We are long past the time when the words ‘delicious’ and ‘healthy’ didn’t appear in the same sentence. That kind of food exists, so let’s not justify subpar eats on the basis that they’re high in fibre, gluten-free, vegan, paleo, all natural, whatever. We’ve tried delicious, healthy food – the phrase is not an oxymoron.
Having established a cult following in Beijing, expectations are high for TRIBE’s Shanghai flagship spot. It boasts all of the things mentioned above – each menu item complete with a ‘Glossary of Goodness’ which identifies qualities like ‘Metabolism Booster’, ’Healthy Heart’, ‘Probiotic’ and more. The globally inspired dishes are colourful and fresh. It’s food that your eyes really want to eat.
Were it only your eyes that ate, you’d fall in love with TRIBE. But biting into these beauties brings disappointment. Dryness abounds, from lamb meatballs to baked falafel to breads and cookies. The desserts
leave way more than sugar to be desired. The salads (58-88RMB)
are quite lovely,
that come with a
delightful smear of
hummus, and the
bibimbap -like Too
Darn Hot Stone Bowl (88RMB) is fabulous. But those things are not enough to have you returning time and time again.
While most of the dishes have more flair than flavour, there are some things worth stopping in for, like fresh juices and smoothies (38- 48RMB) and quality single-origin cups of coffee like the cinnamon latte (38RMB). Dairy-free folk can even opt for almond milk. The all- natural cocktails are nice too – the Fig Old Fashioned (72RMB) with g-infused Maker’s Mark bourbon, brown sugar and orange is a sweet and stiff tipple that you’ll think about when five o’clock rolls around.
There are many things to admire about TRIBE – a team that truly
cares about their mission to bring fresh, healthy food to guests, and the fact that they work with local farms to ensure the quality of their produce. The space is hip and inviting; it’s got one of those cool vertical plant walls and there are generally pretty killer beats coming from the speakers. You want to love it.
Inevitably, many will try to pardon TRIBE via the likes of ‘oh but gluten- free is so hard to do right’; ‘well it’s mostly organic!’ and ‘it’s pretty
good for vegan food’... we’ve
heard it all before. But the simple fact is: it could be great, and with
the exception of a few items, it isn’t. And it’s not cheap,
and most of the dishes are small. Of
course, they’re probably the portion sizes healthy
people should eat, but the price tags should match.
We’ve got no problem paying more for excellent tasting, all- natural food, but 48RMB for a bowl of yoghurt with nuts?
While these eats and flashy looks may be enough to satisfy and impress our northern comrades in Beijing, the team will have to up their game if TRIBE’s to become a household name for healthy eats in Shanghai.