Lick your plate clean at Yaya’s Pasta Bar – This is Shanghai

The place

After the resounding success of their R&D test pop-up kitchen at X-bar – a key step along their year-long journey to openness – Chef Dan Li (formerly from Bird), Andrew Moo (Taste Collective, The Dailthere) and Mike Liu (Lucky Mart) officially open by Yaya bricks and mortar shop on Tongren Lu on March 8.

READ MORE: Yaya’s Italo-Chinese Pasta: The Exception to Fusion Failures

Image by Sophie Steiner/It’s

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Image by Sophie Steiner/It’s

Named after the Chinese word for ‘tooth’, the aim is to perfectly serve al dentemouth-watering pasta – with that springy chew you expect from an Italian restaurant – but incorporating Chinese flavor profiles.

Yaya also has a connotation with family – meaning “grandmother” in Greek and “grandfather” in Shanghainese – which further ties the name to the goal of preparing honest, hearty dishes that act as comfort food. with a dose of surprise.

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The team of imaginative creatives – at its heart – understands true regional Chinese flavors and has paired this with a deep dive into Italian pasta making.

And we mean deep. Like making pasta by hand every day for the past 365 days in depth.

The result?

Italian pasta arguably more authentic than most Shanghai Italian joints, paired with plate-licking sauces, slow-cooked meats, unique antipasti highlighting produce and dishes to share.

It’s still comfort food – just a wildly creative take on it.

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Oh yeah, and there’s a pretty solid lineup of natural wines, draft and pre-dosed cocktails (like an espresso martini on nitro draft, coming soon), draft beer, and soft drinks that support all the pasta in a friendly way. Think house wine for 58 RMB a glass.

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While Shanghai has no shortage of pasta – a key ingredient in the heritage of nearly every culture – it’s often either an afterthought, lost in the jumble of steaks, pizzas and other Western dishes; or it’s the center of interest, but you pay a high price for it, probably somewhere along the Bund, served by white-gloved waiters.

Yaya fills the void, emphasizing the “neighborhood” coupled with high value for money.

The food

Food is an unpretentious and accessible luxury, if you will: what you see is what you get. That’s not to say there aren’t hours of work behind the scenes, but don’t expect microgreens.

It’s just honest food.

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“None of us are Italian, and we don’t try to be. We serve classic dishes but also experiment with Chinese flavors, working with the nearby market to source local ferments, charcuterie and produce. “, explains Moo. , sucking in a sprig of pappardelle coated in the sauce.

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The concept – in a nutshell – is Chinese flavors with an Italian pasta backbone in a neighborhood pasta bar setting.

It sounds like something out of Brooklyn’s hippest street, but it’s only in a city like Shanghai that successful execution comes to fruition, resulting in cross-cuisine bastardy, in the tastiest way.

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Antipasti covers the usual snacks, most with that unexpected signature twist, like Anchovies (RMB48) with acid-fermented tomatoes and peppers from Guizhou, a lively twist of lemon zest and pickled shallots alongside sprigs of fresh dill; or the Meatball Spiedini (RMB58) – made from pork shoulder, pork fat, pork jerky (Chinese larou) and herbs – balanced on a thick layer of herbaceous pesto.

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The humbly named Seasonal Caesar Salad (RMB48) is far more than the time-worn norm of lettuce on a plate, using locally sourced frosted spinach, homemade focaccia croutons and a metric ton of grated parmesan cheese, all covered in an anchovy vinaigrette .

Let’s move on to the good stuff: the pasta…

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Pure tomato design is the only way to describe the Rigatoni Al Pomodoro (RMB58)a labor of love that involves caramelizing the sh*t of three different types of tomatoes – cherry, Chinese heirloom and a canned imported Italian variety used by most Michelin chefs.

Liquids and solids are first separated – a process Chef Dan has mastered to the point of peeling over fifteen kilos of tomatoes an hour – reduced to a thick stew with wine, then strained so that the round richness is accentuated by tannic minerality.

The end product is #basicbitch goodness that looks so simple, but you can taste the work that goes into it, as it icing tube noodles that deserve a double ‘c’ in thickness.

Bonus: they’re generous with their daily free-flowing bread baked on the spot to make sure not a drop of sauce remains.

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Bouncing a la Udon Bucatini Carbonara (RMB68) is made with imported dry pasta, rather than fresh, to expertly maintain this al dente comes out with every bite.

Each strand of pasta is smothered in a sauce of buttery burnt onions and salted egg yolks – Asia’s answer to umami-rich parmesan cheese. Melting pieces of guanciale — or strips of caramelized pork fat — are sprinkled all over, while every inch of noodle perimeter is topped with shreds of year-old Parmesano Reggiano and more shaved salty yolk.

A homemade mixture of fennel seeds, walnuts, chili peppers and panko breadcrumbs, known as pangritta – or poor man’s parm – is generously sprinkled on top; a bomb of texture and flavor that we are happy to find in jars on every table (and hopefully one day for purchase…by the kilo).

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Chewy Potato Puffs Gnocchi (RMB68) are smeared in a homemade salumi – or salting and salting – XO sauce. A mixture of fatty pork cuts are preserved with a glaze centered on the shrimp paste, creating a burst of salty umami, accompanied by fried shallots and fresh chives.

DSC02667.jpgLinguini (RMB78), Image by Sophie Steiner/It’s

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Xian Replacement youpaomian – or oil splatter noodles – with Papardella (RMB68)you get rope-shaped noodles coated in crispy chili flake sauce, with gooey egg yolk and fruity pink peppercorn.

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We’re now going to be splashing chili oil all over everything from now on, so give us a spoon or look away while we lick the plate.

DSC02710.jpgTagliatele Bolognese (RMB78), Image by Sophie Steiner/It’s

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While the Chicken Parmesan (RMB68) clearly isn’t pasta, it’s quite possibly our favorite bite of the meal – a thick slice of tender chicken thigh is battered and fried, topped with enough mozzarella to qualify a proper chokinga ladle of pomodoro tomato sauce and a solid pesto shmear.

If the Italian flag vomited on a plate, this cheesy masterpiece would be.

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Smoked and charred with crispy edges but a tender base, a whole Grilled maitake (RMB68) sits on a whipped leek and ricotta cheese base, sprinkled with more poor man’s parma for extra crunch.

The lunch menu includes some of the items from the dinner menu, divided into value-oriented sets ranging from 68 RMB, 78 RMB and 88 RMB, with your choice of any permutation of snack, pasta, drink and dessert.

The atmosphere

The aim is to become a regular meeting place for those who live or work around the Kerry Centre, a place where customers can go any time of the day, seven days a week, for a relaxed and inviting experience.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/It’s

And good news travels fast; despite the confinements, the recent rain and the fact that they are still pre-opening, the place is moving.

And rightly so.

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From a quick lunch with a playlist of jams from the 90s as a backdrop, to afternoon aperitifs, casual dinners and late nights with guest DJs, it all boasts a very laid back and hip atmosphere. in Melbourne.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/It’s

To encourage this welcoming mentality, reservations are only available for groups of five or more, as the space can only accommodate around 40 guests.

And for those still dealing with waves of grid system quarantine, delivery will begin next week.

Price: RMB50-150
Who go: Carb addicts, fluffy AF noodle fans, the foodie community that likes to follow imaginative chefs (including ourselves)
Good for: Hourly Noodle Eating, Solo Noodle Eating, Group Noodle Eating, Just All Around Noodles


See a listing for Yaya.

Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s]