apartment, El Coctel, as well as the previous named ones offer full menu dining. I really liked the pizzas at Dr. Beer, since they over did it with the cheese. I like really cheesy pizzas. The popcorn chicken was another favorite, with its spiciness.

With all this competition, I think the best thing going for Dr. Beer is the great location and space. The central-ish spot on Fumin road near Julu road, is ideal with the big main street close by. With other restaurants, like People’s, Guyi, and Coconut Paradise close by, Dr. Beer is a nice 2nd stop. The large warehouse space is cool with a variety of seating options with high standing stools, or loungey couches, or simple tables. The DJ adds an additional element of a club. I like it. But I do think it gets a little loud at times.

Anyways. . .Look for Alex, the manager, and tell him the Thirsty Pig sent ya!

What to Order: Wheat Beer, Pilsner Beer, Popcorn Chicken
What not to Order: Spicy Chicken Wings

2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

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Dr Beer
PHONE:5468 1077
ADDRESS:83 Fumin Lu,
near Yan’an Lu

Itsuki Teppanyaki 五木铁板烧 [Shanghai] – closed

Itsuki is an all you can eat Japanese Teppanyaki/BBQ restaurant. Located in the Donghu hotel, they have a pretty good deal for 150 RMB, which also includes all you can drink (alcohol included). For beef lovers, this place features a pretty quality of meat. I’ve had some forgettable all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurants, but Itsuki, which comes highly recommended, is actually not bad.

Located in the foreign infested area of the French concession with Bar 88, Dakota’s, Monkey Lounge, Cantina Agave, Craft, and other eateries, Itsuki is hidden inside the Donghu Hotel. The restaurant itself has seen better days, probably when the hotel first opened. Now it survives on the gimmick of the All You Can Eat Japanese concept. I would venture to say that you wouldn’t find many of these Japanese BBQ’s on the top of many lists or have high ratings from Michelin reviewers or guides. Yet, seemingly on the bottom of this food chain, it does exist.

Surprisingly, Itsuki, does have some pretty good quality meat. The manager must have found it in his heart or the pride, to select good cuts of beef. The clientale, mostly local Shanghainese, with nary of foreigner or Japanese in sight, must taken a liking to this place. Outside of hotel guests, I’d surmise that most of the customers are repeat ones or daring Dianping followers (with Itsuki garnering 3.5 stars). Yet, after the beef, I wouldn’t hardly recommend anything else – the kimchi pancake was horrendous and the soup was bland. Surprisingly, the Korean soup was flavorful. This leads me to my never-ending question – why does a supposedly Japanese BBQ (AYCE) have kimchi, kimchi pancake, kimchi fried rice, and spicy (Korean-Style) soup? Is it because it is Korean owned – as other joints I’ve been to in the US are). Do the Japanese really have spicy pickled cabbage – not likely, since Japanese don’t really eat with their tummies. But I am lead to believe, and wouldn’t be that surprised – that these restaurants are truly Korean owned, yet, the Japanese angle with the master prep and use of beef is more of a marketing ploy.

Regardless . . . Itsuki is a place I would return to. I would also recommend as well. The one thing I do hate though, is the lack of ventilation with the oily smoke hovering around us and our clothes.

What to Order: Beef
What not to Order: Kimchi Pancake

2 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

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Itsuki Teppanyaki
+86 21-54044146

Nanbantei of Tokyo [Shanghai] – closerd

After reading the reaming that City Weekend gave by Dan Ouyang wrote and Christopher St Cavish of SmartShanghai.com, I realize, perhaps I should rethink what I was going to say. I’m usually a pushover when it comes to Yakitori.

Though I am not a expert on Yakitori, I do know what skewers I like. I don’t necessarily go for the chicken heart, liver, or weird parts first. With my traditional Western sensibilities, I go for simple things like quail eggs, chicken meat balls, and chicken wings. But tonight, with the 6 of us, we order all types – from the thick beef tongue, to juicy sausage, to the standard hamachi collar, and to the simple scallops. Tonight was a mixed bag of review – some was good, some wasn’t, but overall, I think it was a good experience.

Nanbantei of Tokyo is an international chain of yakitori restaurants, with locations in Hong Kong, Singapore, and now Shanghai. Based out of their flagship restaurant in Roppongi, Japan, Nanbantei has a history of going back over 40 years.

