Troubadour is a well-intentioned restaurant in a central but unfortunate space that will need more than a distinctive menu to draw the big crowds.
It’s almost like the owners wanted to give themselves a challenge. The restaurant feels wedged into a large but pokey space, up a staircase at the back of a complex, on probably the most un-walked stretch of Huaihai Zhong Lu. Exacerbating everything is that the always lively Kota’s Kitchen sits pretty on the ground floor, acting as a local landmark.
Which is a shame because there’s little we could fault on Troubadour’s menu. A curious mix of traditional bistro cuts and light, fresh Serbian dishes, we originally weren’t sure how they would go together. (The Serbian touch comes from chef Srdjan Petrovic, formerly the man behind Kangding Lu's EXIT bar.) As a warm basket of freshly baked sourdough arrived at the table with spreadable appetizers, our qualms dissipated. A creamy pork rillettes pâté and full-flavored capsicum and garlic ‘ajvar’ relish are delicious together or apart. Laudable, too, is a plate of silky smooth thick-cut tuna carpaccio (RMB98).
Feeling bold, and spurred on by the particularly enthusiastic maître d’, we opted for the T-bone (RMB328), intended for two to share. It is exactly as buttery-succulent as a premium 30-day aged cut of steak should be. Alongside a slightly bland selection of potato and vegetable side dishes, it took a petite Sopska chop salad with feta (RMB48) to make it feel complete.
Such small misgivings, though, are easily rectified and insignificant compared to the bigger issue on hand: how to get on the hit-list of RMB300-per-head restaurants with so many attractive and even regionally similar options around the corner. If they can crack that, then it will be steaks and Sopskas all round.