This three-in-one concept from the Speak Low
team is seriously impressive. On the corner of Yandang Lu and Nanchang Lu, the Sober Company space includes three main parts: Sober Café (small plates and all-day brunch), Sober Kitchen (a restaurant doing modern takes on Chinese dishes) and Sober Society (a bar focused on digestif cocktails and brown spirits).
One of the first things you’ll notice is the soft-serve ice cream on offer. With eye-catching flavours like PDT (bacon, maple and bitters), Little Italy (raspberry, truffle, balsamic and white chocolate) and Mexicano (mango, jalapeño, lime and chilli) – each for 35RMB a cup – it’s hard to miss.
But down to the brunch, which lasts until 4pm on the daily. The Wagyu Teritama Burger (98RMB) is hands down one of the best burgers you will find in Shanghai. Picture this: a juicy wagyu beef pâté patty topped with a fried egg whose runny yolk swirls with savoury teriyaki drippings in the most rich and sinful way. A side of miso aioli for the fries is way more delicious than you’d imagine a side sauce could ever be. Get it with the crisp Kinpira Kale Salad (48RMB) with kinpira gobo (a special Japanese style of cooking root veggies), sesame dressing and slow cooked egg, and you’ll be a more than happy diner.
The only breakfast-esque item of the small plates, Sober Café’s Rice Eggs Benedict (58RMB) is nothing short of an edible work of art. The poached egg looks like a giant xiaolongbao resting atop a bed of rice, avocado, a pan-fried piece of Spam – and though already insanely rich, you’ll find a bright, citrusy shoyu hollandaise sauce poured on top and pooling on the bottom. It’s a dish that’ll be gone minutes after arrival.
You might not be that excited about yet another menu boasting ‘modern Chinese’ cuisine, but this one is different. Here, you’ll find modestly sized selection of things that really count – foie gras mapo tofu (128RBM), let mignon with sweet onion soy (138RMB), ‘tipsy shrimp’ with cointreau and huang jiu (78RMB), spicy tuna rolls with Sichuan mayo (58RMB).
Though it doesn’t come cheap, splurge and indulge with the Uni Ban Mian (178RMB), a creamy, decadent bowl of roasted bone marrow, silky uni and yellow noodles. The KFC (Ka’s Fried Chicken, 88RMB) is juicy and flavourful and gets a new life when dipped in the paired harissa soy vinaigrette, though the outside batter could benefit from a little more crispness.
The cocktails don’t fail to impress. Let your tongue go for an elated swim in the Newport (98RMB), a wonderful tipple of gin, scotch, whisky, pineapple and black lemon bitters meant to be sipped alongside bites of a salty sheet of dried seaweed and candy-coated dried fruits. The lovely pale lavender-hued Knicks (95RMB) delivers wonderful spiced oral sips of cachaça, Becherovka, cinnamon and citrus.
Many eateries have tried to reimagine crème brûlée, and it’s not always good, which just makes you wish they’d stuck with the original. But finishing your meal with a serving of Sober Kitchen’s spot-on black sesame crème
brûlée (38RMB) is a decision you’re unlikely to regret. It comes out with a torched black-as-tar brûlée top, and breaking through the sugary shell reveals a creamy, charcoal grey custard of the most perfect texture and temperature.
With Shingo Gokan and his team’s famous speakeasy Speak Low snagging a spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars, the cocktails at Sober Society are as expected – nothing short of excellent. The bar itself is achingly smart and stylish, dimly lit with a soundtrack of another era, all to make you feel as though you’ve stepped back into the classier times of Don Draper.
Blue in Green (120RMB) is the result of an elaborate, time-consuming preparation process that involves clarified milk, green tea and even blue cheese. A cloudy glass of almost opalescent liquid, its flavour is pleasurable in the most perplexing way – buttery and smooth with the very faintest trace of both salt and sweetness. The Godfather III (130RMB) will be a favourite for Scotch connoisseurs: a chilled glass of Laphroig 10 Year Old with hints of hojicha (Japanese green tea), apricot brandy, and bitters decorated with a piece of salty candied prosciutto to balance the burn of the strong liquor.
While the price tags on these tipples may be off-putting, you can go to Sober Society knowing that anything you order on from the menu will be exceptional. The crafters have considered things down to every element, from the quality of the ingredients and precision of the bartenders to the style of the ice cubes and the shape of the drinking vessel.
By Elysia Bagley