Let’s start with what I enjoyed. I liked the chicken wings, the chicken balls, and the Hamachi collar. The wings were large, plump, and tasty. The balls were expected as savory (chicken) balls are. The hamachi collar was very good, but a little on the dry side. Then there was this miso leaf grilled pork skewer thing – it just had a funny taste. I made the mistake of ordering 3 skewers – with 3 pieces on each. . .I think less than a skewer was touched at all.

Then there were some things that we could have done without. The thick beef tongue was absolutely gross. I know, based on my friend’s word, that the beef tongue is presented this way, since it is grilled. I’m used to the delicate slices that we DIY grill yourself – sort of like the Korean BBQ’s. Then there was the cheese. . . it was practically on some many skewers, that I thought i was in a pizza joint. I know the unique and novelty of nature of cheese in Japanese and Asian culture. But why does it have to be this way. yes, I know I can cast my “vote” by not ordering or eating it – but I had to try it. Anyways. . .Cheese . . .not a fan with Japanese food.

Perhaps it is because of the diverse foreign crowd in Shanghai, that diners can be a little more picky than usual. The two previous reviews reflect palettes that were developed outside of Shanghai and China – as is mine. Understandably, Shanghai’rs demand quality meals from these establishments. Yet, I can see why they, as well as myself, would be disappointed from such as well-known chain. Anyways. . .its cool place in a great location – but the food, as I agree with the two guys, left a lot to be desired.

What to Order: hamachi collar and chicken wings
What not to Order: Pork, Beef tongue, and anything with cheese

0 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

Nanbantai of Tokyo, Shanghai
1 Yueyang Road, Shanghai
+86 21 64375651

Racks – Grand Re-Opening on November 11th [Shanghai] – closed

I got to check out Racks before their Grand Re-Opening at their new location, from their Xintiandi location.

Though I’m not much of a pool player, I know this place almost invites you to play. With good music and drinks, Racks can almost seem like a nice bar lounge. The tables are the same, if not better, as the ones you’d find in the states at other finer pool halls.

The plush cozy interior features several pool tables on two floors, with a VIP lounge area for private events. There’s even an outdoor patio for enjoy the Shanghai skyline. There’s a full bar on both the 5th and 6th floor for all your drinking needs. They have a full bar with some of the more popular liquors you’ll find in bars in the states. The lounge area upstairs is ideal for a birthday party or a mixer with the centerpiece white pool table.

Rack’s is having their grand Re-Opening tomorrow Wednesday, November 10th. RSVP’s were required by yesterday November 8th. But if you call, you just might get reservations.

Tim Sher, one of the partners was generous enough to show me around the the lounge/pool hall. It’s really a small world when one of my current classmates is his childhood friend, while my old Shanghai friends have known him awhile, as well. When you stop by Racks, make sure you tell him that you saw my post.

Live in Shanghai – live.shanghaidaily.com
Racks Facebook page

进贤路221号, 5-6楼, 近茂名路, 陕西南路
Floors 5-6, 221 Jinxian Road near Maoming Road and Shan’xi Road S.
+86 21-5212 5971
HOURS: Sun–Thu 11am–2am; Fri-Sat 11am–late

The Apartment [Shanghai] – closed

The Apartment is one my favorite lounges in Shanghai. Always a challenge for someone new to any city, is finding a decent place to hangout for drinks and chillaxin’.

Located in the off the new swanky, yet hidden, area on Yongfu and Fuxing road, in the Xuhui district, The Apartment is a cool lounge, that also serves food. But, I haven’t tried the food, though pundits on foursquare don’t recommend the pizza. Their outdoor rooftop lounge area is where their large pizza oven is located. Maybe one of these days, I will try the food.

After hiking up three elevator-less floors, you finally reach the great door. Once inside, you notice a few sitting areas with eclectic sofas and chairs. Toward the rear of the room, you see the an oversized lounge bed, made popular from the clubs in Vegas and New York. I only wish there were a few more of these beds. In the back, there’s an ignored area of regular tables for dining, which seems a bit out of place. I’d just make that area into a private party room, than pretend that people come for the food. As I mentioned earlier, there’s an outdoor lounge area, which probably has optimal use about 3, maybe 4 months out of the year. With the crazy Shanghai heat and bitter winters, The Apartment probably will only have high demand there in the short spring and autumn months.

Almost every night I’ve been there, there’s been a small band playing or a DJ. I like the DJ, but the band, which varies, is a hit or miss. One night, they were playing cover songs in a melancholy way, that it was almost hurting our group’s mood.

