Restaurant Week Preview : Nanbantei Robatayaki

Shanghai restaurant week starts in exactly one week from today, so if you haven’t already booked yourself in for some great value meals, you’d better get cracking before all the best seats are booked.

Nanbantei just above The Alchemist @ Sinan Mansions

I’ve been invited by the organisers to preview some of the restaurants ahead of the event so that people can get a taste of what’s in store. First up, we have Nanbantei Robatayaki at Sinan Mansions, which is a “lifestyle centre” in the mould of the famous Xintiandi not far down the road.

Don’t worry it’s not a closet it’s the entrance

Nanbantei is a small, cozy Japanese restaurant on the 3rd floor of building 32, which also houses The Alchemist. When you get out of the elevators, you’ll see a large wooden closed door without glass, which you’ll have to open to enter the restaurant. Don’t be afraid, just pull the lever and head on inside.

Robatayaki, if you don’t already know, is where customers sit around an open hearth while chefs grill various seafood, meats and vegetables. The fresh ingredients are displayed for customers to point at whenever they want to order. The food is characterised by its simplicity, with very little added other than some salt and perhaps a bit of butter, allowing you to enjoy the natural flavours of the fresh ingredients. So it’s diametrically opposite to – and a nice change from – Sichuan food, which I happen to also love. And it’s definitely at the high end of the scale, compared to say Yakitori, its poorer relative (yaki means grill in Japanese).

Nanbantei is clearly inspired by this concept, taking many of the robatayaki elements, including the huge paddles that the chefs use to pass the cooked plates of food across the wide counter to the waiters. I personally feel they should exploit this element of retail theatre a bit more. As you can see from the photo below (well actually it’s pretty hard to see), the chef just left the paddle on the counter rather than holding it up for the waitress to take the dish. It was also fun to see from time to time the chef ask for some of the fresh ingredients on display in the open baskets and a waiter would grab whatever it was they wanted and throw it over the counter.

A waitress takes food from the large paddle

The place itself is fairly small, with about 20 tables seating around 45 people, so it’s more ideal for smaller groups rather than big dinner parties.

The drinks list was fairly extensive. Apart from sake and soju, they had a list of “premium cocktails” for 55 rmb as well as table wine (200 rmb per bottle / 50 rmb per glass) and a selection of whiskys ranging from 600 rmb for Jack Daniels up to 1,300 rmb for 12 year old Bowmore from Islay.

The regular menu is fairly simple with dishes averaging around 50 RMB and a 5 kinds sashimi platter for 220 RMB. Apart from the usual Japanese fare consisting of tempura, sashimi and barbecued meats, there were some fusion dishes like the intriguing black Berkshire pork and the pommes frites with truffle mayo. They also have set menus including a seafood menu for 430 RMB per head and a surf and turf option for 650 RMB.

No Japanese meal is complete without Sake

But of course, I wasn’t here for any of that as it’s all about restaurant week at the moment. Nanbantei’s offering is the more premium 248 RMB option, so it’s not cheap, but the quality of the food reflects this.

“Kanroin” – Slow cooked mackerel in soy glaze

We started with some slow cooked mackerel in soy glaze which was very tasty, accompanied by a simple “miso” salad of carrots and cucumber in a very special dipping sauce, which apparently is a closely guarded secret recipe.

Angus yaki – Charcoal grilled premium angus tenderloin

Next up came what was my personal favourite – grilled steak, cut in to manageable slices, served on a mini grill to keep it warm. The beef was cooked perfectly (ie not over done) and was tender and moist. I could have eaten another one of these!

Kuruma Ebi - Charcoal Grilled Whole Tiger Prawns

The tiger prawns were well seasoned and quite spicy. I was so excited I ate half the dish before remembering to take a photo, oops!

Dessert to finish

The footnote at the bottom of the dessert menu read “dessert by Helen Kwok”, so I’m guessing it’s not a traditional Japanese dessert, which suits me fine.

