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Fusion food served in a nostalgic setting
2015-08-20
By Patsy Yang

With an interior like a living room and a menu featuring well-executed Chinese fusion food, Xixi Bistro on Wuyuan Road has become an instant hit. So much so that diners are queuing up at the entrance over the weekends. 

The most striking feature is the space itself. Housed inside a three-level garden lane villa from the 1930s, the first-floor is beautifully appointed with mood lights and old Shanghai furniture, with vintage posters on the walls that create a personal vibe.

 Xixi is Piercarlo Panozzo and Ivan Icardi’s latest concept fusing local food culture with a European twist. The pair have also opened UVA wine bar and Fumo, a cocktail lounge.

The Italian team created Xixi’s cozy, welcoming interior based on their imagination of an old, elegant Shanghai dining room from the city’s by-gone era. Old pieces are found in every nook and cranny, making it easy to imagine you’ve traveled back in time. The pieces have been sourced from around town, with the owners showing they have an impeccable eye for art and a great sense of color. 

The kitchen is headed by Shanghainese chef Tony Tang. He gives a twist to classic home-cooked Shanghainese dishes, making for some fun flavor and texture combinations.

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To start things off, the sea grape salad with poached organic egg (45 yuan/US$7.3) is satisfyingly light. It features a blend of tender green leaves, dried tomato and sea grape topped with a poached egg. When the yolk oozes over the leaves, it imparts a unique flavor. The sea grape tastes fresh, reminiscent of a cucumber with a hint of salt water. The grape-like special seaweed is considered the vegetarian alternative to caviar, giving a similar sensation but not quite as overpowering.

The rice bruschetta with different toppings (25 to 28 yuan) is very popular with customers. It is a creative update on the typical Shanghainese breakfast classic cifangao (deep-fried glutinous rice cake) and inspired by Italian bruschetta. 

Labeling the food as Chinese-European fusion, the two influences are evident in dishes like jiaozi (pan fried dumpling) stuffed with pumpkin (20 yuan), ragu (28 yuan) or spinach, mozzarella and pine nuts (25 yuan).

The fillings remind you of tortellini or ravioli but they are lighter in texture and not so greasy.  

Another cross-cultural winner from the menu is the fried rice with capers, sundried tomatoes, Iberico sausage and smoke speck (38 yuan). A balance of flavors is achieved with a slightly smoky taste. Xixi recently launched a new lunch set menu for only 88 yuan — an appealing choice for a proper lunch if in the neighborhood.

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