When it’s Paul Pairet, you know it’s going to be good. He is arguably the most influential chef in Shanghai, the brains behind the multi-award Ultraviolet, all-time Bund favorite Mr & Mrs Bund and the man who originally put Jade on 36 on the map. His latest concept, The Chop Chop Club, takes over the restaurant portion of UNICO, which was formerly Mediterranean led by Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco of two-Michelin star Mirazur in France.
It's Pairet's take on the carvery, and it goes well beyond that guy at the hotel buffet slicing of hunks of sirloin for you. Mains are paraded around the dining room to quirky fanfares as they're brought to the table. They bring out a roast chicken and you hear a rooster cock-a-doodling. Order one of Chop Chop Club's massive whole roasted turbot fish and you hear a racecar revving (turbo≈turbot, geddit?). Carvery mains are released based on a nightly schedule, the names and times of which are displayed with prices and available portions on a digital screen with live updates of “buy now” and “sold out” statuses. We’ve tried a lot—it’s all fantastic.
The side dishes could carry the meal themselves. The Beef Tartare (RMB120) highlights the quality of the beef. Shallots, cream and a raw yolk tie it all together. The accompanying wafer-thin slice of toasted bread studded with nuts and dried fruit lends sweetness and a crispy, crunchy scooping mechanism.
The Beef Tongue (RMB180) could be a main to share on its own. It’s a heavenly serving of buttery soft meat, seared with smoky char and an ample dusting of lime salt. It’s a quality cut that focuses on just a few simple, perfectly matched flavors. If there’s any place to spend your hard earned Maobacks, it’s on this dish—and the Charred Cabbage (RMB80).
Splayed out like a blossom, the leaves of the Charred Cabbage are so soft and creamy. The tips are charred and seasoned with lemon, while capers, pickled radish and fried bread crumbs give it texture and an additional zippy bite.
For wow effect, the shiitake Bertha’s Mushroom (RMB100) takes the cake, served on the stump, and you are a supplied with scissors and tweezers for service. However, its more effect rather than pure eating pleasure. The Charred Octopus (RMB90) is also a must-try—fleshy and puffed up, served with ginger-lime aioli.
For mains, our favorite remains to be the Char-Roasted Chicken (RMB180/half, RMB320/whole). It's also the best value. The skin is crisp and impossibly brittle. It's accompanined with an Asian-style sauce of garlic, ginger and soy.
Their Côte de Boeuf (RMB650/1,300) is a glorious shareable cut, served with an airy béarnaise sauce. Alongside is a bone, cut lengthwise to expose a core of pearly bone marrow topped with shallots, gherkins, soy and ponzu.
For seafood, there’s the Roast-Grilled XL Turbot (RMB260/1,500) and the Sea Bass (RMB140/200) with pastis aioli and vierge sauce, both of which are minimally seasoned and charred to perfection.
The desserts are of a similar caliber, yet uncomplicated. The Watermelon "rafraichi" Balsamico (RMB70) is a welcome palate cleanser. The unusual combination works—mouthfuls of icy watermelon bathed in tangy balsamic with a scoop of refreshing olive oil sorbet. But if you have more room, the fragrant Le Gato (RMB60), a moist olive oil cake with yogurt sorbet, should be your final order.
There is just something about the place—the immersive experience, the uniquely Paul Pairet aesthetic—that really excites. It charges even the most jaded, cynical diner with childlike wonder and makes food fun again. Some aspects of the service could be improved, though. Chalk that up to less-seasoned waitstaff. That's more a Shanghai problem than a Chop Chop Club problem, though. Nevertheless, it's not to be missed. Our advice: bring lots of hungry friends, and order as much as you can.
What: The Chop Chop Club
Address: 2/F, Three on the Bund, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu (near Guangdong Lu) 中山东一路3号外滩三号2楼 (近广东路)
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