openings

Check Out the Remodel, and the Food, at Shanghai (in the Former Mecca)

The new, rectangular, central bar.Photo: Grub Street

As mentioned earlier, Shanghai opened last night in the former Mecca space at 2029 Market. It's a third try for 83-year-old landlord and restaurateur Francis Tsai who decided to open Pudong and then Gingerfruit in the space, starting in late 2010 when he couldn't find a better restaurant tenant than himself. Both earlier concepts failed quickly, and with the help of his wife, Tsai decided they would give it one more go, giving the space a slightly more substantial remodel than they had previously.

We'd argue, though, that they still haven't gone far enough to alter the space, erase the ghosts of Mecca, and give it a new, inviting identity of its own. The large, circular, central bar has been replaced with an almost equally large rectangular bar with a granite top, creating a more defined, squared off dining area at the front. Seating at the bar is less than it was, with only two sides available — the rear portion forms a service area. The upholstered walls and booths from the Mecca days, as well as the side dining room, have been left largely untouched as they were during the Pudong period, but new lighting and several new backlit, marble-esque surfaces have been added, including a dramatic wall near the new host stand at the entry. A number of curtains, the semi-circular wall around the kitchen, as well as the bathrooms, have been left as-is.

The new menu (see it here and here) is focused on Shanghaiese food, which was sort of the plan when Pudong opened as well, though the chef now is Leo Gan, formerly of Shanghai 1930.

We sampled a couple of cocktails and some dishes last night, and while it's not fair to try to review them just yet, we'll just say we weren't bowled over. The cocktail list is especially odd, with several drinks that combine vodka, gin, brandy, and/or rum all in one, Long Island-ish concoction. But the service was earnest, and it will remain to be seen if the neighborhood responds differently to this third Chinese incarnation in the space.

Shanghai - 2029 Market Street at Dolores - 415-701-8866 - Open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight.

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