They offer bottle service and reservations for tables areas. They only have a couple of beers on tap and a bit more bottled. They have bottles of vodka, whiskey, and others. Personally, I’m a beer guy and almost anything else, except champagne.

Weekends get crowded fast, too. One thing is. . .this place is not place to pick up chicks, since most everyone that comes, has a table or comes with people. There isn’t a dance floor so, mingling might be a challenge. But if you have game, which I don’t, you might be able to score.

Though it seems I’ve complained a lot, I actually really like The Apartment. I know I’ll be back a lot. Other places I like in Shanghai are the Monkey Bar and El Coctel. If you have suggestions on other similar places, please let me know.

3 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

上海市徐汇区永福路47号3楼301室 (近复兴西路) +86 21 6437 9478
Room 301, 47 Yongfu Rd.(near Fuxing Rd.) 200031 Shanghai, China +86 21 6437 9478

Phenomenal Shanghai Skyline Views at Strip Prime Steakhouse [Jingan] – closed

I couldn’t help but think of the Standard Hotel or Silk Lounge in Los Angeles when I first walked out on the large spacious patio. You might, also think of Plunge at Hotel Gansevoort in NYC, Club 50 at Viceroy Hotel in Miami or the Bespoke Hotel in Tokyo, when you envision great outdoor lounges. This outdoor rooftop lounge is what every large metropolitan city has or needs.
One might argue the bars on the Bund might have better views, though the views only point toward Pudong, while Strip Prime offers views of Shanghai proper. Bar Rouge and Jean George offer great vantage points to see the Pearl Tower, the waterfront, as well as the historic architecture. But Strip Prime, situated in the center of Puxi, gives, in my humble opinion, a better view. With the dark color hues, you get a less tourist feeling, you can almost feel like you’re in a real lounge club atmosphere and environment. The space is huge. The Bund has loads of tourist strolling around and potentially more foreigners or people passing through. Yes, I know Shanghai is full of foreigners. While serious party goers, in comparison to the Bund goers, would more likely select something like Strip Prime.
Though I didn’t have dinner, our private gathering had an array of appetizers and drinks flowing throughout this early night. In fact, I have another private event to attend soon, also at Strip Prime. With the large outdoor bar, Strip Prime is made for large gatherings. Though I didn’t like the only bathroom situated up some stairs.
Thank goodness there was a breeze that night. Or was it that we were on the roof, that there was always a constant flow. Its my first Shanghai summer, and I can’t believe how freakin’ hot it is. Though I hot summer nights easier to take with the views from Strip Prime Steakhouse.
What to Order:
What not to Order:
2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT
Strip Prime Steakhouse
(Ascott Service Apartment)

Chaya Downtown [DTLA] – closed

Chaya Downtown is the latest in the Chaya empire – including Chaya Brasserie Beverly Hills, Chaya Venice, and Chaya Brasserie SF. Capturing the downtown power lunch scene as well as the happy hour, Chaya Downtown features a full bar with great Asian-inspired menu.
This was to be my final meal as a resident in Los Angeles. The eight of us celebrate as if it was my birthday, when it seems like it would be my demise – since I would be moving permanently to Asia. I really didn’t want a big production, but my friends insisted on at least a dinner.
Our memorable dishes included the appetizers for bread – the Pork & Duck Rillette with Toasted Baguette and the Kalamata Olive Tapenade. I think we didn’t have enough of the spread or the bread. I know a couple of us, kept going back to the spread and the bread throughout the night.
The Tagine-Raosted Grass Fed New Zealand Lamb Chops & Merguez and the Grilled Dry-Aged Prime New York Steak & Braised Kobe Short Ribs stood out. Though there were a couple of orders of sushi plates and Sea Bass, the meats were heads and shoulders better entrees. There was also a Pork entree that I ordered, in which I forgot the name. But I do remember the savoriness of the protein entrees being quite good.
For a last meal in LA, it was memorable. In fact, with low expectations to the more flashy Drago Centro, I was pleasantly surprised. Though I wouldn’t recommend the sushi portion of the menu. The desserts were also very good. I didn’t enjoy the ambiance and decor of the venue. But I do wish it stayed open late for a bar and drinking crowd. It seems strange that almost all the restaurant bars closed before 11 or midnight, like Drago Centro, Chaya, and Bottega Louie.
What to Order: New York Steak and Pork Entree
What not to Order: Sushi and Fish
2 Pigs
Chaya Downtown
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017, United States
(213) 236-9577