Chop Chop Club: It's Complicated Fun
CHOP CHOP CLUB
Avrg. Cost：500 - 800 kuai
ADD：2F, Bund No. 3, to the right（ The receptionist at Chi-Q would go "Welcome to Chi-Q" everytime there's someone poping from the elevator. *Heartbroken* )
TEL：021-53085399 （Reservation Required）
Website：http://www.unicoshanghai.com/ccc/（Check the Daily Carvery list before you go! ）
For food lovers in Shanghai, there's no doubt that dining at Chop Chop Club has become the pilgrimage of the season. From industry peers to food bloggers, everyone wants a taste of what Paul Pairet has to offer.
You must have seen the pictures. I'll save it for later. Here's a quick wrap-up of the stand-outs:
The hoisin-peanut cucumber, the "creamy" beef tartare, the pumpkin-peanut soup that comes in a whole roasted pumpkin, the only string-roasted chicken in Shanghai, last but not least, the sherry marinated, cream and butter coated, sweet and sour raspberry essential.
Forget about the wine, you might wanna try the B'ocktail (short for bottled cocktail), pre-made every night before service. Be there before 7:30pm, kick off the night with a bottle of spritz at half-price, a real deal.
The experience? I would love to call it cheap and cheerful but that's only in comparison towards UltraViolet. For this price point, I'd use affordable instead.
If you are still interested in knowing my opinions about the dishes (esp. the chicken), please feel free to slide down to the last paragrahs.
Three weeks, twice at Chop Chop, I'd like to share with you some of my observations and thoughts, hopefully they'd be relevant.
Looking forward to reading your comments.
放开肚子吃，最后的人均大概在500 - 800不等。
如果你比较有兴趣知道，我为什么觉得它们好吃（特别是鸡），可以直接拉到最后一段。过去三个礼拜，去了两次Chop Chop Club，分享一些观察和思考，希望对你有用。
From Paris to New York, London to Hong Kong, "Bistronomy" or "Casual Dining" has taken its root. Ditching the white tablecloths as well as the complicated rules and manners of fine dining, restaurants and diners both realize a fact: casual is the new black.
Now it's Shanghai's turn, with Michelin, Best 50 gaining more awareness in recent years (months?). The golden era of (casual dining) restaurants has finally fallen upon us. Every corner something new pops up, and each of them wants to be the next Commune Social, The Nest, Liquid Laundry... I have to remind all of us (esp. myself),
上海也大抵如此，恰逢米其林、Best 50日渐深入人心，休闲西餐开始发力，所有人都想成为下一个Commune Social、The Nest和Liquid Laundry；一个接着一个的新餐厅纷纷占领朋友圈，眼花缭乱之余，不禁要感慨：
Danny Mayer, a New York restaurateur, founder of the beloved Shake Shack and Union Square Hospitality Group, once said that any new restaurant he has ever opened has to meet the following criteria:
Either it reinvents an existing experience with something new, making it the best of its kind, or it's disrupting, creating something that no one has ever done before.
Our own Paul Pairet is probably the same type.
Mr Pairet and his award-wining, ever-flourishing immersive restaurant UltraViolet, has long become a legend of Shanghai. Mr & Mrs Bund, his other restaurant, also comes as hearty favorite of many expats and local people.
For sure, he doesn't need a second MMB (and its big menu. )
想起纽约著名餐饮业者、Shake Shack创始人Danny Meyer说过的一句话：他开的新店，要么在既有品类中做到最好，要么去颠覆一切、创造一种前所未有的新体验。
Paul Pairet和他长盛不衰、一座难求的全感官体验餐厅UltraViolet，显然已经成为了上海滩高级西餐一个难以企及的神话；而他的另一间休闲餐厅Mr & Mrs Bund，亦是沪上中西食客多年来的心头好。
If UltraViolet's success lies in creating a new multi-sensory dining experience, then the most interesting element of Chop Chop Club must be a new set of game rules, converting a grill into a playground, also redefining (and optimizing) the entire ordering and serving process.
But, no matter how much fun the game entails, the bottom line is “tasty”. Otherwise, everything else is futile.
As for this, Paul Pairet knows better than anyone else.
如果说，UltraViolet成功在创造了一种调动“眼耳鼻舌声意”全部感官的新体验，那么，Chop Chop Club最有趣之处，在于它用一套新的游戏规则，把传统的烤肉店变成了年轻人的抢菜场，顺便把西餐的固定套路都给毙了。
Format ：Round Table & Chopsticks
In the old Unico dining room, stands a number of round tables covered in light brown linens; On a verychinese looking bamboo turntable sits two bronzen little bowls, one for the char-grilled mao dou(edamame), one for the peels; A pair of wooden chopsticks is placed next to a three pieces cutlery set, a nice gesture on their part to welcome local diners.
In the eyes of lao wai (expats) and local Chinese people, the round table is a symbol of family reunion, with an emphasis on warm, welcoming hospitality. The so called "Carvery", a big trunk of meat sliced and shared by family and friends - the concept of family dinner is undoubtedly cross-cultural, believed and respected in both Chinese and Western context.
