8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Shanghai: Italian dining with stunning views across Pudong

81/2 Bombana bar
Chef: Umberto Bombana has been constantly upgrading his reputation on the Asian dining scene in recent years. After opening his first Italian restaurant in Hong Kong a couple of years ago, this year he launched his first 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo restaurant in mainland China. Here in Shanghai as well as in Hong Kong the chef named his restaurants after his favorite Italian film director Federico Fellini’s 1963 autobiographical movie “8 ½”. Celebrating Italian lifestyle, art and pleasures became the motto of his restaurants.
Chef Umberto Bombana
In Shanghai the chef Bombana has teamed up with an Executive Chef Alan Yu, Chef de Cuisine Silvio Armanni, and Pastry Chef Sohya Takahashi to create a unique blend of flavours.
Atmosphere: Depending on where you are sitting, the bar is more fun and off-beat, while the restaurant is more uptight. The service is friendly, knowledgeable and impeccable. Each wine by the glass we were not sure about was given us to sample a sip so we could make up our mind according to our preferences while the wine waiter explained each wine and its producers in detail. I would recommend you dress up nicely at both – the bar and main dining area as the restaurant has quite a luxurious feel.
Crisp and original Italian grissini
Food: Innovative Italian classics, visually appealing and tasty. You can order the entire tasting menu or if you like select only one or two dishes from it as you fancy and add some items from the a la carte list.

From the later I tried the Artichoke Soup served with shaved italian black truffle first. It was quite a hearty soup, good for an autumn, but not a mind-blowing selection as it was quite simple. I would not order it again.
Much better was the Wagyu Tajima Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio topped with vegetables brunoise & crispy parmesan. The wagyu grade beef was superb, thin and juicy as it should be in a tasty carpaccio. Basil pesto levelled up the vegetables and the crispy parmesan crackers added depth and contrasting texture to the delicate and fatty beef.

Wagyu Tajima Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio
From the tasting menu I loved the seasonal Hairy Crab gratin with parmesan foam & oscietra caviar. I would lick all the sauce from the plate if I was not at a fine dining restaurant. The creamy parmesan sauce was so delicious and the gratin of crab with cheese and refreshing scoop of caviar just clicked all well together. A glass of a more acidic wine such as Riesling or Pinot Gris would be ideal for this dish.
The main courses feature the Italian signature Breaded Veal Chop “Milanese Style” with cherry tomatoes & oregano salad that is made to perfection here keeping its authentic crunchy texture and thin meat, it is not oily but more on the drier side so some might prefer it while others might miss a bit more juice. The tomatoes are succulent and intense adding zesty acidity to the dry character of the Milanese style veal chop.
Hairy Crab gratin with parmesan foam & oscietra caviar
Drinks: The wine list is studded with big names in the wine industry such the Angelo Gaja’s expensive Italian breed, but also with lesser-known off-the-beaten-track producers.
We went for the wines by the glass since they looked appealing. I found an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made by Livio Felluga to be my favourite. This blend is called Vertigo and is produced in the North-eastern Italian IGT region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Elegant, smooth, deep with dark fruits such as rich blackcurrant and ripe tannins all made it not only a good wine with food but also enjoyable on its own.
Italian Livio Felluga Vertigo blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
With your drinks you can savour the restaurant’s own baked Italian bread sticks – grissini. There are three kinds, but the plain ones are simply the best and perhaps the best I have had so far.
Cuisine: Gourmet innovative Italian.
Visit: October 2012.
Price: High (anything near to the prestigious address of the historical Bund in booming Shanghai has an expensive rent, in addition being backed up by an established Italian chef, the prices at the restaurant move to higher levels).
Opening hours: Dinner: 6pm until midnight.
Contact: Tel : +86 (0) 21-60872890
Address: 6th floor at Associate Mission historical building, 169 Yuanmingyuan Road, Shanghai, China

The House of Roosevelt in Shanghai: the ultimate stop for wine lovers

The Roosevelts are known as a prominent US presidential family which shaped America. What is not in the common consciousness is that the family had quite strong ties with China through its Roosevelt China Investments Corporation. This investment body is involved in a wide range of activities in China from funding the Tsinghua university, pharmaceutical and software companies to a more recent endeavor – the House of Roosevelt at Shanghai’s Bund.
Its location at the most prestigious area in Shanghai might have guaranteed the popularity of this restaurant, private club, roof lounge and wine shop in one. However, it is the cellar which is the most wondrous attraction of otherwise a very fancy and quite elitist hangout.
The cellar at The House of RooseveltThe cellar at The House of Roosevelt
Do not be discouraged by the ostentatious Rolex shop right by the entrance or by the inquisitive man on the door asking about your whereabouts. Just say you are going to the wine bar, take a lift to the second floor and once the doors open you will enter a world of bottles, shelves, wood, and glass. You will be amazed by its scale. It is honestly as huge as everything  in China.

