NAPA SHANGHAI : What Kind of Restaurant Is Worth a Second Try?
Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen
Address: Bund 22, Floor 2
Tel: 021 6318 0057
Avg. Price: RMB 500 - 1500 (Depends on the drinks)
Good For: Dating, Proposing, Good Food
TIPS: Remember to make a reservation. Napa has a indoor balcony that seats 3 tables of two with a view of PuDong Skyline. If you wish to have a second round after dinner, consider The Nest or Long Bar at Waldorf Astoria.
First time dining at a restaurant, if you are disappointed, it's not very likely you'd go back right away.
Recently I realized some of my favorite restaurants were not love at first sight. With some, the flip could be so dramatic that it made me "hater turned lover".
That leaves us to one question: what kind of restarant is worth a second try? Ask yourself a few questions:
1. Was it a EVENT DINNER or BRUNCH?
2. Was it newly opened, soft opening maybe?
3. Did they just hire a new chef?
4. When there's an issue, how did the restaurant respond?
Basically, large group dinner and brunch don't count. Large goup dinners, banquets, parties, annual gatherings, pretty much like those wedding dinners, the point is NOT great food. As for brunch, you know, there are very limited things you could do to an egg...better give it a second shot.
But I have to say, Jean-Georges knows how to do brunch...
The biggest chanllenge of running a restaurant is not creativity, design or service. It's consistency, the art of achieving perfect equilibrium of all things mattered. The quality ingredients, the same productivity, a team of cooks that does not screw up without the boss in da house, also, a happy looking team of waiters that delivers the professional service...all of these were not born perfect, perfection takes time, and effort.
A restaurant during soft opening is all about testing water. Starting from scratch, the most difficult time, in other words, consistency at its lowest point, mistakes are almost inevitable. If you don't like risks, avoid going to a restaurant during its first few months, wait a little, for better experiences.
Besides, when it comes to personnel change, even if the menu stays the same, chef still needs time to settle in. Let alone those who have a strong peronal style, or, strong temper...
Whenever there's an issue, I always speak out - to prevent youself from being angry all day, and also to help restaurant improve. As long as your complaints are legitimate, the response should be nice and decent, otherwise it's the deal breaker. After all, we pay to have a great time, not to be lectured...
If it's not a born defect (the incurable ones) and the service/attitude is positive, a second try is encouraged. And if your foodie friends insist you give it another shot, then the second visit could be exceptional, even mindblowing.
For example, this restaurant on the bund.
When hitting the bund, from Yan'an High Way down to Zhongshan East 1st Road, you always take a left turn. Jean Georges, L'Atelier, Otto e Mezzo, The Peninsula, Bund No.5, or Bar Rouge and The Nest...this seemingly endless array of bars and restaurants, the shinest constellation of the best city lifestyle, all cluttered in the left wing of the bund.
去外滩，从延安路高架下来直抵中山东一路，一般都是左转弯。去Jean Georges, 去Robuchon，去Otto e Mezzo，去半岛酒店，去外滩5号，去Bar Rouge，去The Nest……外滩声色犬马，在这几百米里斗得精彩。
On the opposite, it's very quite if you turn right at the end of East Yan'an Road. On this half of the bund, there's one of my favorite hotels, Les Suites Orient; Driving on, there's also the famous Wanda Hotel...Talking about restaurants, there's el Willy, also, if you count South Bund in, From a Chinese Cookbook, and Tablet No.1 (at the Waterhouse), oh right, I forgot, Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen, on Bund 22.
I just came to realize Bund 22 is very far away from Bund 18... 😓
Just like any other big cities in the world, restaurant business in Shanghai is about come and go.Napa, been around for a decade, is to be considered an "old" one. FYI, they named it Napa because it sounds catchy...has nothing to do with Napa Valley.
相比左手热闹，中山东一路右拐弯，要安静不少。这一厢，有我很喜欢的东方商旅酒店，再往前开，还有思聪家的万达，到南外滩还有很拽的水舍酒店。餐厅少一些，El Willy, 再远一点有璞本，有Table No.1……哦我忘记了，22号还有这家Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen。
Placing Wine Bar ahead of Kitchen reflects a certain logic: they do have a wine cellar (rather big in a city) and countless cases of good vintage. First here was down in the cellar, a wine dinner, 30 people sipping wine tipsy alongside a very long table.
Ooh la la, event dinner.