In Chinese cuisine, the most similar experience might be Peking Duck. 😂
Take a look at the wine menu, you'd be amazed.
Who said wine menu needs to be arranged by wine maker, region, grape and vintage? Here the only standard is price, leveling up 100 kuai each time.
By all means the winos knowing their bottles are minorities. Plus wine pairing does not have to be "noble" or "lavishing", unless you are prepared to spend big. No matter who you are, expat or Chinese,most guests only care about how much $$$ they would love to spend on a bottle for the night.
With its small font and eye-blurry line spacing, you know better to ask for recommendations than to actually trying to find the bottles by yourself. Just one minor issue: the old school crystal wine glass, it's almost impossible to swirl it without spilling some of its content.
Or you can go for the b'ocktail. It's a bargain.
Put An Order : Nail It Before It's Gone
First time in, both me and my friend were a little lost.
It was 7:30 pm, I was told minutes after sinking down into my plush leather chair, "Unfortunately, within an hour and half, the only things left are the Turbot and Beef. " Roasted chickens were sold out and wouldn't be available in at least two hours.
And I was starving.
Thank God the turbot was much better than expected. Though it was the first dish served on table.
你们都知道我有多爱吃鸡，直接哭了好吗！ 😭 幸好超大号多宝鱼不错吃，虽然，它是所有菜里第一个上桌的……
You will be presented a printed version of a "schedule", which reminds of a movie experience. Every 15 minutes a new dish comes out of the kitchen. On a wall next to the kitchen, a giant screen has the schedule of the night displayed, with real-time availability for each dish. Ah, technology!
"Sold Out", "Buy Now", follow the tips and act FAST!
The reality is, you have no idea of what's available before stepping into the restaurant; you might end up without having any carvery because you are too late.
Second time in, I got smarter and secured myself a table at 6:30.
And that's how I got my chicken and oxtail!
“Sold Out”、“Buy Now”，想吃的东西，买定离手啊！
They play 20th Century Fox theme music everytime there's something out from the kitchen.
Ideally, some guests would be shortly distracted from their food and look around, meeting eyes with some strangers across the dining room, smiling at each other with eyebrows raised. What a beautiful moment.
And this person could be eating YOUR chicken. 😂
So Complicated and So Much Fun
Why does it have to be so complicated?
The most common and obvious answer is "for fun", aka "the stage effect." A brand new interactive dinner, good for sharing, good for group of frineds...blah blah blah, happiness matters the most.
（Well, your level of happniess might be affected by the availability of carvery. ）
As the official press release goes, roasted chicken doesn't wait, timing matters. Service time is controlled by kitchen because of the existence of a strict schedule. The carvery is guaranteed to be served at its peak time, the perfect time.
(But it also means, your maindish could be the first course because it can't wait. Plus, for some reason the appetizers were served very fast and came all at once...)
群众喜闻乐见的答案，是好玩，aka 噱头。一种全新的互动模式，适合聚会分享，blah blah...大家开心最重要嘛！
另一种比较官方的讲法，是这些烤物，出品非常讲究时间（timing）。传统西餐，根据食客点单来准备食物，但现在游戏规则彻底反转，出菜、上菜的时间并不是由食客决定，而是由厨房决定的。可以保证食物在最正确、最完美的时刻被呈到桌上（served at its peak time）。
Well, as far as Chef Paul Pairet is concerned, I believe being fun is the basic, perfect timing is also an eternal pursuit, on the other hand, a kitchen-centered restaurant, with diminished impact from diners, will evidently increase efficiency and reduce waste.
Think this way: before, the kitchen has only a rough idea of the total sales number of chickens and fishes for a forthcoming night; now, according to the reservations, I am going to give you 6 chickens and 8 fishes for the whole night, no more and no less. It's a bit like planned economy, or, omakase, at least for the carvery part of the business.
（So why there's someone end up without tasting any of the carvery? It could be someone with a big appetite takes all the food or for someone who has traveled to experience the restaurant, "I've come this far just for this and I need to have it all". Both happen quite often, in real life. Because we are human beings...）
Lastly, hunger marketing. It's tastier as it takes an effort.
(But I have to confess, while feeling excited throughout the dinner, I did feel a little uneasy, as if there's a little voice in my head pestering, faster, faster, it doesn't wait! )
After all, the existence of Chop Chop Club is absolutely interesting for the dining scene in Shanghai and beyond.
However, I am afraid this complicated fun, might be a little too sophisticated and advanced. Will people accpet it and become a frequent? The magic is gone once experienced and it's not your every weekend barbeque place. For diners with a more traditional mentality, there's no second time if the experience is not positive.
In the end, we all go to restaurant for a purpose because it's more than food. I could only guess Chef Paul Pairet probably tried to manage the expectation and purposes at the same time, in other words, by the time the game rule was set, the clientile was selected.
（但不得不说，整顿饭吃下来，我总不自觉地想要吃快一点 =_= b）
The trend-setters, the party lovers, the local yuppies, and of course, tourists. All come in groups.
