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A gastro-bar you'll enjoy like crazy

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-01-05 07:18:44

A gastro-bar you'll enjoy like crazy

Grilled octopus with guacamole and paprika mashed potatoes. [Photo provided to China Daily]

If you are a close follower of our food page, or just happened to read about our discussion of the scarcity of Spanish restaurants in Shanghai a few weeks ago, here comes an important update: The Chinese food metropolis is not resigned to playing second fiddle in terms of providing gastronomic varieties.

And the latest case in point is the new Spanish gastro-bar, Loco, serving more than 40 types of gin in the city's former French Concession.

While this specialist gin bar has just come into vogue in its home country, Spain - reportedly the world's largest consumer of gin and tonic, as they call it - several Spanish guys opened the first and by far only one early in Shanghai in July.

But the entrepreneurship from La Furia Roja (the red fury) is not limited to a few wine bottles or glasses. The food menu at this "fine-dining gastro-bar", whose name means "crazy" in Spanish, is as extensive as the country's coastline, and the waiters are more than helpful to pair each dish with the offerings on their alcohol menu.

Seafood, such as clams and prawns, are all heavily seasoned and generously portioned, making it difficult to tell which ones are starters and which mains. Despite the fact that owners and chefs at the "crazy" restaurant are all surprisingly young, traditional methods of Spanish cooking dominate the kitchen.

Another thing that highlights the kitchen is the Iberian ham, which is used in salads with goat cheese and croutons, in croquettes, in rolls with peppers and stewed with mushrooms and red wine.

If seafood and meat fail to indulge you, "experience" the Loco Rice Experience. From the saffron-scented seafood rice, or Paella, to the squid-ink-soaked black rice, and the Arroz A Banda - traditional Spanish rice with fish - the restaurant has them all prepared. But the time needed to prepare good Spanish rice is "looong", so a 24-hour pre-order is required.

The drinks recommended to go with the desserts are, again, the spirits. As a result, the intoxicating combination of booze and sweets acting in concert provides an unusual fling.

The cheese cake is down to earth, as if baked and hard pressed by a granny with her weather-beaten hands. The good thing is the "granny" turns out to be a rational one, sugaring the cake in just quantity.

The alcohol that accompanies the "granny treats" is Xpresso Martini. There is vodka, Bailey's, coffee and Khalua, a coffee-flavored rum-based liqueur from Mexico. How is it different from the usual coffee we sip with desserts? Barely, in terms of taste. But the tipsiness is likely to wash away the I-can't-believe-I-just-ate-that guilt and consequently invite more bites.

The rum and coconut pana cotta, another option on the dessert option, is a much rarer find in the town. The silky textured dessert, per se, is fair, yet the sweet and sour passionfruit sauce winds up the meal perfectly, refreshing and cleansing the palate.

If you are looking for an encore, try the signature cocktail page on the gin menu. The Julio is in the Kitchen, especially, tastes as fun as it reads. The booze inspired by and named after the chef of the restaurant blends tequila, pineapple juice, fresh ginger and touches of rosemary and roasted lemon, and leaves an aftertaste tingled with pleasure.

IF YOU GO

Loco

205 Wulumuqi Nanlu (Urumqi South Road), Xuhui district, Shanghai

150-0063-6841

Daily 6 pm-1am

Average cost per head: 200 yuan ($33) excluding spirits

Recommended: Sailor's Hake with Clams, Grilled Argentinian Prawns, Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Seafood, Rum and Coconut Panacotta, all kinds of gin.

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