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October 15, 2009

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Street art decor lights new diner

The old restaurant 570 has been given a trendy new look and a menu and style makeover by veteran Shanghai restaurateur Alexandre Daune, Sam Riley reports. It's not often you can go to a chic new Shanghai eatery and scrawl your own graffiti on the walls. But Graffiti, the newest incarnation of veteran Shanghai restaurateur Alexandre Daune, gives diners their own artistic license.

What was previously the dark and moody 570 has been transformed into an edgy restaurant aimed at capturing Shanghai's young diners with decor paying homage to street art and with an approachable and affordable selection of meat and seafood cooked on the grill.

Diners wanting to express their creative side can also scrawl their tag or draw their own graffiti on a wall and a mirror near the restaurant's washrooms.

Daune has been in the restaurant game off and on since he arrived in Shanghai in 1995. A stint in a freight forwarding company was his only brief foray away from hospitality to conventional office hours.

Describing the experience as like "jail," for the last six years Daune has built a considerable restaurant presence in Shanghai consisting of French fine dining restaurant La Grange, bakery La Boulangerie and French bistro Le Saleya which is next to Graffiti on Changle Road.

Saying he never opens a direct competitor to one of his existing restaurants, Daune hopes his latest venture will tap into a growing number of young expats coming into the city as well as a younger Chinese demographic that is looking for casual, affordable dining.

"We want to keep it simple and casual because the expat crowd is getting younger and younger," he says.

"When I first arrived in Shanghai, the expat crowd was made up of a majority of 50-year-olds on packages but now we are targeting a demographic from 18 to those in their early 30s."

He also aims to have local diners make up at least 60 percent of his clientele and Daune says he chose the grill-style for Grafitti because it suits Chinese tastes and eating styles.

"Chinese are familiar with the grill, you can see that when you walk down a food street, and with our mixed grill offerings, people can put the dish in the middle of the table and share everything," he says.

Daune has leveraged his considerable experience with Chinese suppliers - he claims it took six years to find reliable suppliers of some of his beef offerings on the menu - to provide an approachable and simple range of grilled options.

His beef is from Chinese-raised Charolais cattle, a French breed commonly produced in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region that has less nerve and is tenderer than the typical Qingdao (Shandong Province) beef.

Duck and foie gras come from a Beijing producer and at La Grange Daune uses venison, ostrich and even wild boar all from domestic producers.

"I am buying a lot of meat and wine a month so I can go to suppliers and get reduced prices that allow me to give a better deal to my customers," he says.

There is a choice of 14 kinds of meats and seafood accompanied with a selection of nine different sauces.

For lunch, there is a set menu with a choice of two courses for 88 yuan (US$12.90) or three courses for 98 yuan.

Main courses are a 150-gram piece of meat that comes with a choice of vegetable and a small salad served on a rustic style wooden chopping board.

The choice is expanded over dinner with entrees 48 yuan, mains ranging from 112 yuan for a main course of meat or 122 yuan for seafood, and desserts are 38 yuan.

In keeping with the cheap and cheerful atmosphere, the wine list is paired back and good value with the most expensive bottle 348 yuan. Other offerings from Chile, France, Portugal and Australia start from 162 yuan a bottle. All wines are available by the glass from 26 to 48 yuan.

"We save costs because we have simplified the kitchen as much as possible," he says.

"Our customers decide how they want their seafood or meat cooked, and they decide what sauce. We have tried to keep it simple, and all day from noon to midnight we serve food."

Graffiti held its grand opening yesterday and has been trading to the public for about two weeks.

Address: 570 Changle Rd, near Xiangyang Rd

Tel: 5403-2657


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