BEST-SELLING author and professional rally driver Han Han has branched out into the restaurant business, opening Nice Meeting You in the winter of 2013.
It’s but one example of celebrities who have opened a restaurant, cafe or bar in Shanghai in recent years. Novelist Na Duo and his wife Zhao Ruohong, a former TV hostess, have a bistro. Singer Xue Zhiqian opened Shang Shang Qian Chuan Chuan Xiang Hotpot restaurant in 2012 and has since added three more locations. Spanish restaurant La Finca in Xintiandi is owned by TV hostess Li Jing while actor and singer Hu Ge has opened a Japanese restaurant.
Nice Meeting You is named after the first volume of Han’s digital magazine “One,” which was published in the summer of 2013.
The decor of the fusion restaurant on Jianguo Road W. is neat and cozy. Colorful paper lanterns lead the way up the stairs to a waiting area with a full bookshelf that helps diners pass the time when its busy.
The restaurant menu features simple sketches to give diners an idea of what each dish is like.
The most notable dish, “Make Me Cry Baby-back Ribs,” is inspired by the hit American TV series “House of Cards.” The main character, Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) frequently eats ribs at Freddy’s BBQ early in the morning.
The chef, Alan Yu, has previously worked at Restaurant 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Shanghai, a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant.
Dish names are fun like “Sesame Sauce in Love with Spinach” and “Baked Cod Cooked at a Low Temperature Swimming Deep in the Pacific Ocean.”
Other popular dishes include chicken nuggets, Beijing duck quesadilla, kongpao chicken spaghetti and cold tofu with a shrimp and tomato salsa.
Nice Meeting You has already expanded to four other locations in Shanghai and they plan on opening more soon.
Ms Zhao Bu Deng Wei, or Ms Zhao Doesn’t Wait, is a late night bistro on Changle Road. It’s famous for its grilled dishes like quail eggs, razor clams, crabs, shrimp, beef and more.
Cai fan, or vegetable fried rice in pork lard, is a traditional Shanghai dish and one of the signature items on the restaurant’s menu.
Its success has prompted writer Na to open the dessert shop Chi Wan Xian De Chi Dian Tian De, which translates as Have Some Sweets After the Salt, next door. He has also opened another branch of Ms Zhao Bu Deng Wei on Taicang Road.
Singer and songwriter Ashin (Chen Hsin-hung) from the Taiwanese rock band Mayday opened StayReal Café at iapm Mall after starting the StayReal clothing line in 2007.
The cafe’s signature is freshly pressed waffles shaped like flowers and topped with ice cream, strawberries, chocolate syrup and more. Banana hot chocolate, caramel red tea latte, cantaloupe latte and lime wine soda are some special drinks on the menu.
The cafe certainly has a good vibe to it and Ashin fans flock to see memorabilia of the singer and band. A bookshelf has some books recommended by Ashin.
With the weather cooling down, more people will likely be in the mood for hotpot, especially fiery Sichuan versions. If so check out Shang Shang Qian Chuan Chuan Xiang Hotpot, which opened in 2012 and now has three other locations.
The restaurant’s signature is “pot within a pot.” A small round pot with a non-spicy white broth is placed in the middle of a square pot filled with a spicy red oil and other spices.
The menu includes common Sichuan hotpot ingredients like catfish, beef tripe, duck blood as well as shrimp, beef tongue, fish ball with cheese filling and special tofu.
Actor and singer Hu Ge’s Japanese restaurant Fount has already been around four years. The quiet restaurant offers authentic Japanese cuisine, and also has set lunches on weekdays. Some popular dishes include grilled beef and goose liver over rice, grilled unagi eel over rice, as well as sashimi and sushi.
Many customers come because they are fans of Hu but leave suitably impressed with the food. Fount is popular with celebrities so there’s always a chance to spot someone famous.
Li Jing is a TV hostess famous for interviewing celebrities and her Spanish restaurant La Finca in Xintiandi serves dishes like squid ink paella, creamy Ierian Jamon croquettes and a wide selection of tapas. It also serves a weekend brunch.
Restaurants owned by celebrities
Nice Meeting You
Jianguo Road store: 2/F, 221 Jianguo Rd W. Tel: 6418-6508
Flagship store: 3/F, 775 Huaihai Rd M. Tel: 3368-7068
Zhongshan Park store: 4/F, 1273 Dingxi Rd. Tel: 5271-5209