Restaurant Week is a concept that originated in New York City by Zagat Guide founder, Tim Zagat, and late restauranteur, Joe Baum in 1992. In brief, it’s 1-3 weeks of prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus, offered for a fraction of the price. Not all restaurants participate, but many do, and it’s an opportunity to get a 3-course meal for as little as $20. It’s most well-known in New York, but the idea has caught on globally, and now takes place in many major cities around the world.
It should be no surprise to anyone who has lived in or visited Shanghai, a town full of foodies and international restaurants, that the idea has been accepted with open arms and mouths. In fact, the experience is offered not once, but twice a year (spring and fall). But unfortunately for this foodie, I didn’t know about it until most of the restaurants I’d been wanting to try (specifically Hakkasan and Nougatine) were already booked. I was able to snag a few spots, however, at Bund tapas lounge Unico, run by Michelin star rated chef, Mauro Colagreco.
The meal started with whipped fois gras topped with watermelon, truffle crumbles and spun sugar, presented in a martini glass. It was beautiful to look at, but my girlfriends and I didn’t care for the taste nor the texture. Next was homemade bread topped with fresh anchovies, micro greens and a soft boiled egg. Pretty good, but pretty ordinary. Then came a choice of sea bass with truffle mashed potatoes or a grilled beef short rib with rustic potatoes. I personally chose the fish, but the beef seemed to be a better option. The sea bass was under seasoned and lacked the richness usually associated with the fatty fish. And finally, there was the choice of chocolate mousse or ice cream nougat. The mousse was the way to go, and was hands-down my favorite part of the meal. But then again, who doesn’t like chocolate mousse?
While I’ll probably return to Unico for drinks (they have a great bar and an even better view), I don’t think I’ll be back for dinner. I will, however, make sure to be on the Restaurant Week’s website the last week of August, armed with restaurant reviews and ready to make my reservations for the fall edition.
If you also find yourself in the “Paris of the East” come fall (or next spring), here’s some information to help you out:
Dates: Spring ran from March 11-March 22 in 2015, and fall should be September 3-13.
Prices: Category A restaurants offer set lunches for 128 RMB (approx. $20 USD) and dinners for 258 RMB ($41 USD). Category B restaurants are a bit cheaper at 88 RMB for lunch ($14 USD) and 198 RMB for dinner ($32 USD).