The first floor of an hourly-rate hotel down an obscure street off of Dingxi Lu is the last place you'd expect to find a deli, but this latest project from Richie Gelber (Kate & Kimi) is a welcome addition to a neighborhood that is a sandwich desert.
It's a simple space that looks the part—tile floors, pressed tin nostalgia ads on the walls, counter service. The main attraction is a tribute to Gelber's Canadian heritage: Montreal-style smoked beef. This unique brined, steamed and roasted brisket is a mainstay of any Montreal deli. Deli Boys serves it on two different sandwiches, the Classic Montreal (RMB73/88) or the New York Reuben (RMB85).
The Classic Montreal Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwich
Naturally, you can expect a few tweaks to accommodate the local market. The most notable is the lack of rye bread. It's the kind of thing that might make a deli connoisseur cringe. But Gelber argues that the rye bread you find in Shanghai is brittle, dry and unable to hold the sandwich together beyond the first two bites. So he's swapped it out with something rye-adjacent: challah rolls. They're spongy and pliable and pressed on the griddle, where they soak up a pat of melted butter. A Montreal deli purist may balk, but, credit where it's due, the sandwiches stay intact to the last bite. Besides, who doesn't like challah bread?
The New York Reuben on a challah roll
Of course, there will be the inevitable comparisons made to Tock's. We'll say it right now: Tock's has a slight edge. Gelber himself is even willing to concede this. Unlike Tock's, Deli Boys doesn't offer a choice of lean, medium or fatty beef. The one cut they do offer has that distinctive smoky flavor down, but it lacks the moist, greasy goodness you get at Tock's. Still it's a solid effort, and more options around town for smoked meat is certainly a good thing.
One Montreal staple that disappoints here, however, is Deli Boys' poutine (RMB48). This is a delicacy that no restaurant in Shanghai seems to get right. On our visit, we were served a basket of lukewarm fries coated with the slightest sheen of gravy and topped with a single cheese curd and a sprinkling of chopped smoked meat. This dish could use some work.
The Philly Cheesesteak
The rest of the menu covers other deli classics. They do a fair job at a Philadelphia cheesesteak (RMB78). A thinly sliced Argentine rib eye is marinated and sautéed with onions and mushrooms. They use real cheese rather than the processed Cheez Whiz. It's good, even though purists from Philadelphia may take exception. They also do a Portobello-topped wagyu burger (RMB78), a Montreal-style bagel with lox (RMB76) and a small selection of salads and pastas.
Also, if you emerge from bed at sundown, you finally have a place to get breakfast. Deli Boys has an all-day breakfast menu featuring scrambled eggs with smoked salmon (RMB65), French toast with melted cheese and real maple syrup (RMB57) and more. All plates come with bottomless coffee and a side of smoked meat and potatoes as well.
In a city with a dearth of proper delis, Deli Boys is a welcome addition. And the fact that you no longer have to venture to the Bund just to get a proper sandwich is certainly a good thing. Aside from a few minor slip-ups, this is a promising option.
Our Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
What: Deli Boys
Address: 1/F, No. 20, 710 Dingxi Lu (near Fahuazhen Lu) 定西路710弄20号1楼 (近法华镇路)
You've reached the limit of allowed deals. For more information
You've reached the limit of allowed housing listing. For more information