Kathleen's Waitan

  • Restaurants
  • Western
  • Contemporary/Fusion
Photograph: courtesy Kathleen's Waitan
453 Waima Lu
In a new location now but still donning the same name and concept, Kathleen's Waitan is back on Waima Lu.

Here's a review from their previous location:

Nine years after Kathleen Lau’s fine dining venture, Kathleen’s 5, opened its doors, she’s brought us the Bund-side sequel.One of the biggest draws of the People’s Park original is its location atop the Shanghai Museum of Art, and with this new space in the Sassoon building, a former opium warehouse, on the northern Huangpu, Lau has scored an even more spectacular setting.

Inside, it’s sultry with dark teak-effect furniture and a slightly louche vibe that’s a nod to its shady smuggling past. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook a sprawling terrace with jaw-dropping views across the river to Pudong. We thought we’d seen the Pearl Tower from every angle, but this is something else.
There’s a slick period-style bar which substitutes traditional along-the-bar seating for a communal table. The speakeasy-like set-up features cut-crystal glasses, brown paper menus which resemble Prohibition-era newspapers and seriously punchy vintage cocktails.

In the kitchen, Hawaiian-born chef Kenji Salz is sticking to the modern global cuisine offered at Kathleen’s 5 and letting the ingredients – sourced locally where possible – speak for themselves: put simply, ‘salmon is going to taste like salmon, and beef like beef’. Pricewise, starters aren’t cheap, while mains climb all the way to 498RMB for Wagyu beef, with only a couple of pastas providing an alternative to match, say, the bargain pizzas at Mercato.

From the appetisers, the Cali-style sushi comes highly recommended by our server, but we find the spicy salmon rolls (98RMB/eight pieces) suffer from an over-generous chilli-laden dressing, making for a somewhat gloopy bite. Far better is the Puy lentil soup (88RMB), a hearty stew-like dish packed full of blackened leeks and wedges of piquant chorizo, with a dollop of aioli on top.

Happily, the cheapest of the mains, a bowl of Thai-style mussels (138RMB) is some of the best seafood we’ve had in Shanghai. A heap of blue-black shells come bathed in a steaming broth of coconut milk, Thai basil, chilli, coriander and cherry tomatoes: inside, the plump molluscs are tender with no hint of rubberiness, while the sauce is so good we ask for extra bread to ensure we can mop up every drop.

The duo of beef (388RMB) is another dish where the quality of the ingredients shines: two contrasting cuts of shortribs and tenderloin served with chipped potatoes, Brussel sprouts, firm green beans, some sadly oversalted spinach and a slick of jammy red wine reduction. Order it medium-rare to really savour the textural contrast between the almost crumbly, fibrous short ribs and the meltingly soft tenderloin; the latter is aged, resulting in a gamey intensity.

Side dishes, such as crisp sugar snap peas with ginger butter (38RMB) are well-executed, but the real standout is the strawberry soufflé (98RMB). This dessert entails a 15-minute wait, but when it arrives, we’re greeted by a perfect dome dusted with cinnamon and icing-sugar which cracks open to reveal a pale pink cloud-like interior, paired with home-made strawberry ice cream.

Service throughout is faultless, as you’d expect from a polished outfit such as Kathleen’s, though granted we’re one of only two tables on a Sunday evening shortly after opening. We’re not so keen on the schizophrenic music however, which veers from Ray Charles to Luther Vandross-esque baby-making music, and the lighting is a tad too moody – we have to peer at our plate to make out the details – but these are minor gripes in the scheme of things.

Overall, this is classic, crowd-pleasing fare done competently, with slick presentation and stunning scenery. Even with the introductory 20 per cent off during soft opening however, the steep bill is still a shock. Whether Kathleen’s charms are sweet enough to draw the crowds from the main Bund drag to these northern climes remains to be seen.
Venue name: Kathleen's Waitan
Opening hours: 5.30pm-1am Mon-Fri; 11am-1am Sat-Sun
English address: Fifth Floor, 453 Waima Lu, near Maojiayuan Lu, Huangpu district
Chinese address: 黄浦区外马路453号5楼,近毛家园路