把Wine Bar放在Kitchen前面，这个顺序也不是乱来的，人家真的有个地下酒窖和数不清的藏酒。第一次来吃饭，就是在酒窖。某酒庄的Wine Dinner，将近30个人霸了一张长桌子。
I've heard Napa had a new chef, a very good one. Chef Francisco Araya, comes from a Chilean chef family, spent time in both Mugaritz and elBulli, earned a star in Tokyo at an early age.
But, it's an event dinner...even though I was aware of the fact, I couldn't help feeling "meh. "
When I was called up to try the winter menu, I wasn't very sure. Avoiding the potential unpleasant, it's only human instinct.
Utterly unexpected, it turned out lots of my friends knew about this restaurant through the texts sent from next to the table, halfway through dinner.
I was amazed.
Obviously the food scene in Shanghai is getting better.
Dinning at Napa without drinking wine, you are losing it.
There's very thick binder that holds all the bottles avaiable. Like all the best wine menus, every entry begins with the wine maker ; the owner has a wine business on the back, buying directly from Chateau and Wineries, selling at a very reasonable price.
You won't miss the wine room in the dining room. You can find samples of everybottle listed on the menu. You pick the bottle, they fetch it from the cellar. Boom! For most restaurants, that sample room could be all their assets...
If you have a headache picking bottles, let the Sommelier do the trick. Trust me, you are in very good hands.
Napa first opened its door in 2007, it was pioneering. No other people were doing the same job. Back to the old days, it was merely a place to enjoy great wine that happens to sell some food. It was the guests that pushed the owner to make it a great restaurant, a decent one, with table cloth.
Good news, it wasn't that rigid.
BTW, wine pairing does not have to be expensive, a perfect match weighs much more.
Possibly the best/most interesting bread basket apart from L'atelier. The flat crispy one that sticks out reminds of the great Pita Chips. Crispy, starchy, cracking loud! I wish I could get a box for snack...
Amuse Bouche. A codfish croquettes reminds of arancini (heard it''s changed to foie gras bon bon now! ), the other one is a mushroom consommé, you can recognize the Japanese influence immediately.
上来两个Amuse Bouche，一个长得很像Arancini的奶香鳕鱼球（听说现在已经换成鹅肝bon bon了，想吃！），另外一小碗则是松茸清汤，一口喝得出日本的风土。
Scallop ceviche in a crystal clear Uni-shaped bowl! I had my first ceviche back in Peru years ago and it's always bold and sour (in a good way). To the extreme, the white fleshed fish and shrimp were swimming in lime juice...
This bold flavored hometown favorite of Chef Araya turned out to be the most "gentle" ceviche I've had. You can still taste the lime, but chili is replaced by Ginger, giving it a little "Asian" twist, balance out with orange peel and Champange foam.
In this dish, seasoning was reduced to a supporting role, putting the spotlight on the Hokkaido Scallop, sweet, juicy, tender like a deep kiss ( I want more thanks!). I won't surprise if some trendy Kaiseki restaurant use this to start a meal.
I guess the Chef still miss the old days in Tokyo.
Winter is the season eating roots. Turning celeriac (or Celery Root as I prefer it...) into a fine emulsion wrapped up in black truffle is one of a kind. And I call it luxury.
Unlike some other restuarnts avoiding the topic, it points out on the menu the truffle is from Yun'nan. Flavorful and "smelly". It's not just the truffle but also other “luxury” ingrendients, origin matters, grade and quality too.
A marriage between Parmesan cheese and Shitake mushroom? Briiliant!
插播一个小科普，所谓的欧芹根（Celery Root 或者Celeriac)，和西芹欧芹不是一种东西……而是芹菜科的另一种植物，叶小根大，主要吃根，味道介乎土豆和藕之间，和欧洲大萝卜Parsnip是好基友。
Truth is, when it comes to beef tartare, I do not like it tart. Too much capers, I can't even taste the meat. This one comes a little smaller than expected, but defnitely no compromise in flavor.
After having the famous Niku-Uni (sea urchin wrapped up in beef sashimi) at Takashi, New York, I can't resist the idea of having raw beef with sea urchin in the same plate...topped with caviar, U-M-A-M-I!
Red wine for meat? That is so old! Raw meat with a certain acidity in seasoning, plus seafood! Why not a creamy, rounded white?
Green rice, red shrimp, the most iconic and my favorite dish of the night.
P.S. I promise I'll have better lights next time.
