‘Honest food for honest people,’ is the catchphrase of Francesco Pantalone, owner of Otto. The problem with that is, when you have a restaurant this good, humility already feels a little like dishonesty. There is a kind of simplicity in the design and layout. The straightforward, rectangular dining space has been left open-plan with large windows over the leafy former French Concession street. Things get a little more complex when you move to the wall-lodged wine dispenser from which 32 white and red varietals are kept fresh with pumped nitrogen, and served by the glass. The quality of dishes is where the restaurant busts loose of the of ‘honest trattoria’ mould. Taking inspiration from around the Mediterranean, head chef George Jin serves up food genuinely worthy of a ‘fine dining’ label, occasionally adding a subtle Chinese touch to European classics. The Roast Lamb Shank with Eggplant Caviar, for example, comes with Sichuan peppers – and is perfection in flaky flesh form. Otto is planned to be only the first in a series of new dining/entertainment outlets for the company (a dedicated wine bar is on the cards for spring). One can only hope the quality isn’t diluted by rapid expansion. For now, there’s still seems to be juice to spare.

Author: Enjoy Shanghai

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