Otto e Mezzo in Shanghai is Umberto Bombana’s first project outside Hong Kong. After gaining his third star for the Otto e Mezzo in Hong Kong, the expectations are high when you eat at the Shanghai outlet. Can it live up to them?
The simple answer is yes. In many ways, this is Shanghai’s most impressive Western restaurant. Located in the flashy new Rockbund area, it’s interior has that mix of dark, but glamorous elements that makes the Hong Kong dining room what it is. The service is effortless, and passionate, which is still rather rare in the Mainland.
For cocktail aficionados, the bar here is one of the better we have visited in Shanghai, and one of the few places that care about what goes into their drinks. If the terrace is open, you have a view over Pudong that worth seeing. The wine list is good, and perhaps even a tad more reasonably priced than that of a lot of Otto e Mezzo’s competitors’.
Things really stand out, however, when it comes to the food. When we first visited Otto e Mezzo in Hong Kong, we were more than surprised by how good it was. In Hong Kong, finding good produce is far less of an achievement than it is in the Mainland, so serving food of comparable quality in Shanghai is perhaps even more startling.
An example is the pan-fried foie gras they serve here. Sourced from Rougié’s Chinese farm, it is cooked perfectly. None of the fatty, gloopy liver you get far too often; no, this is firm, perfectly homogenous foie gras. Simply served with a salad and a jus, it is about as simple as food can be, but works due to the product’s quality.
A perfectly cooked piece of beef is no more groundbreaking, but also stands out due to the competent execution, and the beautiful marbling of the meat. Meltingly tender, and glazed in a rich, complex jus, this is absolutely addictive. That the kitchen at Otto e Mezzo also works with local produce is shown in a gratin of hairy crab with Parmesan and caviar. What sounds like an absolutely decadent combination turns out to be just that: The richness of the parmesan, and the crab roe work beautifully with the delicate white meat and briny caviar. This is not a dish for the faint of heart, but one that combines these products in an astonishingly coherent fashion.
When it comes to the desserts, the kitchen is no less competent. A reworked tiramisu, for instance, is a clever twist on the classic. Interpretations of tiramisu have been done way too often, but they rarely are as convincing as this one. In essence, it combines the classic flavours, textures and components, but makes them fit for one of Shanghai’s most elegant dining rooms.
That Otto e Mezzo is Shanghai’s most impressive Italian restaurant goes without saying. The only competitor in Mainland China would be Mio in Beijing. Whilst you can hardly talk of competition, it is great to see that restaurants in the Mainland finally start to care about product quality. Given that Otto e Mezzo is still a relatively young restaurant, we can only imagine that it will keep getting better at what it does.