The cellar room

The atmosphere is almost magic. Surrounded by wooden shelves; immersed in charming tunes of old blues, soul and jazz music; pampered by stunning views of  the miracle of modern architecture – the Pudong; one finds oneself at the crossroads between the colonial past and the booming presence. This an ideal setting for savouring wine. As with wine – its past evokes melancholy, but it is its presence that impresses us.
Your table at the cellar
The wine cellar could see the world in its present scale only thanks to the collective effort of the management working closely with a wide range of wine importers to China. From Bordeaux to Washington, the selection is impressive. Do not expect very old and rare vintages, though, rather a wide scope.

The treasures

There are some special wines stored in a sophisticatedly covered cellar hidden behind one of the sections of the library along the wall. These wines surely will cost a fortune. Chateau Margaux 1982 vintage or pricey Screaming Eagle from Napa are not for an everyday drinking, but you will not stare at a bottle of a centenary wine there.
The white wines ready to drink in the chilling cellars
The kitchen sparkling with energy

Chinese wine

In the main cellar, there is something for everyone. My curiosity about Chinese wines beyond the almost undrinkable Great Wall (one of the first commercial wineries in China; fans of this wine, please excuse my European palette, I believe some locals enjoy the Great Wall a lot) guided me to select a bottle of a Bordeaux Blend from Silver Hights 2009. This promising wine is made by a female winemaker Emma Gao and after savoring it all of us sharing the bottle had to admit that it was not bad at all. It was soft with palatable tannins and ripe fruit aromas. The winery is owned by the winemaker’s family and located in Helan Mountain region of Ningxia province, which is currently the hottest area for wine growing in China. To compare the Chinese Bordeaux blend with a real French wine from Bordeaux, I selected a Pomerol-based Chateau Laborde of an older 2004 vintage and only slightly more expensive than Silver Hights (about 500RMB or about 80 US$) selling for about 800 RMB (about 125 US$). The real Bordeaux was more complex, yet comparably enjoyable to its Chinese version when it came to drinking it with food.
The two Bordeaux blends - left Pomerol, right the Chinese version
Two hardly pronounceable wines-left Gewurtztraminer & right Gruner Veltliner


The tapas selection a the cellar is smart. The dishes are organised by their suitability for sparkling, white or red wine. With the reds we got Australian beef carpaccio with truffles and even more delicious German country sandwich with sauerkraut and pork. Cheese board followed the suit. I would have it with either a deep red or an intensely flavoured white wine.
Sucullent oysters from across the world
Before the two reds, we had also two white wines. I selected a bottle of Gewurztraminer from Alsace and Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Both are difficult grape varieties for foreigners to pronounce, therefore, they are often overlooked by consumers. I was pleasantly surprised seeing them in China. Again the selection of producers as well as vintages was quite good. The Gewurztraminer from Domaine Schlumberger, Kessler, Grand Cru 2004 was off-dry so its slightly honeyed profile called for a foie gras terrine, which was a perfect match. The Gruner Veltliner from Nigl was more zesty and grassy, therefore, a goat cheese enveloped in crunchy nuts  with grilled vegetables and oysters played interestingly together on the palette.
Overall, the Cellar at The Roosevelt House is a wonderful place to savor wines from around the world with plenty of special tasting events taking place every week. The only weak point is the insufficient knowledge of the wine staff. It is better if you know what you like and what you want to drink. The food was excellent the first time, but lacked a bit on our next visit. Each time I visit the ever evolving city of Shanghai, I have a couple of vinous sips there.
No. 27 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, Shanghai, China
 +(86) 21 2322 0800
Currency exchange rate as for October 8, 2011 from xe.com.

Shanghai Expo 2010 unveils world wine heritage

The main topic of the highly expected World Expo in Shanghai this year is “Better city, better world“. I have visited the site in July, and from what I saw I came to one important conclusion: Many countries think that not only better city means better world for them but also producing wine can [apparently] make our world better!
It is not a world-turning wonder that the pavilions of France and Italy shared their pride in making wine with the visitors, but the Chilean exhibition must have caused a slight blushing on their faces as it showed substantially more of the country’s wine and confirmed that in Chile they take wine seriously. Chile has staged an excellent wine bar together with a wine shop and young Chileans eager to answer all questions that may pop into your head.
I have sampled one or two glasses and learned that the red grape variety – Carmenere, which was thought to be extinguished and was one of the six original grape varieties found in Bordeaux [France], is still flourishing in its full strength in Chile. The Chileans are proud of their “unique grape” as the excited attitude of my ‘educator’ revealed.
"Wine rack" at Chilean Pavilion
Wine tasting at the Chilean pavilion
In particular the sizeable wine producer Montgras is one of Carmenere enthusiasts. Its deep, supple, fruity and dense flavour can indeed be a good companion to the more astringent and muscular Cabernet Sauvignon. The later is nowadays more popular not only in Bordeaux but also in most New World vineyards. For a long time it was thought that Carmenere in Chile was Merlot.
Indeed, Carmenere shares many characteristics with this fruity and juicy grape variety, and it should the global wine industry’s attention.
The Chinese have been bold in recent years with their wine exploration. First turning their palates to the French old timers, but learning fast, now they appreciate a wider selection including the New World pickings.
With the most populous country in the world sipping more wine and planting more vines, the choice has never been wider and drinking wine is as exciting as discovering new continents once was for the conquistadors.

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