Italian Brunch @ Va Bene, Xin Tian Di

29th September 2016 / Shanghai

Va Bene has a brunch promotion entitled  ‘DJ Brunch’ on the weekends, which features Italian-inspired brunch dishes with music from a live DJ. I was invited by my foodie group to a lovely brunch earlier this month at the eatery nestled within the alleys of the iconic Xin Tian Di in Shanghai.

The entrance
The entrance

Decor

Va Bene is located on the second floor of the building that holds Glasshouse, also by the same holding company, the Gaia group.

The decor at Va Bene was a combination of industrialist and rustic; Black pillars and lights highlighted against white walls, with an exposed tiled rooftop above. It didn’t feel as clean (in terms of design) as modern as Table No. 1 nor as characteristic as The Commune Social. Maybe it was due to the dim lighting of the restaurant. Even though there was a row of floor-to-ceiling windows which separated the indoor space with the outdoor terrace, somehow the light wasn’t enough to comfortably illuminate the restaurant.

I did however liked that tables along the center dining area were very well lit, so food looked great when they arrived, and were very photogenic.

In cooler months, I expect the terrace to be a fantastic place to be, assuming mosquitos would not be around.

During DJ Brunch days, music videos are projected onto a screen, synchronising with the music being played.

That said, I thought the music was a little bit too loud during the entire brunch. I understood that this was a DJ brunch theme, but having party music blasting constantly for 2 hours does tire one out, and we had to almost yell at each other in order to converse. 7.5/10

Service

As this was a hosted tasting, an unbiased score of 7.5 is awarded. Food arrived without delays, and servers were always around and attentive.

Food

DJ Brunch at Va Bene offers 3 dishes for RMB198, with every additional dish costing another RMB88. Add RMB138 for free flow prosecco and RMB188 for free flow aperol spritz.

The brunch is only available every weekend from 12pm to 4pm.

When it comes to oysters, I tend to feel smaller is better.
When it comes to oysters, I tend to feel smaller is better.

Half Dozen Fine de Claire Oysters

These fine de claire oysters were nicely sized, shucked properly, tasted fresh and sweet.

A little vinaigrette was provided, but really nothing to shout about. 7.5/10

Good eggs
Good eggs

Summer Salad with Tuna, French Beans, Egg

I’m not a fan of seared tunas, because I find it weird to eat a fish cooked quite a bit on the surface, but entirely raw within. Personally I either like tuna entirely raw, or entirely cooked.

That said, the salad was well dressed, vegetables leaves were crisp and juicy, boiled egg was perfectly done. 7.5/10

Dutch Tomato?
Dutch Tomato?

Burrata Cheese with Holland Red Tomato

The obligatory Caprese combination at an Italian restaurant, even for brunch. Burrata was not as soft and creamy within as I had hoped it would be. ‘Holland tomatoes’ didn’t really struck me as exceptional either. It was again quite de rigeur and not something I would return for. 7.5/10

Who shredded my parma?
Who tore my parma?

Parma Ham, Honey Melon, Feta

The classic combination of parma ham and honey melon, you can’t go wrong with it.. right?

Not quite. I felt the parma ham was almost ‘shredded’ as you can tell from the photos. Melon chunks were too big compared with the parma ham provided, and didn’t make for a convenient tasting experience. I would have halved the honey melons to pair with the same amount of ham per melon. As for the ingredients themselves, the parma ham were flavourful and not too salty, albeit as I mentioned, came quite broken up. Melons were sweet although again, too big a chunk to eat in one bite.  7/10

Tasted better than it sounded
Tasted better than it sounded (or looked)

Fried Eggs, Seared Foie Gras, Wheat Bread

This was the only egg dish on the brunch menu. Thankfully, it was also one of the best dishes on the brunch menu.

I recall the manager telling us that these were Japanese eggs, and they were super flavourful. The bread was certainly very tasty when dipped into the egg yolks and had with a piece of foie gras.

The foie gras was well seared and judging from it’s delicately rich flavour and texture, was of good quality.

What was not mentioned was the sauce, which seemed to be some kind of coffee glaze; It went very well with the components of the dish altogether. 8/10

Golden Pillows
Golden Pillows

Ravioli Stuffed with Cheese and Tomato Sauce

The ravioli appeared looking very pretty. Golden dumplings dressed with a pomodoro sauce.

On the tongue, the sauce was well seasoned and balanced, and went very well with the  soft, comforting pillows of cheese. 8/10

Highly recommended
Highly recommended

Grilled Giant Prawns with Vegetable Ratatouille

This was the most eye-catching dish of the afternoon, in my opinion.

Caviar topped on grilled tiger prawns. I liked that the heads were attached for maximum flavour, and that there were grill marks on the prawns. The prawns were thankfully, not overcooked, and had very sweet, firm flesh along with a smokey burn from the charring. It was worth noting that the prawns had also been cleanly deveined.

The caviar provided an added depth of complexity, and the seafood flavours were paired beautifully with the expertly cooked ratatouille. 8.5/10

Ruby red flesh
Ruby red flesh

Wagyu Beef Rib-Eye M5 (300g) (+RMB298)

A hefty slab of ribeye, done medium rare with visible grill marks. The meat was delicate and had a good balance of fat and smokiness from the grilling. It was especially well executed given that the steak was a thin cut, yet the chefs at Va Bene had managed a perfect medium rare with grill marks, and a thinly cooked crust.

The wagyu beef deserved another shot.
The wagyu beef deserved another shot.

I also liked that the fries served were not run-of-the-mill shoe-string fries, and had a nice, non-greasy crispy exterior with soft fluffy flesh. 8.5/10

In conclusion, I felt the menu didn’t feel very ‘brunchy’ if one is accustomed to the usual benedicts and eggs. I would be more interested to see what Italians would eat for breakfast or brunch.

TSK Rating

7.7
Food
8
Service
7.5
Venue
7.5

Author: Fred Lin

Fred "The Shanghai Kid" Lin was born in Singapore, and grew up in a family of foodies and home-cooks. He moved to Shanghai in 2007 and fell in love with the city, eventually carving a self-made career out of digital media design and development. He founded The Shanghai Kid food blog in 2013, and opened an award-winning Singaporean restaurant in 2014, which won CityWeekend's Outstanding Southeast Asian restaurant of the year in 2016. In 2017, he decided to reboot, and shut down all his businesses in Shanghai before moving back to Singapore with his wife. Fred plans to immigrate to Melbourne in the near future.

Va Bene

Address
2F, North Block, Lane 181 Taicang Lu

Phone
6311-2211

Cuisine
Italian

City
Shanghai

Area
Huang Pu / Luwan

Landmarks
Xin Tian Di

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