Even in a city as enormous and cosmopolitan as Shanghai, it isn’t always easy to find that one perfect little bar that is near work or home, where the food is decent, the booze is strong enough but not overpowering, waiters and bartenders are well-trained and polite from a distance, the interior decor is relaxing, the price isn’t too high and you can just chill out and have a great night with friends.
Shanghai Daily picks four such gastro-pubs — Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and Continental — in the downtown area, each providing a rich selection of beer, wine or cocktails, in addition to unique, tasty and signature dishes.
It isn’t difficult to find authentic Taiwanese lu rou fan (rice with sliced pork 卤肉饭) or tasty Florentine lampredotto (cow’s stomach) sandwich in Shanghai, but this newly opened eatery is one to serve both, and both can hold up against any Chinese or Italian restaurant in the city.
The sliced pork is slowly cooked with the richness and umami taste of soy-sauce-based flavor, making even the first layer of rice, soaked with the same sauce, irresistible.
To some extent, the lampredotto sandwich does the same, as even those who are not fond of the bun will find its sauce-soaked inner layer juicy and satisfying. The Florentine peasant dish, popular at stalls in the Italian city, is cooked with the fourth stomach of the cow in a tomato-and-onion-based sauce. It finds a nice spot in this bar with a limited but delicious food menu.
The beer menu has 10 times the variety of the food selection.
Shanghai doesn’t lack in good beer, but the pub’s wooden shelf, filled with bottles of beer from all over the world, takes up an entire wall adjacent to the bar. It’s both visually tempting for those who like to try something new and comforting to beer-lovers.
The selection ranges from the lightest to darkest larger, and even includes a few fruity beers and a chocolate-flavored one that might appeal to women.
Address: 46 Changhua Rd
It isn’t always easy to find a good mojito, not to mention a varied menu of mojito-based drinks. The rum-based highball originally from Cuba requires intricacy has many variations. Too often, bards will make the mint flavor is too weak or too strong, the lime won’t be fresh enough, or the rum will hardly show up.
For mojito lovers, Brownstone provides a satisfying menu in terms of both quality and variety. The mint and rum are both present and accounted for, but not so strong to overpower the layered taste of the drink.
In addition to the classic recipe, the mango mojito is a must try. The sweetness of mango blends well with the recipe and brings an additional layer to the already intricate taste and flavor, adding more dynamics.
Other cocktails are also tasty, in addition to a selection of wine at good prices, which makes for a bargain on its Monday-to-Saturday, pre-8pm happy hour, when you can buy one and get one free refill.
The food menu has a nice selection of pizza as well as crispy toast that is just tasty enough to complement the drinks.
Address: 570 Yongjia Rd
Tori means chicken and as the name suggests, everything related to chicken is quite good in this Japanese gastro-pub, which has a wonderful menu of the grill and a selection of sake from all over Japan.
The dozens of empty sake bottles of all kinds, placed in orderly chaos along the window — and the handwritten menu, found on the wall overhead and all around the venue — suggest it is one of the best places in the city for a late-night supper that easily slides into rounds of drinks and long talks.
The menu offers a rich grilled selection from the most common chicken wing, chicken skin, cow’s tongue and steak slices to distinct Japanese tastes like roasted, miso-flavored eggplant and more interesting items that take a bit of courage like chicken butt.
The selection outside the grilled menu is not disappointing either, with a handful of options in each of the categories of salads, fish, stir-fried items and Japanese noodles.
Address: 2/F, 8 Dapu Rd
Western dining venues often tend to get very posh and expensive in Shanghai, but Bocado is well-designed and easygoing at the same time, not to mention the great sangria that can be irresistible even for those who don’t normally drink.
The fruity concoction — fresh sliced fruit in a wine-based drink — has a tempting crystal color and a sparkling flavor. Good sangria also indicates a good selection of wine from Spain, both red and white, at a reasonable price. Other cocktails like vodka with lychee and lime or a rum-based drink lit up by ginger are also impressive.
The balanced combination of texture and taste of its signature paella is a pleasant plus to the great drink menu, and like many Spanish restaurants, the selection and flavor of the tapas is satisfying, whichever drink is ordered.