Stopping in on a whim to satisfy a salmon and avocado craving, I recently sat down for lunch at Little Catch. I’d seen it from my Didi windows countless times and read several expat blog articles on it. It’s sandwiched on a row of other expat eateries like Brothers Kabab and Eli Falafel. It’s also just across the street from The Avocado Lady.
Billed as an “urban fishmonger and poke shop,” Little Catch offers a variety of fresh filets and cuts. The menu was filled with mouthwatering poke combos like Hawaiian Tuna, Wasabii Shrimp and Umeboshi Octopus with that sour plum zip. My choice for lunch: Sambal Salmon. For the price, the bowl was filled with sizable portions of buttery-smooth salmon, avocado, roasted cashews, tobiko roe and classic, piquant Sambal. The verdict: one of the best poke bowls I’ve had in Shanghai. Consider this a step above Wagas’ poke bowls for a comparable price. Pairing the mellow tartness and light pop of a Heike Mate made for a great lunch combo.
Little Catch makes it easy for you to get your Poke fix with locations in Former French Concession/Xuhui, Jing’an and Xintiandi. Note the Sherpa’s bike in the shot; the driver left out with a full pack from the shop so you know Little Catch is a hit!
Little Catch 247－6 Wulumuqi Middle Road
near Wuyuan Road 近五原路
Shanghai, China 上海
Being a relative newbie to Shanghai has its perks. Your new, built-in social circle of expats shows you the ropes and invites you out to a bevy of F&B gems. You wind up at some solid after-hours hangs, down 1 or 2 more gin & tonics than you would have liked…before you know it, you wind up waking with a banger of a headache and that gnawing need-some-greasy-goodness feeling in your tummy.
On the first new city hangover, a friend and I headed to Munchies in Jing’an on Wuding Lu. The name and decor clue you in to their easy-going, free-spirited nature. The menu is packed with classic American comfort food like pancakes, omelets, burritos, and hamburgers. My friend is a fan of their chocolate peanut butter milkshakes and hamburgers while I opted for the veggie omelet this go round. While not the best brunch/breakfast meal I’ve had here yet, it was certainly filling and budget-friendly.
In my opinion, Mr. Pancake House is a step above. They offer a very similar menu with similar pricing. The unfortunate bit is that whether you dine in or order online, there’s at least an item or two that they no longer offer or have run out of. Such was my luck with I received a call from the store and Sherpa’s that they were out of chocolate chips for my chocolate chip pancakes (!!!) and asked for my approval to substitute with chocolate syrup. The espresso martinis of previous hours begged for the chocolatey, buttery goodness of these pancakes so I forged ahead. Here’s hoping they can make positive changes to improve their stock since their food is consistently flavorful.
Finally, I cannot resist the berry-chocked, lemon zesty, rich, buttery goodness that is the dish you see below. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lazy morning where I don’t feel like making breakfast or if the previous night ended in a dive bar with dance-worn feet and a liter of Asahi, I will always crave this beauty of a stack. Enter Blueberry Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes from Al’s Diner. The menu features many American classics like omelets, skillets (Purgatory Eggs for hot-and-spicy fans), sandwiches and pasta dishes. The Key Lime Pie, priced right and well-balanced, offers a great finish for any Al’s meal. Gracie’s Ice Cream offers a one-two punch for Al’s fans as their unique flavor combinations like miso-caramel and balsamic strawberry shine. I’ve already shortlisted their banana split for my next post-post-party hangover meal.
*In advance of the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff gracing Shanghai’s Le Baron on November 18, here’s my quick review from a late May visit.*
A fishbowl glass of gin and tonic. The black-and-white luxury swank decor washed out in a flood of red light. Densely-packed dance floors on 2 levels where you’ll feel another’s heartbeat as you pass through. Beautiful expats gyrating to 15-second snippets of today’s hits with little to no time for crossfades. Suddenly, the poppy 4/4 thumps give way to some sexy, murky, subwoofer-breaking trap. That’s your typical Saturday summer night at Le Baron in Xuhui district.
The city hums, industrious and traditional, metallic clangs and soft chimes, feels like home with different faces of many hues. The smells that waft from store fronts, street carts, clandestine alleys vary from rich meat broths, offal slices, succulent produce, centuries of rich culinary heritage. Many of them curious about my own. I wonder how many think I darkened myself with years of sun or pounds of dark chocolate. Who knows that my ancestors have worked alongside theirs for many, many generations. How many think I am from some foreign land, closer to that of my mother’s mother’s mother’s. How many think I am rich because I am simply here. Teens, Millennials, thirtysomethings hardly glance. They have seen us before, grown up with us in their social media feeds, have seen us on television or heard our songs on the radio more times than they can count. My presence is accepted, at least in front of me as I am sure my back could tell another tale. Children and middle-aged or old stare me right in the face as we walk side by side on already crowded sidewalks. No one seems to know what to make of me. Dark brown skin that won’t rub off, jet black kinks and coils of dreads beg a touch.
The city, expansive and teeming with possibility. The skyline ever-changing as the years go. Much like home, like Chicago threefold and shaded in different hues, with different languages and landscapes. For us newbies, the limits are within our own minds.
Would I do this all over again? Without a doubt. I have to stop my mind often from getting too far ahead of itself. The habit of pursuing instant gratification is extremely difficult to break considering American culture and tendencies. There is beauty in the details and the process that you can’t see if you make the time and effort to see them. The most important thing here is staying in the moment and only going as far as needed for the time being. There’s no real need to get ahead of oneself. Sitting in the airport, I calmed myself by thinking “What are you so jumpy for? You only have the rest of your life to look forward to!” This experience has started to force change within me, often much-needed changes.
Unlike anywhere I have ever been, this city is filled with learners young and old. Schools of every discipline, after-school and enrichment programs, library centers, conversation clubs. Four-year-old Kindergarteners beginning to learn English. The society learns and grows together.
At times, it’s hard to believe that a full month has passed. I have learned so much through this remarkable change of life. I know that Shanghai is part futuristic metropolis, part remnant of the Old World. I know that the people are mostly warm, passionate, curious. I know that a handful are resentful and bitter at change and the influx of expats. Some are curious about my chocolate skin, wide nose, almond eyes, my long, black, faux-goddess locks. The hair gets stares for sure, the occasional thumbs up from lil’ ol’ lady shopkeepers. Some might instantly dismiss me because I am a dark-skinned black woman for one reason or another. Little do they know that I am so content with the very notion of being here, finding my place here, gladly embracing their culture. Little do they know that I gladly wake up daily to educate their own. Little do they know that I wake up to and run home to just that: home.
In a taxi bobbing and weaving through Shanghai morning rush hour, on the way to work as an English language arts teacher, hair of long black faux dreadlocks with deep-spiral curled ends, wearing a dark rose satin bomber jacket and Uniqlo black skinny jeans, listening to Solange with my twin flame waiting for me at home. This is how I ended 2016. Everything is a far cry from the overweight, ceaselessly unhappy, couch locked dreamer that I began the year as.