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New on Wuding Lu: Sakaba Malabar and RŌZO 芦苇

The lively Jingan street is getting livelier

Photograph: Romain Thomen, courtesy RŌZO 芦苇
Packed clubs, raucous bars and lively restaurants – Wuding Lu is a strip that’s never short of activity. It’s easy enough to spend a whole night just on this street, and the opening of two new excellent spots to eat and drink have made it even easier. From a revamp of a Wuding mainstay to a wine bar with great food, here’s why it’s worth hitting both.

Malavenue (1)
Photographs: Marius Ionita, courtesy Sakaba Malabar

Malabar has long been a playful place to nosh on plates of tasty tapas, knock back one too many G&Ts and chatter the night away… and it still is, only now everything feels a little more sophisticated thanks to a slick Japanese makeover. Perch yourself on high seats around the central u-shaped bar and dig into sharing plates that draw on Spanish and Japanese inspiration from sibling chefs Juan and Ana Campos.

Jospered Wagyu Beef UYYU Uruguay M7 (1)
Uruguayan wagyu with piparra peppers and Manchego foam

You’ll find sake-infused foie gras with Txangurro Donostiarra (a crab bechamel dish from Spain's Basque region), bluefin tuna tartare drizzled in homemade teriyaki sauce, king mushrooms and black garlic aioli lacing tortilla de patatas (a potato omelette) and fries lathered in black garlic miso mayo. The duo know their way around the grill (Juan founded nearby Raw Eatery and Wood Grill) – 100g of Uruguayan beef wagyu is served straight out of the Josper oven topped with Manchego foam. Classics like croquettes come in two varieties, leek topped with crab salad and beef with uni – plus you’ll also be wanting to scrape every last piece of rice from the pan of seafood paella.

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Gin and Tonics

Finally, drinks follow the food on the fusion front. Dreamt up by Union Trading Company’s Yao Lu, the G&Ts are still around, but injected with ingredients like fresh shisho, umeshu and pickled ume. Signatures see sake feature in the sangria and martini, while Lu stays on concept for memorable creations like the Miso Caliente that mixes blended scotch whiskey together with red miso paste.

Torched (1)
Photograph: Romain Thomen, courtesy RŌZO 芦苇 (Voyage)

Up an unassuming flight of stairs on Wuding Lu, recently opened wine bar RŌZO 芦苇 is warm and welcoming – with the main dining table even lit up in flames (sure, it’s the magic of projection, but still). And while wine bars seemingly rival hole-in-the-walls for frequency in Shanghai’s bar scene these days, not all of them come packing a food menu as distinct as this. You can pick from ten small but brilliant bites to pair your bottles with, consulted on by Peruvian chef Carlos Sotomayor (UP and now-shuttered Elefante to name a few).

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Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler (lobster roll)

Cold cuts and cheeses are on offer of course, but away from the boards is where dishes really dazzle. Those carry a mix of Mediterranean and Asian influences: think chunks of lobster wedged between pieces of toasted butter bread with dynamite sauce, grilled octopus with red chillies, nori chips and Kalamata olive mayo as well as wasabi cream beef tartare sitting atop sous vide potato confit. Portions aren’t big so it’s best to round things off with the okonomiyaki – Sotomayor’s riff on the savoury Japanese pancake, with roasted potatoes, slow-cooked short rib and bulldog sauce.

"Potato (1)"
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler (okonomiyaki)

As for the wines themselves (this is a wine bar after all), there’s 120 currently available in the walk-in cellar starting from around 250RMB. Lots hail from France – which is where the owners are from – but you’ll also encounter bottles from other Old World locales like Spain as well as New World countries like Uruguay. Don’t know where to start? The ‘voyage pairing’ lets you test three with accompanying eats on toast with varying toppings like truffle torched brie, crab salad and biltong (South African dried beef) with apricot mostarda.

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