‘Oversized Nibbles,’ the menu reads. I look to my dinner date as we try to determine what that means and what kind of bearing it might possibly have on our ordering. In fact, much of FOGO is an intriguing, and gratifying, puzzle to be solved.
Set on the sixth floor of a relatively non-descript, but historic building just off The Bund, this gastro-lounge concept from the team who opened M1NT sprawls out into an expansive space. A long, sleek marble-topped bar extends from the entrance and leads into the parquet-floor dining room, sporting modern, Nordic-inspired furniture. Two epic terraces offer views of Lujiazui and nearby heritage buildings.
It’s hard to classify the cuisine, which is a grab bag of influences from across the globe. Our meal begins with a Green Olive Explosion, a molecular olive à la Ferran Adria and the El Bulli team circa 2005 – which makes sense when we learn the kitchen’s head honcho Pancho Quinones once worked with the Adria crew. Even if nothing new, it’s a delightful bite. The Edible Cocktail arrives with potential, but ultimately uninteresting the ‘orange soup’, speckled with tiny cubes of Campari jelly and a mound of carrot foam, goes down like a glass of juice for breakfast.
Actual cocktails offer the same potential, and deliver. Served under a bell jar with a puff of smoke from almond tree wood chips, the Smoky Sour blends Chivas and Lagavuilin single malt and the margarita-style Cilantropical throws down holiday vibes with tequila and apple liqueur alongside pineapple juice and coriander, garnished with curls of singed red chilli.
While you could tuck into large servings of charcoal grilled rib eye or braised beef shank, more intriguing ‘oversized nibbles’ comprise the bulk of the sharing-style menu.
Bold flavours ripple through the fried squid taco, set on a tough but tasty corn tortilla and garnished with pickled red onion, coriander, fried onions and chilli chipotle and squid ink aiolis. Truffle hummus – what genius, how we want to love it – hits the table redolent of fresh black truffle, but a touch one dimensional and served with cardboard thin, cold pita.
Small offences like this are redeemed in the vegetarian Moroccan-style pastilla: flaky puff pastry wrapped around heady filling of aubergine inflected with ginger and cumin. The simple bikini sandwich (a Barcelona ham and cheese classic) is elevated with truffle, Iberico ham and buffalo mozzarella. Impeccable cannelloni conceal unctuous, slow-cooked wagyu oxtail and rich foie gras, all swathed in a luxurious, over-the-top parmesan cheese cream.
Dessert holds a similar gamut of ideas, from ambitious and whacky to safe and traditional. On one side, there’s the Garden Ravioli, paper-thin slices of courgette filled with tomato and Tahitian vanilla, swimming in a pineapple soup studded with basil jelly and a mound of mint granita. On the other, there’s Five Shades of Chocolate, an uncomplicated injection of cocoa bean via ice cream and chocolate shavings.
It’s the final piece of the FOGO puzzle – where pieces are a bit all over the place, seemingly unrelated, but somehow all fit in the end.
Meal for two: around 800RMB
By Cat Nelson