Restaurants in Shanghai adding dramatic flourishes to their dining experiences is nothing especially new - we have Paul Pairet's immersive, spectacular Ultraviolet restaurant
for one - but Anthologia puts the theatrical front and centre of their restaurant. The new Japanese spot, from the same people behind Sushi Oyama
and Kappo Yu
and located inside the Xingfu Li development that hosts Pie Society
, Gathering Clouds
and Lazie, hosts diners for a set kaiseki
menu at 7pm each night in a space that features three tiers of banked seating pointed toward a stage area.
Here, the robed, face-painted chef Bulizo and his team lead the diners/audience through an course menu that they'll be changing every couple of months. It's a fresh, fun approach to dining in the city, at least for those who can't afford to go to UV, with plenty of Japanese quirkiness thrown in. On our visit, one course was introduced through a rap, another was presented by masked waitresses with kites tied to their backs that kicked up into the air as they criss-crossed the restaurant floor, and part way through the meal chef Bulizo appeared for a spot of ceremonial flower arranging amid a sea of dry ice.
The whole meal is played out in front of a backdrop of a large video screen that wraps its way around one wall, with each course accompanied by its own visuals. The screens show trippy visuals (we were given a toy kaleidoscope with which to view them at one point), short films about Japanese fishermen and new media art project-like moving images of chef Bulizo meditating while various ingredients fly past him.
There's plenty of novelty value to Anthologia, but what will keep people coming back - in addition to the rotating menu - is not just the refreshing experience, but the quality of the food. The cooking here is not merely an afterthought, as it can sometimes be with such ambitious concepts.
On our visit, highlights included a wonderfully fresh sashimi platter of (sword cut) tuna, yellow tail, squid and sea urchin, delectable spring gratin with Spanish red shrimp and miso foie gras and a wagyu sakura cutlet in sukiyaki sauce and accompanied by a fluffy egg mousse (eaten while a bull fighting video played to the strains of Metallica's 'Enter Sandman').
Throughout the meal, the cooking is precise and the flavours beautifully balanced, while playful touches - such as asking diners to add a small packet of popping candy and petals to the opening shellfish, sprout and sansyo leaf miso salad - enhance the dishes without seeming merely gimmicky or overly fussy.
If you want a straight-up top-class Japanese dining experience, Shanghai doesn't lack for options, but if you're after quality food and an original experience, Anthologia delivers on both fronts.
By Jake Newby