After all，you are what you eat.
This is not a restaurant for business dinner, neither is it an ideal place for party of two, and probably not that great for dating...your angry girlfriend wants a piece of the chicken and you failed to get it?Deal with it, boy.
Anyway, if you decided to try it out with friends, be there early, get more people (ideally 4+), you will have a good time. Last but not least, LOOSE UP, relax.
If you can't get what you want the first time, leave it to the next visit.
毕竟，you are what you eat.
P.S. Take a look at the "daily carvery" section before you go! It's quite useful!
Finally, the Food
Speaking of a restaurant, food still matters the most.
Let's start with the chicken.
Admit it, roasted chicken is officially a thing, at least in Shanghai. The mini yellow chicken at L'Atelier,the lable rouge street bird at Dodu, even Paul Pairet could not resist making roasted chicken as the signature dish of his new restaurant. Trust me, it's in the press release.
Chicken came in two options: Char-grilled Chicken Americaine, a little similar to barbeque, American style; Char-roasted Chicken with traditional French seasoning, haning the chicken on strings inside the oven. I went for the French one without much hesitation.
The string-roased chicken has the crispiest skin among all the french roasted chicken I had so far in Shanghai. The meat, juicy and tender with a hint of herbs. Another highlight would be the sauce, extremely umami! For the price I paid (180 half chicken), I am happy with what I had.
As for the American style grilled chicken, I got a taste by exchanging a piece of the French style bird with a table of friends nearby. I had this feeling that the French tend to have a weird interpretation of all things American, vice versa. The skin was coated in a heavy, sweet sauce, probably too sweet. It somehow reminded me of Korean fried chicken wings at Bonchon Chicken, a marriage between Korean spicy sauce and fried wings...
The oxtail recommended by many friends, fingerlickly good, just a little overseasoned.
I also had a taste of the turbot and the sea bass, both fresh and delightful. However for someone grown up eating plenty of seafood, they did not strike as a suprise.
Truth is, the carvery is not a must. A feast on the rest of the menu also stands a chance to make your night.
Thanks to Nancy ( our hostess of the night and a dear friend ), otherwise we'd miss this delicious pumpkin soup!!!
They use the pumpkin as a container and roast the whole thing in fire. A peer of pineapple fried rice, coconut panna cotta and papaya salad...would make a good meal, only in imagination.
Not the creamy texture you are used to, instead they put sliced onion and small dices of Pancetta to balance out the pumpkin's earthy sweet flavor, with a taste of the pumpkin flesh.
Do check the availability. Recommended for 4 to 6 people but it was so good that I could finish a bowl all by myself.
I haven't ordered cucumbers at restautant in years. But this one comes impressive. Yogurt, hoisin-peanut butter and a number of herbs...I bet you can replicate this at home. Get a jar of Lee Kum Kee Hoisin Sauce (Seafood sauce), a bunch of mint leaves, with your regular yogurt and PB, you are all set.
Don't forget the sprinkle of fresh grounded black pepper.
Add a little style to your summer home parties? Why not.
Oh hello again, Mr Beef Tartare (yean I usally believe it's a he. ) This classic French raw dish has become a darling of many Chefs in Shanghai. Marinated in lemongrass and ginger, or styled with smoked clam aioli and a smoked soft boiled egg...you name it.
I still believe the essence of beef tartare lies in the beef, not the seasoning. This one, comes in thick, hand-cut, seasoned with shallots and an unexpected dash of cream! Striped down to the core, love it!
Grilled Octopus, firm yet springy; Beef tongue was a star item during my first visit but not that impressive the second time; the chunk of shiitake mushroom served as the interactive “instagram dish”, I bet you've heard the story of cutting your own mushroom with a scissor...
These are the two only dishes I do not relate with. Pomelo doused in ginger oil, sprinkle of grapefruit granite. To me it's more of a dessert than a starter. Also, pomelo might not be inducing the expected "wow-effect" when it comes to an Asian diner.
Watermelon with balsamic and olive oil sorbet. It does have the level of sophistication but it was simply too sour for me. Maybe I had it the wrong way.
Speaking of fruits, this Raspberries Essential is evidently a crowd pleaser. Marinated in sweet sherry, the raspberries came out in an suprisingly soft and jammy texture. The well aged alcohol has removed all the tanginess and added a lot more sweetness to the fruit. Coated in fresh cream, the magic berry was like a spell that I simply could not stop myself from eating.
And so did my fellow diners...on a very full stomach, we emptied the plate in less than 5 minutes.
Bottom line: It has to be tasty.
Chop Chop Club has proved itself to be an instant success. But once again I am curious, as we are experiencing this great leap of new restaurant opening, as it gets more and more difficult to retain a loyal customer, the legend of Chop Chop Club, will it last?
（ I do look forward to the next menu. ）
Chop Chop Club显然已经在短时间内，成为了上海休闲餐饮的一块新标杆。不过，我也很好奇，以上海目前吃不过来的开店速度，以食客尝鲜辄止的心态而言，CCC的火爆，会持续多久？