Affordable french cuisine is hard to come by, let alone in Shanghai. I’ve scootered by this little bistro a couple of times and finally took the plunge to give it a try.
Pastis is located on the quieter stretch of Yong Kang Lu; One of downtown Shanghai’s hot expat spot for laid back happy hour beers and occasionally an unexpected shower.
What sets Pastis apart from other eateries, French ones at that, is the size of the bistro. It is basically a traditional Shanghainese shophouse, converted into a makeshift kitchen on the ground floor, with about 5 tables fitted within the remaining space. While this type of store isn’t that much uncommon, one would normally find ¥10 bowl of noodles, 70cents steamed buns in such establishments. For this one, we have ¥95 salmon, with ¥90 cheese platters.
The menu came in the form of a single chalkboard at the storefront. We opted to eat on the 2nd floor, and the manager actually brought up the chalkboard, and held it infront of us for selection. The manager, Augustine, is French, while the cooks are actually Chinese.
Prices as you can see, are really on the high side for a hole in the wall, but below average for a French establishment, provided the food is authentic at that. Pastis apparently wasn’t going with authentic French replications, with Gnocchi and Miso Salmon featured on the menu. I would have gone for the ribeye, but it was sold out that day, hence I went for the Gnocchi (¥70) instead, while the missus had the Salmon (¥95).
Iced water was served in a pitcher together with a nice basket of fresh crusty bread. The bread was incredibly fresh, soft on the inside with a chewy but gentle crust. I often loathe having my gums scraped while munching on baguettes, but the texture of this bread was perfect. The only downside was the lack of butter to go with the delightful bread.
Shortly after, my gnocchi arrived.
Gnocchi was paired with a bolognese sauce, and had a heap of arugula piled over it. The portion was generous, though as luck would have it, a French bistro wouldn’t be the best place to order an Italian gnocchi. The gnocchi itself were irregularly shaped, some were flattened, others had a crispy crust around it from too much searing. The texture was rather dense and chewy – I was hoping for light and fluffy. The ragu sauce wasn’t great as well, which is unfortunate, considering how standard it is, and that even places like Wagas could do a great ragu. Sun-dried tomatoes were used instead of fresh, and as a result, it didn’t have that fresh tomato sauce taste, and tasted pretty much of tomato paste, which can feel acidic at times. (6/10)
Thankfully, the salmon was worthy of a return visit. Served on a mound of Champ (mashed potatoes with chives). The champ had that rustic feel; roughly mashed with some butter and milk. It was well seasoned. The salmon was the pièce de résistance. A very thick fillet, not the typical cross section steak, without a single bone in it. The salmon was cooked very meticulously. It had a little bit of charring on the outside, but when sliced apart, the center was just lightly cooked, still very moist. You could cut the salmon without it flaking apart. This was almost like it was cooked sous vide, which I gather was impossible, considering the fact that it was served in about 15mins.
The miso sauce complemented the salmon perfectly, but my only complaint was that they could have been more generous with the sauce. All things said, I felt that this was worth the ¥95, and that, is saying a lot, for a piece of salmon on a bed of potatoes. (8.5/10)
It was nevertheless, a pleasant and quiet lunch. I am definitely curious on what they have to offer when they refresh their menu, which is seasonal, from what I had noticed.
I would love to return to try a duck confit or coq au vin, something along those lines.
Total bill for 2:
¥165 (excluding drinks)