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