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

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, 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

2 Bunnies Cafe [Banqiao] – closed

One afternoon I was looking for a cafe to do some quiet work and reading, and I was recommended 2 Bunnies Cafe. Its nice little cafe that serves Japanese style meals and cafe drinks.
Seems like that they would do well for afternoon tea. Their menu, catering toward those of the female gender, features little cakes, teas, and snacks. They also had some Asian rice and noodle entrees. Into my studies, I picked a rice set with beef and vegetables. With disregard to consistency and taste, I dove and licked the bento box clean. I know it probably wasn’t all that good, but I was hungry.
2 Bunnies is good for afternoon tea, but not so good for dinner. At least they have free wifi and coffee.
兩隻兔子珈琲館, 板橋文化店
2 Bunnies
02-2965 8139

Sushi at 紗舞縭壽司屋Shaburi, 微風廣場Breeze Center [Taipei] – closed

Shaburi, at Breeze Center, is a nice unassuming and non-pretentious Japanese restaurant. With high expectations on presentation and food, lunch was nice treat.
I don’t usually have sushi at lunch, since I like to enjoy the food and drink with the sushi chef. But, today was an exception, without the limited time rush, yet without alcohol. To make things easier, we ordered set lunches at the sushi bar. We had a NT$599 Sushi Set featuring Uni and Scallop and the Dreamy Dining Box for NT$690 – with all sorts of goodies. The dishes were served with excellent service and presentation. I thought the Box meal was a bit too much for one to handle. The tempura’d soft shell crab was quite tender and moist. I also enjoyed the chawan mushi with the sushi. The sushi set also had more than enough for one, with the different kinds of fish.
All in all, I think Shaburi is an excellent experience. I know they have other locations featuring shabu shabu, as well.
2 Pigs
Breeze Center微風廣場 BI, 39 FuXing S. Rd., Sec. 1, Taipei
Tel: (02) 8772-8951
Sun. to Wed. 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.;
Thurs. to Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Katsuta 勝田日式豬排專門店 [Taipei]

Katsuta is a small Japanese Curry House that only locals in the nearby neighborhood would know about. They specialize in pork cutlet with their special curry sauce.
The shop, with the full name 勝田日式豬排專門店, translated to Katsuta Japanese Pork Chop Shop, is situated on a small street in a second floor space. Known by my friends as a grubbin’ curry and cutlet restaurant, Katsuta is comparable to similar Japanese restaurants found in Los Angeles. Yes, i know i shouldn’t say Los Angeles has great Japanese cuisine, but that’s my only reference point. With seating for less than 20 or so, Katsuta gets crowded fast.
Katsuta’s forte is in their pork and breading. They don’t use the sissy Panco breading, but something rougher and heartier. This particular pork cutlet, NT250, comes with the requisite shredded cabbage, pickled vegetables, and curry sauce. Deep fried to perfection with almost all lean meat, this pork is lacks deep flavor begs for the curry sauce. It seems that this cutlet is all about the texture mouth feel, with roof-of-mouth shredding breading, and curry sauce. Don’t get me wrong, almost all Lean pork lacks bold flavors, but that’s ok. The curry sauce is solid, as it should be. We also ordered a sweetened and rolled pork strip deep fried entree. Likened by girls for the sweetness and the lack of the fatty sauce, this is something I have never seen or had.
Katsuta is a nice place for friends and locals for curry and pork cutlet. I might be a decent place for a date. But curry breath is as bad as it gets.
2 Pigs
Katsuta Japanese Pork Chop Shop

Katsu Sandwiches at 浪漫館横浜 Romankan Yokohama, Breeze Center [Taipei] – closed

Romankan makes a type of sandwich that features a specific type of filling that is quite popular. This Japanese style sandwich is packed with a fried pork cutlet, or chicken one. That’s all you need, practically.
Romankan, brought over by Breeze Center, is smartly located in a high traffic area at the food court at the shopping mall. You can’t be help notice the lines for the simple sandwiches – which is all they sell. There’s a large window where you can watch each You’d almost wish they had their full menu from Japan.
Made to order, the katsu pork is battered and deep fried to a golden brown, then put together with crust-less white bread. Minimal additions, such as mustard, shredded cabbage, and tonkatsu sauce, complete the meal. They offer a couple of variations with Pork or Chicken in their simple menu.
If you imagine a standard American hamburger, you can kinda envision the heartiness of the sandwich. Rather than a grilled and greasy patty, the mouth feel is a savory, crunchy, and juicy pork or chicken fillet. The white bread holds the protein as well as offsets the sharpness of the tonkatsu and/or mustard sauce. If your sandwich has the shredded white cabbage, it is the equivalent of the lettuce and tomato you might find in an In-N-Out Double Double. Each of these sandwiches is presented as perfect as the images on their menus, unlike the burgers found in American fast food joints.
With outlets in Hong Kong and Singapore, Romankan Yokohama has made katsu sandwiches an art. I’m pressed to find a comparable sandwich anywhere else.
What to Order: Any of their sandwiches
What not to Order:
3 Pigs
浪漫館横浜 Romankan Yokohama
微風廣場 Breeze Center
39, Fu Hsing South Rd, Sec. 2, Food Court, B1
(02) 6600-8888
11am-9:30pm Sun-Thur
11am-10pm Fri-Sat