Review of Pistolera, an authentic Mexican Cantina in Shanghai

May 13, 2015

Mexican food is another style of cuisine that has become increasingly popular in Shanghai, the past couple of years. Several years ago, when one wanted a good taco or burrito, there were only a handful of places to choose from. Fast forward to 2015, when you want taco, you have a plethora of options and price ranges to choose from.

Today we feature Pistolera, a restaurant which prides itself as an authentic Mexican Cantina.


What that means is that the food is vastly different from the Chipotle/Taco-bell variety, which is commonly labelled as ‘Tex-Mex’. If you go around Mexico and start complimenting people that their Tex-Mex food is very good, you would have a high chance of getting shot in the head. That’s like telling a Shanghainese that the most authentic xiao long bao you have had is at Din Tai Fung. 😀

Formalities first. Thanks to Pistolera for organising and inviting me to the media tasting.

Secondly, this review was based on 2 visits. The first was an impromptu media tasting where I only had my iPhone to take photos. The second visit was unannounced on my own with my camera. So pardon some of the photo quality differences.

La Decor

As a designer, I absolutely adore the bright red Pistolera logo, flushed against the black background. The interior decor of Pistolera isn’t done in the common rustic fashion, but is instead a very modern and chic cocktail lounge setting. Small and large tables are littered across the first floor, including outdoor seating options. During summer, the entire rooftop terrace opens up to a whole new standard of Mexicano Cantina with style. It looks like the place where drug lords would down tequila shots while their mistresses sip on Magaritas. 8.5/10

La Service

Usually, I give an unbiased score of 7.5 for first time invited tastings. However I was there on a second un-invited dinner. Service from the service staff was a little cold, although they did accommodated to our requests, silently. The male head server during our first visit was enthusiastic and was able to communicate perfectly with our english-speaking companions. 7.5

La Food

Guacamole and chips

Nice fresh chunky guacamole here, served in a mortar.


Presentation is nice, the guac tasted fresh and refreshing as it should. 7.5/10

Nachos with Chilli (full portion)

I ordered the full portion to share amongst 7, and shared amongst 7 it did.


Humongous plate of nachos with a lot of toppings. Very tasty and very good to start the meal over some drinks. I did feel the jalapeño were quite mild, not spicy at all. 8/10

Ceviche Mixto (RMB 65)

On our first visit, we were served this refreshing ceviche on it’s own.

2-ceviche I’ve had a handful of ceviches in town in recent months, and have grown quite fond of this South American dish. The one at Pistolera tasted very decent. Bright limey flavours with fresh bouncy seafood. However I thought that the omission of fish in ceviche kind of lost abit of the essence. 8/10

Ceviche Mixto #2 (RMB65)


On my 2nd visit, the ceviche was served in the form of two tacos. The ceviche itself was exactly the same as I had remembered it on the first visit, but I would have preferred the ceviche in a bowl instead of a taco topping. Serving was noticeably reduced. 7.5/10

Chicken Flautas (RMB65)

Crispy on the outside, tender and flavourful pulled chicken on the inside.


The generous sprinkling of cold queso fresco (mexican fresh cheese) and sour cream on top added a nice contrast of textures, temperatures and flavours to the snack. I enjoyed this. 8.5/10

Tortilla Soup (RMB50)

This is a very traditional mexican tortilla soup made with fried tortilla which is blended with several different types of chillis.


 The result is a smokey, rich and hearty full-bodied soup. Full of flavour with shredded chicken meat within. Very special, very tasty. But do not attempt to drink this on your own, because it can be more than a meal on it’s own. 8/10

Fiesta Plate, Pasito Duranguense (RMB170)


This was a snack platter, consisting of 2 mini chimichangas, 4 mini carne asada quesadillas, crispy pork and avocado bowl with chips, 4 mini chorizo taquitos, 2 barbacoa hopes, 1 mini cheese and pork al pastor huarache. Ok that’s a shit-load of mexican names.


Other than the pork was a little dry., all of the other items were delicious and some of which disappeared before I could get a taste.  8/10


The Pistolera “True Legend” Burrito Pistolera ¥160


This is a legendary 35cm burrito. I had this on both visits, and it didn’t fail to humble the entire table on both visits.


On the second vist, we managed to equally split the burrito into 7 parts, which fed all 7 of us very, very easily. 3 persons would be full from just eating this alone.


The most impressive part about this burrito was that burritos in many places often fill their burritos with abit of meat, and a lot of rice and beans. The one at Pistolera was the opposite, a lot of meat, with abit of rice and beans.

The price is also very modest for ¥160. I give this a resounding 9/10

Beef Fajitas


Sizzling beef on a hotplate with bell peppers. One of my favourite mexican dish. The version at Pistolera as more ‘saucy’. I prefer Fajitas where the beef retains its natural seared flavour, complemented with the flavours of the bell peppers. Unfortunately I didn’t get the lovely seared beef flavour at Pistolera. The beef was tender, and I think many locals might prefer this more sauced style of fajitas. For me, I can only give it a 7/10

Green Enchiladas


Four HUGE enchiladas doused in a lovely green tomato sauce. We were quite full already, but still finished this dish. We had the chicken version, which went very nicely with the sauce. This was a very comforting dish. 8.5/10

Molcajete Parrillad (Prawns) (RMB240)


Essentially a hot stone bowl grilled stew. I was quite confused about this dish actually. It resembled a soup, but was very thick and cheesey. We had the prawns version, which also comes with a medley of vegetables, mexican chorizo and chilli. It was quite interesting, and I was told it was a sort of ‘mexican hot-pot’. I guess you are supposed to grab an ingredient and dip it in the cheesey soup like a fondue. But this is quite pricey and wasn’t my cup of tea.  6/10

Grilled Meat Parrillada Sonorense for Two (RMB280)


A charcoal BBQ grill served on the table. Consists of Pork chops, chorizo, 4 pork ribs and Flank steak (Arrachera). The charcoal grill imparted a lovely flavour to the meat, especially the ribs, which I enjoyed the most. There is a small problem with this dish, and that is, you have to eat it quickly. Because as the meat continue to grill on the table, they start to become overdone. Otherwise, this was quite an interesting combination platter and tasted quite good. However, I felt that the beef lacked an aromatic beef flavour. This would feed 2 persons easily, with just another side snack or two. 8/10


We also had their signature avocado lime cheese cake, which resembled a key lime pie but much lighter and a softer. Although I couldn’t detect the avocado element, It wasn’t heavy on the cheese side, and was quite pleasant to chow down after a carb-heavy dinner. 8/10

In conclusion, I feel that Pistolera has a good thing going. Being located right beside Grand Gateway on Hengshan Lu meant that their rent has to be sky-high, and therefore they have no choice but to mark up the food prices a little bit. However I feel that the prices are quite reasonable for the quality and quantity you get. But don’t just take it from me, go have a try and let me know how you like it.

I haven’t been to Mexico before, so I can’t vouch for the authenticity, but based on the taste alone, I quite heartily approve and have already brought a party of satisfied guests there.

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