Update: this restaurant is now closed.
A horseshoe-shaped bar topped with a bed of ice holding oysters, Boston lobsters and crabs announces the intentions of this new seafood restaurant perched atop the high class and high price bars Connoisseur’s and Wine Plus in the former Bulldog space on Wulumuqi Lu. Brought to us by the friendly Vickie Lin, an American-Taiwanese entrepreneur from California, W1 strives to incorporate elements of Waterbar, San Francisco’s famed Embarcadero oyster destination, though import taxes mean oyster prices are significantly higher.
Away from oysters, W1’s Taiwanese chef is clearly working hard and brushing creativity onto his dishes in broad strokes. He’s fashioned a somewhat hodgepodge range with an understandable focus on fish and seafood, but the execution lacks consistency and finesse. There are some excellent flavours such as the scallop and shrimp ceviche (88RMB) with orange peel and chilli adding zip. But the small king crab cakes (52RMB) are over-fried and under-seasoned, while the soft shell crab (98RMB) is wonderfully fresh but also over-battered and one-note.
Among the soups, the recommended cioppino (98RMB) is generously crowded with mussels and clams but the tomato base is watery and bland. Fragrant pumpkin oyster soup (58RMB) is better, but best of all is the flounder chowder (48RMB), a velvety, cream-like soup, with three small islands of perfectly seared, moist fish.
The mains meanwhile are equally discrepant, even across the same dish. Salmon with wasabi sauce (98RMB), ordered by two people at one table, comes to the table over-cooked on one plate and perfectly jewel-toned in the centre on another. Other highlights include the crispy fried prawns (108RMB) with garlic, served next to a mound of couscous with pesto and a special of pork neck which is masterfully seared and accompanied by steamed cauliflower and a line of salt flakes for dipping.
Among the desserts, the crème brûlée (48RMB) is respectable and the tiny puff pastry apple pie (25RMB) just about passable, but the chocolate mousse (38RMB) shines, literally, with a seductive gloss and a silken texture worth an encore tasting.
W1 has a sophisticated concept and a handsome, comfortable interior. We visited during early days and we’re confident they can refine and tighten their ship. But to survive long-term in the shark-filled waters of Shanghai’s competitive restaurant scene, the kitchen is going to have to cut loose any mediocre dishes and push out only their very best for a safe landing.