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July 30, 2022

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An ode to ‘neo-bistro’ dining in downtown Shanghai

POSSIBLY the cutest on the list of bistros in the neighborhood, Juke is nestled on the quiet street of Dongping Road in Xuhui District.

Since opening last December, it has remained packed, except for the two-month COVID-19 lockdown, with reservations booked a week in advance.

The 18-seater stylish space is tight and alive, an ode to a burgeoning culinary movement of relaxed, deformalized bistros, or “neo-bistro” dining and wine bars, an eclectic balance of warmth and comfort, with friendly and attentive service.

The quality and originality of its food, orchestrated by chef Michael Janczewski, has won praise from Shanghai’s discerning diners and trendy crowds. The tight menu of a dozen or so dishes takes its origins from Mediterranean fare and adds ingenuity and artistry. The dishes change often depending on the season and the mood of the chef.

Janczewski, brought from Hong Kong to work on this project, has honed his culinary skills under many cooking styles, at both Michelin and cult-status dining venues such as Belon (two Michelin stars), Ho Lee Fook and Canton Disco (the Shanghai EDITION). He has worked in many different kitchens: modern Polish, Japanese, Chinese and French.

“I don’t think Juke is a suitable restaurant for everyone. If you are looking for another version of duck liver mousse among Shanghai ‘bistros,’ you will not find it here,” he pointed out.

“Food at Juke is a playful combination of Western flavors (mostly Mediterranean) and Asian techniques/ingredients. My strength lies in flavor. Taste never lies.”

Janczewski said that Juke is an ever-evolving sort of project in terms of food.

“It’s a combination of my ideas and suggestions from co-founder Sebastian Dalee. The place is small and so is the kitchen, but as Dalee says, thanks to these limitations we are becoming more creative.”

The team wants the menu to be short, dishes to be small.

“Some guests complain about the small dishes, but they don’t see the bright side of it. Thanks to that, they are able to order more dishes to try different flavors,” Janczewski explained. The compact menu changes often and some of the dishes that could be considered signatures stay.

Janczewski is always on the lookout for new interesting ingredients and he doesn’t try to follow what’s popular and what people want, but rather what he wants to have fun with at the time and wants the guests to join him in that.

The bistro’s beverage list is also curated from a creative perspective: The wine selection (the acre project) comprises wine parcels under 50 hectares and is filed by producer, preferring to focus on the craftsmanship behind the vineyard rather than its certification, grape or origin.


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