Embracing Umami

By Peter Lee 2019-12-09 13:53:22

Le Cru

There’s an abundance of Japanese dining options in the Gubei area, but the recently opened Le Cru is a welcome addition for families looking for western food. Part of the Suisse Place Hotel, Le Cru already seems to have built up a dedicated following. The menu covers French favourites like duck confit (68 RMB) and a Provence-style baked halibut (68 RMB), but beyond the French borders they include quesadillas (from 38 RMB), popular pasta options such as linguine bolognese (58 RMB) and clam chowder (48 RMB) to warm you up during the looming winter months. Le Cru also has a climate-controlled wine room; many are natural, organic wines at surprisingly affordable prices. I spotted a Paul Jaboulet Syrah (a drinkable wine I’d highly recommend) on offer for 200 RMB, which sells at other establishments for closer to 300 RMB. According to the manager Johann, the restaurant offers great wines at great prices because despite the growing trend of paying extravagantly for a nice vino, a high-quality Merlot shouldn’t put you out of pocket! For those of us that like to enjoy a bottle of wine (or two, no judgement here) with a home-cooked meal, the restaurant plans to offer a takeaway wine service in the near future. It will be interesting to see how Le Cru fares with their affordable pricing strategy, but I’d suggest going sooner rather than later, before the word gets out!

Address: 628 Gubei Lu; Reservations: 198 2273 9704; Price: 150 RMB; Good for: Family dinners, affordable wines

Latin Woo

Latin Woo occupies a prime poolside position at Columbia Circle, the food and beverage/ lifestyle complex on Yanan Lu, just west of Jiangsu Lu. Yes, that’s right, Latin Woo serves as a backdrop for diners and increasingly, KOLs (influencers) and Instagramers shooting glamorous photos. This could either be a mild irritation, or, as in my case, a compelling reason to dine here. Latin Woo is the daytime concept from chef Ling Huang (formerly of El Efante). The concept is simplicity itself; sandwiches with or without fries or yucca chips starting from just 35 RMB for a small “El Cubano”. Other options include spicy pulled pork with avocado and cheese (Torta Ahogada, 75 RMB) and Pan con Bistec (98 RMB), a quintessentially Cuban dish consisting of a bun filled with Ropa Vieja (luscious pieces of shredded beef, onions and coriander). During the week, there are lunch specials, as well as a Latino breakfast (both 98 RMB) and on weekends (11am to 3pm), there’s a separate menu with choices starting at 78 RMB. Depending on whether you’re trying to sober up or get the party started early, a variety of fresh juices, smoothies and shakes are available as well as cocktails, draft and bottled beers. After 6pm, Latin Woo morphs into its sister restaurant and Spanish tapas bar Pirata, but that’s a review for another day.

Address: 1262 Yanan Xi Lu (near Panyu Lu); Reservations: 6117 2663; Price: 100-150 RMB; Good for: Sandwich lovers, casual lunches

Shanghai Club

An elegant nod to Shanghai’s Art Deco era of the 1920s, Shanghai Club is the relatively new flagship from the same group as the well-known Jardin du Jade. They use wood-fired ovens that prepare Beijing style roasted duck, traditionally served with shredded cucumber, spring onions and the special sauce. They also have an authentic selection of Cantonese dim sum dishes such as shrimp dumplings, Xiao Mai, glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves, roasted pork puffs and more. However, this is primarily a Shanghainese restaurant and their offering in this area is top notch. They have the obligatory xiaolongbao and braised pork belly, but one of my favourites is their take on the traditional Chinese dish, “lion’s head” (pork meatball), served on a bed of garden peas, surrounded by shrimp on fried bread. They have an impressive wine selection which includes both reasonably priced options around 300-400 RMB as well as fine wines such as a Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Despite the opulent environment, a meal here need not break the bank, especially if you go for their flash buy set menu available on Dianping, with enough food for four-six hungry guests for 648 RMB.

Address: Taikoo Hui Mall, 789 Nanjing Xi Lu; Reservations: 021 5299 8660; Price: 150-250 RMB; Good for: Quality Chinese food in relaxed, comfortable surroundings


Solana is a newly opened Latin-American inspired bar/ restaurant. The casual, comfortable décor, with colourful cushions scattered around and rug patches adorning the walls, gives Solana a Yunnan-meets-Bolivia feel. The food doesn’t adhere to one specific style of cuisine, but when it comes to the old ‘authenticity vs good tasting food’ debate, taste wins every time for me and in this respect, Solana hits all the right notes. Our favourite dish was the succulent pork belly Tamal (58 RMB) which was unconventionally served on a bed of sticky rice atop a banana leaf. The menu also includes a raw bar section, offering Spanish charcuterie, ceviche (we loved the ahi tuna ceviche with small cubes of watermelon, 48 RMB), various ‘crudo’ dishes including salmon, Argentinian Black Angus beef and the obligatory salsa, guac and chips combo (35 RMB). Solana also boasts Latin favourites like Margaritas, Pisco Sours, Caipirinhas and Mojitos, as well as wines, whisky and beers - something for everyone. Weekday set lunches start at 68 RMB for a main bundled with soup, salad, or dessert.

Address: 1085 Wuding Lu (near Jiaozhou Lu);

Reservations: 138 1831 7021; Price: 150 RMB; Good for: Casual lunch, drinks with bites