Attempts at Chinese fusion cuisine often feels forced, but if there was ever an appropriate location for it it would surely be Shanghai’s former French Concession, where a small patch of China was inhabited by citizens from all over the world. Madame Xixi, we’re told, was a celebrated Chinese resident of the era, who enjoyed noting more than socializing with the city’s elite foreign crowd.
This new restaurant then, named Xixi Bistro in her honour, has been opened by the hospitable team behind Jing’an wine bar Uva. Its quickly making a splash on booming Wuyuan Lu, a street that was, until the opening of Senator Saloon a couple of years back, more of a passageway to other buzzing locales than a destination in itself.
The setting, a classic colonial-era Shanghai lane house with a beautiful Art Deco details, is something of a classic and has been enhanced by a dramatic dragon that sidles up the roof of the staircase, as well as a smattering of period furniture. It all fees like good fun without tipping over into ‘theme’ territory, and the crowds that are packing this place nightly lend a buzz that would surely have been the envy of any 1930s Shanghai nightspot.
Whilst the main courses, including a tasty portion of ribs marinated in rosewater, were enjoyable, it was the unique appetizers and small plates that stole the show for us: a classic Chinese cold tofu dish mixed with sliced avocado, for example, and a beautifully crisp dish of lotus root served with ricotta cheese. Side dishes of fried rice with Italian sausage, and jiaozi stuffed with Mediterranean favourites like spinach and pine nuts and pumpkin were also big hits. With a menu that takes in East, West, old and new – and a crowd to match – the restaurant is a welcome addition to the area. Just be sure to call a couple of days ahead for a appointment, Madame Xixi is a popular little lady who doesn’t always receive visitors unannounced. Xixi Bistro is at 89 Wuyuan Lu (near Wulumuqi Lu). Tel: (021) 6486 1331.
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