Paul Pairet’s restaurant for UNÏCO Shanghai, The Chop Chop Club, is a carvery that twists the format of a restaurant to make it feasible that everyone, even us peasants not accustomed to ordering expensive large-format meats like turbot and côte de boeuf, can have a slice.
“Product driven, boldly essentialist and borderline primitive, The Chop Chop Club is a casual take on global and honest home cooking – The luxury of simplicity!”
— Paul Pairet
How it all works
Every 15 min, a different grilled meat comes out of the kitchen. You can order a portion or the whole piece for sharing at the party. For some special cuts, like the Cote de Boeuf or the Wagyu Sirloin Steak, you can only get the whole dish for the table. Decide fast, the moment they come out, the popular cuts will be gone in minutes.
Nothing chaotic, the chefs work at their own pace because the sequence of grill items are dictated by the chefs, not the clientele. This is innovative way of selling meat, but it means that if the course that you like is not going to be available anytime soon, you do not have a chance to skip the sequence. Also, if a popular item is sold out, you have to wait until the next cycle.
Here’s the perfect example. The grilled sausage is paraded around the restaurant before sending back to the kitchen to be cut up into portions. We cannot finish the whole grilled sausage, so if you order the portion, you get just enough for one person, and enough to share for two if you are ordering other courses. Of course, it is not a popular dish, so you get to order it when it came out of the grill. But for the most popular items, they are gone and shown around for the entertainment of it.
What we ordered
We ordered a grilled beef tongue as a starter. It came overdone and chewy. Not very aesthetically pleasant, so we did not really enjoy it.
We also ordered half a dozen of French Gauloise belons freshly shucked to share. A Pacific oyster (which accounts for about 98 percent of production in France) grown out in the oyster powerhouse of Cancale, then finished in the famed waters of the Belon River, in front of Riec-sur-Belon. That’s in Brittany, or, as Asterix and Obelisk might call it, Gaul.
The oyster was very plump and very creamy, the brine was clear and fresh. I am surprised how much improvement over the year these imported oysters have become. A decade ago, I would have avoided ordering oysters in China. 5 years ago, I would only eat them shucked in high-end 5-stars hotels, and still the quality was so so. These were as good as anything you can get in Hong Kong, Singapore or even France. But of course they came at a price.
What I really enjoyed that evening was these smashed grilled baby potatoes, served with sour cream, dill, chopped shallots and ikura dip. The baby potatoes had great smoky flavours, and combined with sour cream and ikura, they gave it a flavour profile and texture similar to bacon bit and sour cream. Very innovative, but light and tasty at the same time.
Parrilla or the Argentinian grill, is a simple iron grill barbecue that allows the chef to control the heat from the glowing embers to the food, without the risk of over cooking. The wood fire, be it oak, beech, birch or additional woods to add flavour such as apple, cherry, hickory, all contribute to the amazing experience of tasting truly awesome food.
The main course for the evening was a medium rare Australian A5 Waygu Sirloin Steak grilled using the parrilla. The parrilla was not the perfect way to treat a waygu steak because it let the fats dripped away, leaving a burnt surface and very dry meat. Making it medium rare, the meat was just scotched on the surface, and the inside still dripping red. A perfect waste of a good piece of meat.
The side dish of spinach and almond flakes was not flavoured enough. I find the overall main dish dining experience to be quite bad, given the reputation of the place.
To round up the dinner, we ordered a couple of desserts. Fresh raspberries with cream and a pomelo and grapefruit with pannacotta. Both were quite disappointing as well.
The dining room
The whole Chop Chop Club was designed for beautiful people – the high society, the tree-setters. The night we were having dinner, they were preparing for a theme party for the night – I love the 80s. To get a table for the party, you need to spend a minimum of RMB 4000 package that included a bottle of champagne party poppers. And that did not include additional drinks and whatever you have spent for dinner.
As we finished dinner, you could see the people streaming in. And by 9pm, the whole place was fully packed.
I would call this place more a bar than a restaurant. At 9.30p, free mojitos were handled out to all tables. Like what Pairet said, the food was as good as home cooked, but if I want home cooked, I would go and eat at home.
I would not recommend to come for the food, but to entertain and have a drink, that would be a good but pricey choice.
Chop Chop Club
Three on the Bund, 2/F, 17 Guangdong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu. Shanghai.
广东路17号, 外滩三号2楼, 近中山东一路
Date Visited : Jun 2018
[PS: Sadly The Chop Chop Club released a statement confirming their recent closure. They cite an “inexorable droop of UNICO’s bar and club activities” as well as inability on the part of UNICO “to implement the strategic shift of the entire operation under The Chop Chop Club Banner” as the reason. Both venues will be missed. ]