hen you take your seats at the new Blackbird, the second iteration of a restaurant that was once on Wulumuqi Road, you’re handed a menu. But what you’re really given is a crystal ball. Gaze into it, and it reveals where Shanghai’s dining scene is headed in the near future: no main courses, only shareable plates, and many, many drinks.
It’s a trend that has infiltrated eateries here in recent years. “Appetizers are the new entrees,” declared Lago by Julian Serrano, the glitzy Italian restaurant at Bellagio Shanghai. At the much-hyped Together, everyone raves about the starters, and you can order the main dishes in bigger portions to split among your table. At Blackbird 2.0, they’ve taken the concept up to the hilt. Browse the menu and the word Shareables confronts you in bold, willing you to order any one of the 10 dishes in that section, with two cocktails and a wine suggested for each dish.
The original Blackbird was opened in 2016 by Oha Shanghai, a design firm that’s also behind Bar No.3 and Oha Eatery. With its natural light and monochromatic palate, the initial location quickly became popular with the selfie set, but it fell victim to the raft of restaurant and bar closures along Dongping Road and Wulumuqi Road in 2017.
Reincarnated this year in the Columbia Circle complex in Changning District, Blackbird now has three concepts: the restaurant and bar on the first floor, a multi-course, tasting dinner experience called Table Black and Bar Black on the second floor, and a garden and beer bar on the top floor.
Oha said they’re trying to steer slightly away from the shutterbugs this time. If that’s the case, they did a terrible job with the design. The restaurant is clad a reflective glass box, the only gleaming structure in a field of sand-colored colonial monuments. The bar, slinky in red tiles, radiates against the moody black walls. Sure enough, the diners next to us were preening in front of their phones.
Sit by the bar, because the tables are too low, and also because you will be ordering cocktails. It’s hard not to; The team behind Bar No.3 came up with almost 40 house drinks for Blackbird, all of which have some sort of home made ingredient that’s more than just a syrup or a shrub. The Hopkins, for example, is a beery, IPA-like drink made by infusing hop flowers in gin. The White Moss is their riff on the Martini, but with clarified green melon wine. The edited wine list similarly reaches out, with naturalist producers like Sam Vinciullo from Margaret River in Western Australia, and an entire section dedicated to skin contact white wines.
Blackbird’s food menu starts off with a chicken (bird and bird, coincidence?), but seafood is where chef Blake Thornley’s skills lie. The New Zealander worked in Bali before, and here he slices dried cuttlefish into noodle-like strips for a dish that tastes like mee goreng. Thornley also did stints in Sydney and Queensland, and his charcoal grilled king prawns are the epitome of shrimp on the barbie, elevated by a creamy almond sauce.
There’s also his kingfish carpaccio, as light as it sounds but armed with a depth charge of creme fraiche, and mussels in a broth that’s briny and fatty with pork belly. When the cooking misses a beat, it shows in the seared salmon, which was a little dry, and the beef sirloin, which could use a lighter glaze. But the meal is redeemed by red wine ice cream with baked dark chocolate. It tastes like cherries dipped in a milk chocolate fondue, so satisfyingly rich that you wouldn’t want to share.
Bldg. 8, Columbia Circle, 1262 Yan’an Xi Road
187 0199 0479