Secluded just a stone’s throw from the busy thoroughfare on Changde Lu, Le Bistrot de Racine opened this summer with little fanfare, joining the already crowded field of French bistros in Shanghai. With just over three months under its belt, the restaurant is already hitting its stride with both food and service.
The dining room is elegantly furnished and suffused with warm brown tones from the wallpaper and a few paintings of bucolic autumn landscapes. But if weather permits, choose a table in their lovely garden, which offers all the peace and tranquility of a true urban escape. With cherubic-faced figurines and lush greenery dotted among red and white chairs, the garden feels more lively and relaxed than the dining room.
The extensive menu sees plenty of straight-up French classics like foie gras terrine and moules marinières. But many of the dishes are inflected with modern touches in presentation and flavor.
One of their most inspired pairings is the Beef Tongue with Sea Urchin (RMB158). The beef tongue is slow-cooked to melting richness, perked up with just enough acidity and a whisper of saffron. The briny freshness of the sea urchin comes in at the end carrying a memory of the ocean.
The Autumn Salad (RMB108) holds few surprises in its ingredients, with ribbons of 48-month Iberico ham curled over tender roasted pumpkin, pear, walnuts, blue cheese, and raisins. The combination is classic for a reason, but it is the honey mustard and cumin dressing that helps the salad stand out. The delicious balance of sweetness, acidity, and spices makes it the best-dressed salad in recent memory.
The pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the Beef Wellington (RMB288), a beautiful parcel of crisp puff pastry, salty prosciutto, and earthy mushroom duxelle wrapped around a tender fillet and a piece of foie gras. The fillet leans closer to rare than medium-rare, but manages to impress with its flavor. The accompaniments are not to be overlooked, including a wonderful potato Dauphinoise, rich, smooth potato purée, tender carrot, and juicy mushroom.
The buttery sweetness of slow-roasted Wild Cod (RMB238) is underscored with cheese-laden cauliflower purée and a rich cream sauce. The combination of heavy flavors definitely asks for some acidity, but it probably shouldn’t come in the form of slices of lemon flesh, glaring in their naked acidity.
All four desserts on the menu (soufflé, crème brûlée, Napoleon, and opera cake) are French classics to a tee. The Raspberry Napoleon (RMB88) is good, but nothing to write home about. It's filled with a pastry cream and accompanied by refreshing raspberry sorbet. The Soufflé (RMB88) is disappointing, the texture is airy at the top but coagulates to a custard-like consistency on the bottom. The vanilla ice cream on the side redeems the dish, but only slightly, complemented by a truffle-flavored powder. Still, we can’t help but expect more from RMB88 desserts.
The breadbasket, on the other hand, deserves to be mentioned. The baguette is one of the best we’ve had in Shanghai, and is available at their bakery, Fournil, located just next door.
In a city with no shortage of French bistros, Le Bistrot de Racine holds our attention by riding comfortably between laid-back indulgence and refined elegance. Service is highly attentive without feeling obtrusive. The food might not be anything groundbreaking, but is generally well executed and reasonably priced, which for us is enough reason to go back.
Our Rating: 4/5 Stars
What: Le Bistrot de Racine
Address: 609 Changde Lu (near Wuding Lu) 常德路609号 (近武定路)
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