Shanghai Eating: Anthologia 地球美食劇場
Anthologia is a Japanese Fusion "theatrical fine dining" restaurant concept here in Shanghai. If that sounds complicated, it’s basically dinner and a movie, if the movie was about your dinner. The 46-seater space has its guests all facing a giant wall-to-wall screen, with the front mostly for couples seating while larger parties are closer to the back.
There are seven courses, the meal changes about once a month, and there is only one seating every night. To welcome you in, the Japanese owner, dressed in Noh theatre-inspired makeup and wear, kneels in front of you and announces how the night will begin. There is a Chinese translator, also in Noh makeup, who then repeats his greeting. No English, though it’s on the menu (presented in this cute card deck) and the waitresses do speak it a bit.
Because of the menu change, I can only really speak to the one I tried, which was for July 7th to August 7th.
I’ve been to a couple of these chef’s prix fixe/omakase-style dining experiences, and more often than not, there will be a couple of stand out dishes, but a bunch that also fall flat. That was not the case here. In fact, if I’m nitpicky, I will say one component of one course was not amazing, and one dish had one component that could use a little more texture (but tasted super flavourful and fresh). Otherwise, it all gets an enthusiastic thumbs up and a “god, I don’t really have 1000+rmb to spend on one meal every month, but if I did…”
I think I could wax on about any of these dishes, but since it’s not like I can recommend any of them before they’re changed, I’ll just say they look as good as the pictures make them out to be.
No, never mind, that’s not all I’ll say. Especially amazing was the decadent hamburg steak (the Chinese speaker came around with a plate of meat to introduce us to all of its premium ingredients), the sashimi (so fresh, so finely cut, that toro *unf*), and the popcorn & scallop.
Who knew that was a combo that went together? In fact, the popcorn part, and the theatricality of its presentation, more than made up for the lack of texture in the dish's other component, the corn soup. I mean, look at this:
Also, a special call out to the lobster noodles: I was both impressed by the springiness of the cold noodles they gave, and by how the lobster meat had been pre-shelled and pre-cut so that you could dip it into the sesame sauce in bite-sized pieces. A scallop had also been sliced into thinner scallop sashimi so that you could dip that too. Right before you began eating, a chef came by to blowtorch it all for a little bit more texture.
The only thing that actually was "meh" was the conger eel dumpling, which was dry and didn’t have much taste. But then came the eel tempura, which was perfectly battered and juicy on the inside, and that little misstep was forgotten.
Of course, you do pay a premium price for a premium experience. This night, I went on a lark because a friend suggested it as a girl’s night out, and I’d been an especially thrifty person through most of the last month. We felt very bougie knowing that we hadn’t done it for any special occasion, because this is for sure a special occasion restaurant. Still, we DID make an effort to dress the part.
And I’m now already thinking of the next special occasion I can possibly justify this kind of spending on!
Weirdly enough, Shanghai seems to be known for its theatrical set courses - Ultraviolet is usually the one that’s mentioned a whole bunch. Well, this isn’t quite as extravagant as that one. And if you want an “experience” but maybe feel like shelling out (at cheapest) the 4000rmb it would take to book a table with Paul Pairet is juuuust a little too much, then Anthologia feels like quite a steal!