A few fortunate restaurants bask in the buzz of an admiring public. An even smaller number are regarded highly enough to attract the custom of off-duty chefs from other establishments. Goga, in Shanghai's former French Concession, is the rare breed of venue that's gained notice both ways.
With only five tables, a counter and a tiny open kitchen, Goga named after the Golden Gate Bridge isn't much to look at. No matter. "There are so many places in Shanghai that spend a ton of money on decor to get all the chichi people in there, but there's no substance," says chef-owner and native Californian Brad Turley, 41. Goga aims to be the opposite: a stripped-down neighborhood joint that focuses on giving guests a great meal.
Turley is grounded in fusion cuisine, having earned his culinary stripes working for the likes of Hawaiian chef Roy Yamaguchi and Floyd Cardoz of New York City's now defunct new-wave Indian eatery Tabla. But before you recoil at the F word, rest assured that Turley's cooking is perfectly accessible. Lobster roll is dressed in aioli with cilantro and sriracha, a Thai sauce; rib-eye steak is rubbed in a spicy mélange that includes cumin and Sichuan peppercorn, then served with candied bacon and potatoes roasted in duck fat. True to Turley's roots, the well-edited wine list features mostly Californian bottlings.
Frustrated diners unable to snag one of Goga's coveted 20 indoor seats or a spot on the small rooftop terrace will be heartened to know that Turley will soon open a venue next door. But the easygoing chef has no grand expansion plans, unlike the big names that populate the Bund and Goga after-hours.
Reservations are essential. Tel: (86-21) 6431 9700.
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