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September 10, 2009

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Bohemians in beeline for Dada

CHANGNING District's Xingfu Road is fast emerging as a small bohemian oasis in the desert of sleek interior designed lounge bars that dominate Shanghai's nightlife.

The latest addition to the Xingfu neighborhood that already has indie stalwart LOgO and its less grungier but still determinedly alternative, Anar, comes new kid on the block Dada. The brainchild of Antidote's Michale Ohlsson, Dada has firmly nailed its colors to the mast as an affordable, casual bar that has accessibly quality music and well-made drinks.

Wedged between LOgO and Anar, Dada is down an alleyway, with bar seekers having to keep their eyes peeled for a small sign on a wall outside a convenience store near the alley entrance.

Ohlsson says he hopes Xingfu Road would provide a different, distinct nightspot location for people looking for something more alternative than that offered at the Bund or other established mainstream nightspots.

"Shanghai needs an area you can go to. Most cities have that but Shanghai doesn't have somewhere that is a little different, a little bohemian," he says.

"People can come to Xingfu Road and find something that is cool. If you go to Beijing or some of the smaller cities they all have an area where people can go to hang out if they are looking for something other than mainstream hip-hop or the usual club and bar scene."

Dada has been in soft opening mode for the last month or so but its recent grand opening party was attended by about 200 people.

That is about the capacity of the small bar, which has funky red couches that are on the cozy side of a three-seater. The interior is stripped back grays, blacks and reds, with local French artist Arthur Gallice livening up a wall with a stencil art mural.

It is dimly lit with candles and has a laid back, chilled out atmosphere.

Ohlsson says the bar looks a little less grungier than he at first anticipated but with a regular following already starting to become established it won't be long before this neighborhood watering hole gets a comfy lived-in feeling.

Like a number of small businesses which have sniffed the financial winds and realized there is a growing number of mid-earning expats and locals who offer generous goodwill for affordability, Dada has aimed to provide quality drinks at a reasonable price.

"Affordable quality is what we want to be. You can go to dive bars where the drinks are cheap and the cocktails are terrible or the other alternative is to go to bars on the Bund where prices are ridiculous," he says.

"Drink prices in Shanghai are ridiculously inflated. There is no way you should be paying New York prices for a cocktail, and many times the quality is lacking."

Beers at Dada start at 20 yuan (US$2.9) for a local beer and it's 30 yuan to 40 yuan for imported beers. Cocktail classics like a Bloody Mary are 30 yuan to 45 yuan for their more extravagant creations.

Dada's owners are the same people behind Hello Pizza and the affordable rooftop favorite Captain's Bar. When it comes to music, Ohlsson has a long list of DJs both from his Antidote staple that supplies DJs to venues around the country and also from a long list of local talent.

He has been rotating about 30 DJs to find what works best but has settled on a general theme.

"We have the Shelter and LOgO which have the real arty underground thing going and I don't think there is enough of a critical mass to support too many more," he says.

During the week expect to hear the Stone Roses or Tom Waits and then more electronic stuff on the weekend, says Ohlsson.

Address: 115 Xingfu Rd, near Fahuazhen Rd


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