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After a slick renovation, Des Lis recently re-opened its half-lounge, half-restaurant doors onto Xinle Lu’s prime pavement. We took a seat curbside to check out the revamp and found that a little more fine tuning may be required to make this French bistro stand out from the crowd.

From a simple one-sheet menu, the French options are almost caricature-like. Beef tartare is featured twice (starter RMB78, main RMB128). Duck or goose are prolific in a number of dishes, and snails are on the menu even though they’re not available and can’t be ordered thanks to a recent China-wide ban.

Salads dominate the list of starters and amongst the predictable green, Nicoise and goat’s cheese options, a home-marinated feta Greek salad (RMB58) was all present and dressed well if not a little small. More exciting was a too-expensive goose liver paté and a Shimeji mushroom salad topped with duck confit (RMB138), in which otherwise distinct flavors became surprising bland mixed together.

We continued to be underwhelmed into the mains. On paper it’s an all-star cast including beef, duck, tuna, sea bass and sole. The tuna steak taki-taki (RMB158) sounds incredible; plump cuts of pink fish are rolled in sesame seeds and served on an orange and mango reduction. It ends up only fine, suffering the same way the cassoulet-style seabass with white beans (RMB138) does: these are not cuts of incredibly fresh fish cooked in exactly the right way, and the overall impact is diluted.

As a restaurant, it’s too expensive to be a casual meal and Des Lis misses the mark. On the other hand, for sitting with a glass of excellent house white (RMB85 a glass) while the world flitters between Xinle Lu’s boutiques, it has high people-watching potential.

  • Des Lis
  • 021 5404-5077

  • 178 Xinle Lu, nr Donghu Lu [map]
  • 上海市新乐路178号

  • French
  • ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
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