The first time I ate at Bellagio was for lunch on an unexpectedly warm Christmas Eve, my first in Shanghai. When my friend Jen texted me the name and address of this place, I got a bit nervous: were we going to an expensive Italian restaurant in tourist-trap pricey Xintiandi?
Turns out Bellagio is a mid-range Taiwanese joint with a dessert and drinks menu as thick as (if not thicker than) their regular menu. While their savoury dishes didn’t impress me much and the bill was on the high end of my then-student budget, their shaved ice desserts were unforgettable. Since that meal, Sean and I have been back a couple times, to the Xintiandi location as well as its Xujiahui and Jing’an ones.
All three branches feel clean and trendy-casual, and look the same with their shiny black tables and shiny black chairs and uniformed waitresses sporting uniform pixie cuts. Their vegetarian selection (marked with a green leaf) is not large or particularly remarkable, but during my last few visits I’ve found a few decent dishes that justify having a full meal there (as opposed to going just for dessert). These are my picks for meatless eaters:
The string beans with salted duck egg (咸蛋四季豆, 29 RMB) is wonderfully crunchy and salty and perfect on rice. I could eat an entire plate of the stuff if I were ever to come here by myself…
They do a decent vegetarian spin on their famous three-cup chicken (三杯鸡, 49 RMB) with the three-cup abalone mushroom (三杯杏鲍菇, 36 RMB). The mushrooms are nice and chunky, but unfortunately do not absorb the flavours from the sauce as well as meat does.
The eggplant in clay pot (鱼香茄子煲, 38 RMB), a sweet, spicy, and oily veggie staple originating in Sichuan (not sure what it’s doing in a Taiwanese place), is another solid choice — but I’m usually a fan of this dish wherever I go :-)
For me, though, shaved ice desserts remain the single draw of this restaurant. If you’re not adverse to the idea of beans as dessert, the Bellagio Breeze (综合冰, 33 RMB) — a veritable mountain of shaved ice blanketed in red beans, mung beans, sugary pineapple, pearl tapioca (boba), and chewy taro balls, all infused with sweetened condensed milk — is king. Sean and I usually follow up two dishes and rice with one of these bad boys, and leave completely satisfied.
If you have more people in your party, the strawberry shaved ice is also a great pick.
The one thing that really irks me about this place is that they really pressure you to order their overpriced drinks, even when you ask for just water. Half the time they’ve outright refused to bring us water, and half the time they eventually brought us warm tap water. I realize that restaurants’ profits depend largely on selling beverages and desserts, but it’s always the higher-end, trendy places that refuse to give free tea or water.
In spite of this, since there’s a Bellagio less than a block from my office, I’ll be back many times this summer (armed with a bottle of water, shhh), and maybe discover a few more worthwhile vegetarian dishes!
Bellagio (multiple locations)
111 Xikang Lu (西康路111号)