The creamy spinach rice is topped with Carabinero shrimp capparcio, creating a eyecatching contrast. The cherry of the dish is the shrimp feet, fried crispy, adds another interesting layer to the texture.
Turned out my guess was correct, the fried shrimp feet was inspired by traditional Japanese cuisine. When eating the best kind of ebi sushi (killed alive in front of you, and the heart still beating when it's in your mouth! ), my favorite part is always the fried head and tail at the end of the meal, like a bonus :D
Btw, if you eat this rice dish without wine pairing, you will probably think it's overseasoned. In fact it's not. For the wine paring, an interesting selection of a oaked california Chardonnay, 60% of the wine is oaked for 6 months whereas the rest was put through cold fermentation, which retained the fruity flavor of an unoaked white.
A mouthful of this flavorful rice, followed up with a beautiful sip, I could feel the endorphin exploding in my head.
An unexpected palate cleanser before we had the protein dishes. Frozen virgin Bloody Mary wrapped up in coconut oil, then unfreeze in fridge...very cool. 😱 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
吃完烩饭，店方发了一个清口小点心（Palate Cleanser），对不起我拍糊了 😭 …外层是个黄油质地的口感，里面竟然是一包酸爽宜人的番茄水！
侍者介绍说，其实是无酒精版本的Bloody Mary，冻起来以后外面裹上椰子油，再放进冷藏慢慢解冻……最后形成了这样特殊的口感。😱 👏 👏 👏 👏 👏
It seems slow cook (or sous vide) is taking over every meat dish on every menu...but for this lamb loin, it is the best way to preserve the tenderness. The meat was rolled in truffle crumble and cut to reveal the pinky inside. And truffle crumble! Very susprised (and pleasead) to meet this the particular style again.
The most interesting part of this dish was the cauliflower on the bottom. "Cauliflower Couscous", do not get it wrong, cauliflower is smashed into little pieces resembling the shape and taste of cous cous...to me it's similar to the taste of Romesco Sauce.
On the drink's side, a young Barolo is the answer.
比较有趣的是下面的一坨花菜泥，名字叫“Cauliflower Couscous”，千万别误会，不是指花菜里面掺了小米，而是把花菜头碾碎了做成小米的样子……口感有点像西班牙的Romesco Sauce（甜椒坚果酱），配大肉肉正好~
When the final meat dish was served, I was almost overwhelmed by the whole experience (in a good way.) Every dish had a story to tell, a little surprise to unveil.
I had to confess, it was quite beyond expecation. Not at Napa, not even in Shanghai. It felt like I've discovered a treasure, out of sheer luck.
Aged Angus ribeye, beautiful in nature, does not really need much add-ons. Parsnip purée is delightful, and the endive was surprising.
It seems like sautéed or roasted endive has become chefs' favorite vegetarian ingredients. L'Atelier has this new endive salad (pairing roasted endive with dried champagne grape and balsamic), now Napa has it to go with the beef.
Not, bitter, at, all. (😏 yes it's a insider's joke. )
The dish comes with a bowl of braised beef flank, in a casual bistro style, perfect with bread.
A little to heavy? Let's toast with some Bordeaux.
Rice spring roll and chocolate donuts, a big pre-dessert……
Dessert time! If you like Blue Moon Cocktail (consists of Crème de violette), you'll like this flavor.
紫罗兰做的冰淇淋，第一次吃。香气很特别，喜欢Blue Moon Cocktail的应该会喜欢这个味道。下面搭的Financier中规中矩，印象不深。图太丑了对不起，相机阵亡了。
Second dessert is the signature dessert. This instagram-worthy crystal ball consists of Crème de Cassis sorbet, vanilla custard foam and white chocolate malted milk ball...it's heaven if you have sweeteeth, I surrender.
For a chef who earned a michelin star at an early age, you can't be mediocre.
Dish after dish, it is not just the food, but also a mix of precise execution, high level of sophistication, as well as imagination unleashed yet tamed by years of practice and experience...last but not the least, the road this man has travelled, the places visited and the life lived.
This meal, together with many other meal I've had during the past year, is a clear signal of the food scene in Shanghai getting more interesting: more and more talented young chefs decides to give Shanghai a chance, bring the game to a higher level. On the other hand, the local palatte also evolves and starts to embrace complexity and diversity.
Well, going through all the details about this meal is torturing...the Yunnan vemicelli I just had was futile. Anyway, I've written all these down to give you a reason, hitting the bund and turn right, give NAPA a try.