Bar area available for drinks and snacks

So what’s the verdict? Well, there wasn’t a huge amount of food, but I’m not a big eater so I was certainly full at the end of it. And their regular set meals cost around 500 RMB per person, so at 248 RMB per head, it’s a pretty good deal. If you’re after a massive meal then you might want to look elsewhere, but if you value quality over quantity, Nanbantei is certainly worth a try during restaurant week. The full Shanghai Restaurant Week menu is listed below:

前菜 Appetizers / Salad

南蛮味噌野菜条沙拉 – Nanbantei Miso Salad

金平牛蒡 – Kinpira Gobo - Braised Burdock Root

甘露煮 – Kanroin - Slow Cooked Mackerel in Soy Glaze

炉端烧 – Robatayaki

黄油扇贝 – Hotate - Grilled Whole Fresh Scallop with Shoyu Butter

老虎虾 – Kuruma Ebi - Charcoal Grilled Whole Tiger Prawns

安格斯牛柳 – Angus Yaki - Charcoal Grill Premium Angus Tenderloin (100g)

烤味噌饭团 – Grilled Miso Onigini - Nanbantei Charcoal Grilled Miso Glazed Rice Ball

鲷鱼浓汤 – Tai Bisque - 5 hours Slow Cooked Snapper Soup (Kyoto Style)

甜品 – Dessert

自家制芒果芝士蛋糕 – NBT Mango CheeseCake

Oh yes, I almost forgot to mention that I spotted the famous Taiwanese singer / songwriter David Tao in the restaurant, so although only opened for 2 months, Nanbantei is starting to build up a following. And once people hear that famous singers and celebrity bloggers are going, it’ll be hard to get a table, so book now while you still can!

Sinan Mansions,
3rd Floor, Block 32, 45 Sinan Lu,
near Fuxing Zhong Lu
Tel : 3461 2134

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15 Responses to Restaurant Week Preview : Nanbantei Robatayaki

  1. Rich says:

    Mmmm, food looks good. Shame about the presentation of the Angus though, the foil makes it look very cheap. Strange interior design too. The entrance looks like someone’s apartment rather than an up market eatery. Bar area doesn’t work for me either.

  2. T. says:

    oh, the selling-out of Wo Ai Zhongguo continues – after Lawry’s closed down, it seems like WoAi had to find a new group to pay the bills.

  3. WoAi says:

    @Rich – Yes, the bar area is a bit incongruous although it is quite well sectioned off from the other area so it’s not so obvious. And inside Sinan Mansions it seems all the doors are like that. Perhaps it’s intentional. You know, deliberately uninviting to those who don’t know what’s there.

    @T – Well, I have two growing kids to support and cat food ain’t cheap.

  4. Dingle says:

    Good lord woai, are you becoming the next Jackie Chan?

  5. Brando says:

    If its WoAi approved then it must be a good place!

  6. WoAi says:

    @Dingle – Doesn’t Jackie Chan get PAID to endorse products? I’m doing it to help my readers widen their dining options out of the kindness of my heart!

    @Brando – THANK YOU! Some of the other readers have no respect. How many people shall I put you down for? Shall we say 4 people on Monday night? It’s just 992 RMB plus drinks of course. Bargain!

  7. Dingle says:

    “I’ve been invited by the organisers to preview some of the restaurants ahead of the event so that people can get a taste of what’s in store.”

    That certainly sounds like some kind of payment!

  8. WoAi says:

    I’ve been INVITED not I’ve been commissioned or I’ve been paid to ….. Goodness Dingle you’ve been in China too long. It’s lucky you speak Chinese because your English has gone downhill!

  9. Dingle says:

    It wasn’t free then? that’s a bit cheeky!

  10. Brando says:

    Even though the restaurant has been WoAi approved, it doesn’t mean its within my price range! I’ll go after I win the lottery or find myself a sugar mama!

  11. balticninja says:

    600rmb for a bottle of Jack and those bar seats is enough to get me in the door!

    can i get budweiser waaaaaaaassssssuuuuuuupppppp

  12. T. says:

    @balticninja – shouldn’t that be a “wassssssss-abi!”?

  13. WoAi says:

    @Brando -Can you find me a sugar mama too?

    @Baltic – We can stop by tomorrow since we’ll be close by.

    @T – You’re on form today Mr T!

  14. Stimpy says:

    But what about the service? To me, it’s not WoAi restaurant review without a description of the people that work there.

  15. WoAi says:

    @Stimpy – There are a lot of advantages of being invited to review a place. I can ask a lot of questions, take photos of anything I want without getting told off and make notes of the menu items without being suspected of stealing their ideas. But one of the drawbacks is that it’s not possible to be objective about the service. I only dealt with the manager the whole time. The only comment I would have is that some of the waiters could really do with a haircut. Tidy and neat is what I want to see from people serving me.

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