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Bambino is a petite, contemporary Italian restaurant which, if you can get beyond a few kinks, delivers some fantastic food.

As regulars on the Italian scene we walked in the front door already playing out the meal. Nicely dressed tables but a little pokey layout, a flat-screen with a slideshow of menu items, black and white photographs of global landmarks on the wall and a slightly nervous greeting—all so familiar, all so distinctly average.

With a menu showing moderately priced sets (RMB249 for four courses) and seemingly overpriced à la carte options, more mental boxes were being ticked. Some painfully stiff bread arrived, and with that we were about to condemn it to suffer the fate of many Julu Lu pretenders before it.

But then out trotted a plate of tuna carpaccio (RMB62) with a masterfully sharp citrus dressing, and reality shifted. We expected it to resemble a plate of ceviche but instead, there sat impossibly thin swathes of pink tuna which melted, nay, dissipated into mouthfuls of joyous flavor. Similarly piquant was a veal tonnato (RMB68), where tender slices of meat and a light tuna sauce complemented each other well.

The mains were equally rewarding. A linguine lobster (RMB118) with fresh pasta and a luxuriously rich sauce tasted almost as refined as what you’d get at 8½. A supremely meaty block of cod (RMB145) amidst a sprinkling of vegetables was similarly decadent. Paired with a bone-in slab of slow-roasted suckling pig with orange sauce and mashed potatoes (RMB158), we were on Cloud Nine.

At this price we’d expect a few sides, and accompaniments seem in short supply. Reaching for that bread basket, we’re reminded of the restaurant’s letdowns and the way the dining room seems to turn into a stuffy closet. Hopefully Bambino will be around long enough to bring everything in line.

  • Bambino
  • 021 6445-3656

  • 903 Julu Lu, Shanghai [map]
  • 上海市巨鹿路903号

  • Italian
  • ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
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