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Never before have we been so confused or conflicted by a restaurant. Haru Kitchen looks like the latest installment of a certain successful Beatles-themed yakitori chain in town, but it is actually something of a copy-cat. On our visit, the staff was intentionally vague when we asked about their relationship with Kota’s Kitchen. A statement issued on Kota's website, however, has denied any ties with this restaurant.

The door is swung open and a mountain of sharply-dressed servers scream Japanese welcomes. We recognize some of them from Kota’s Kitchen branches. Everything is decorated in the Kota way; heavy wood, uncomfortable tables and combed stucco walls. Even Kota’s signature wonky projection of a Windows XP desktop screen is on the far wall.

The menu is also a carbon copy. They have the full range of yakitori skewers, sashimi, izakaya snacks and ramen noodles. The pages are exactly Kota’s menu in design, right down to feature items like the signature Japanese pork.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the food is Kota’s note for note. The pork and asparagus rolls (RMB20), quail eggs (RMB15), Japanese belly pork (RMB40) coddled egg and spinach salad (RMB45), fried dumpling stuffed chicken wings (RMB25) tastes almost exactly the same. A square of roast pork (RMB45) is just as rich and succulent. Though the food is acceptable in general, most chicken skewers fall slightly dry and are either over- or underseasoned.

Since our visit, we've learned that the history between Haru Kitchen and Kota Tsubuki is more complicated than Yoko Ono's relationship with her husband's bandmates. The man is reportedly no longer calling the shots in the three restaurants that bear his design. Perhaps, this is just part of a phenomenon that pollutes every industry in China.

  • Haru Kitchen
  • 021 6272-7117

  • 1/F, 66 Shaanxi Nan Lu (near Weihai Lu) [map]
  • 上海市陕西北路66号1楼(近威海路)

  • Japanese
  • ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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