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Shanghai Restaurant Review: Garlic BBQ

Shanghai Restaurant Review: Garlic BBQ

Publié le 7 mars 2021 Mis à jour le 7 mars 2021
time 2 min
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Shanghai Restaurant Review: Garlic BBQ

What is barbeque? Wait, I already answered that before. The better question is, what's an American-style BBQ restaurant doing in Shanghai? And, more importantly, is it any good?

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EVERDAY 11:30 TO UNTIL SOLD OUT! This was the marketing that first got me inside the doors of Garlic BBQ, located at 285 Jianguo Dong Lu (about a ten-minute walk from Xintiandi Metro Station). "If it sells out every day, it must be good," I thought to myself.

"Expectation is the root of all heartbreak" - (Not) William Shakespeare

I must candidly admit that the vision of Garlic BBQ that grew in my head was unrealistic for what one could expect for a restaurant in Shanghai. In my mind, I expected a hole-in-the-wall roadside BBQ joint, a mom and pop establishment where Mom was an older heavily-bosomed Black woman, who used her grandmother's BBQ special sauce, and Pop was an older bearded white man whose mustache had been tinted red from years sneaking samples of Mom's tasty BBQ sauces and whose sausage-thick fingers had become callused from years of working with hickory wood. The couple had escaped a segregated American South and somehow ended up in Shanghai, where now they served tasty meat treats every day until they sold out. Unfortunately, not only did the timeline for the fictional "Mom and Pop" I had crafted in my head fail to line up, but so did my expectations for Garlic BBQ's offerings.

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Is the food at Garlic BBQ bad? No, not at all. In fact, one could say that it is, "very decent." However, it has been years since I last ate some proper American-style BBQ so of course, in my mind the idea of visiting a BBQ joint had me salivating at all the possible side dishes options: Mac n' Cheese, mashed potatoes, potato salad, etc.

Instead, however, the menu at Garlic BBQ features a set of side dishes that seem to have been put together by someone who has never been to a BBQ restaurant. None of the classic dishes one might expect are present. Looking for mashed potatoes, well, they have mashed eggplant. Coleslaw? How about a mango kale salad instead? It is not that any of these side dishes are particularly bad, but definitely curb your expectations if you think you are going to find any traditional dishes at Garlic BBQ.

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Side dishes? Clams and fishes! Obviously, the main event at a BBQ establishment is the barbeque, so does the meat at Garlic BBQ stand the heat? Or is it time for it to get out of the kitchen?

Well, it's a'ight. I can certainly see why the venue would sell out, but at the same time, in all aspects of its presentation, it seems as if the offerings at Garlic BBQ are a Bizarro version of things that were once familiar. Maybe the nostalgia goggles for food I have not eaten in many years are not allowing me to fully appreciate what is in front of me.

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Like a person dealing with loss, maybe it is time to move forward and accept that the BBQ meals that once filled my tummy and heart with joy may no longer be available to me and that although it is nowhere near the perfection I demand, that Garlic BBQ is good enough. As such, until I find the best American-style BBQ option in Shanghai, Garlic BBQ may not be the "right one," but it is the "one right now."

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