No one batted an eye when reformed Chachawan knock-off restaurant Street Thai shuttered on Changle Lu a few months back. But plenty had hopes that something as good—and perhaps original—would open in its place. TRIBE, a healthy Beijing import, quickly nabbed the space, with the aim of satisfying Shanghai’s health conscious—as for the rest of us, we're not so sure.
Sitting (almost antognistically) next to the popular purveyor of red meat and milkshakes that is Bistro Burger, TRIBE’s umbrella-festooned patio is already packed on sunny afternoons. The inside is inviting as well, with sleek, modern furniture and light installations and a sunny upstairs area. Everything is accented, of course, with varying shades of mother nature’s favorite color: green.
The menu is a five-page document presented on a clipboard, covering the big three meals along with brunch. Eccentric dish names like "The Kindest Chicken Omelet" or "Handsome Chicken Noodle Soup" will either make you chuckle quietly to yourself or irritate the hell out of you.
Drinks on the menu seem appealing enough, but if what we had on our visit is anything to go on, they could use some improvement. The Ultimate Immunity Juice (RMB38) made with fennel, daikon, pear, celery and lemon tastes watered down. And almond butter, banana, coconut milk, cocoa nibs and flax seeds are unable to give any flavor or body to their Almond Joy Smoothie (RMB48).
Appetizer options are limited, but the Feisty Asian Guacamole (RMB48) is worth ordering. It's made with fresh guacamole topped with sesame seeds and served with homemade flatbread. The Beet Hummus (RMB48) is also a winner, and is pretty to look at, to boot.
Salad is the meat and potatoes of a health food restaurant, and one would think that a salad called the TRIBE Salad (RMB68) would be the way to go. It's not. With promises of fennel, strawberry, quinoa, mixed greens, pistachios and beet hummus, it's mostly kale, tossed with a chili orange vinaigrette—emphasis on chili.
It's not all roughage and rabbit food, though. TRIBE does meat, too. Your Boyfriend’s Beef Short Ribs Burger (RMB88), however, gives "your boyfriend" a bad name. It's hard to understand how slow-cooked beef with an oyster mushroom confit, crispy fried shallots and an Asian slaw could turn out so devoid of flavor. An "oil-free" black garlic mayo (can you even call it "mayo" if it's "oil-free"?) and dry multigrain hamburger bun don't help matters much either.
Desserts options offer at least one saving grace, though, like the One Man Brownie with Coconut Ice-Cream (RMB38). It's proof that in some instances, your gluten-free lifestyle doesn't have to get in the way of eating things that taste good. It's made from black beans and cashew butter simulate the brownie effect shockingly well. Just be sure to just scoop off the chalky coconut ice cream and set it aside, though.
Sadly, most of what we tried here misses the mark. It comes with a hefty price tag, too. Still, there is something to be said for a sunny patio on low AQI day—maybe just for drinks, though. It's hard to justify the food, especially when you've got tacos on one side and burgers on the other.
Our Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
Address: A Mansion Building, 103B, 291 Fumin Lu (near Changle Lu) 富民路291号悟锦世纪大厦103B (近长乐路)
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