Maneo moderately memorable

By Aubrey Buckingham (Shanghai Daily)
Updated: 2007-09-03 10:14

It takes quite a bit to satisfy the fickle mob. A restaurant can wow them with fancy bells and whistles, but at the end of the day they are still going to complain about one thing or another.

Maneo, for some reason, has been unable to garner such complaints. Random conversations with local denizens have uncovered no ill will towards the Tongren Road restaurant. Since it's opening at the start of the year, the M-group eatery has turned the tides for all involved.

Not only has the group shown that it can bring innovation to the middle market in the same vein that higher-end Mimosa does for the upper scale, it has also proven to be a renaissance of sorts for Californian chef Brad Turley.

While his former kitchen of 239 developed a solid following, it is here that Turley truly gets to shine. While most modern cuisine looks to lose the form, if not flavor, of yesterday, the burly Turley casts his steely gaze on what most plebs have come to savor and, to use the old cliche, "kicks it up a notch."

His work with cheese, for example, is a throwback to the good old days, when chefs were less intent on putting the newest thingamajigs on a plate and instead packed their offerings with spades of taste. Frogs legs, beef Wellington, and crepe suzette were the dishes du jour 30 years ago, but these strong tastes have admittedly fallen out of favor as consumers are now buying into the "less is more" mantra.

Not Turley though. The recently-married chef is still carrying a torch for food that fills the palate as well as the stomach. His blue cheese burger is something out of left field. Soggy ground meat smothered in fetid dairy may only sound appealing to the most devout of food enthusiasts, but while the best Shanghai burger debate continues to rage on foodies can try something that is not just bar food fodder.

The Sunday brunch at Maneo has been especially well-received, picking up a reader's choice award from that popular local publication. In a realm dominated by the big hotels and their extensive array of tasty treats, the fare on offer simply stands out on its own.

Diners can enjoy an a la carte buffet for just 158 yuan (US$21), considerably less than most five-star destinations. The verdict on this is that the meal presents excellent value for money that even the teppanyaki joints will be hard-pressed to match.

All bases are covered from the get-go - fruit, granola and yogurt is a good way to start, as is the chilled grapefruit and sugarcane dressing.

From there guests can move on to the eggs. Egg Boulanger may not grace most menus these days so diners are encouraged to try this holiday bread baked with sugar, milk and egg (of course). Compared with this dish French toast seems so passe.

Chef Turley's Californian roots show in his frittata offerings. The Zhege Shanghai brings a nice local touch with shrimp, yellow shoots and bean thread noodles, while Les Champignon offers more mushroom than you can shake a stick at.

A word of warning, however, when sampling The Californian, is to eat big bites. The brie and crab mixture seems more dense in the center, making the rims seem a little dry.

Moving on from more than ample starters, diners can find a mixed grilled plate to tickle the carnivorous fancies within, or go with a sweet and tangy teriyaki salmon on soba noodles - a lovely Asian touch.

While the food drew no complaints, service left much to be desired.

Restaurant Manager Kylee Strawbridge once threatened physical violence to any scribes who criticized her staff, but waiters who forget to bring desert spoons three times in a row are a product of poor bloodlines, not just poor training.

It might prove beneficial in future if a manager was on duty during the expat-dominated session, as the chef cannot be expected to handle the floor and the kitchen. Kinks aside, the food more than made up for the inconveniences.

Address: 333 Tongren Rd
Tel: 021-6247-9666


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