Fresh Off the Boat: LAGO by Julian Serrano at the Bellagio Hotel.

Who hasn’t heard of the opening of LAGO by Julian Serrano, raise your hand! Oh, everyone has…

Even if many foodies have heard of this new restaurant opening, it’s nevertheless exciting news: the Bellagio Hotel will be hosting a branch of famous Como Lake inspired LA restaurant. Hotel dining is ramping up in Shanghai like it’s 2007, with more and more old and new hotels revamping their food concepts as people get hungrier and hungrier in this city of F&B perdition.

I was lucky enough to score a preview reservation with my fellow Shanghai Bite Club foodies and industry experts, so we got to try the menu before the public opening, which was just yesterday Thursday, 1 February. Here’s a picture of some of us (plus external guests) with chef Julian Serrano who came to Shanghai to overlook the official opening.

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Entering LAGO is a bit like stepping into a spaceship directed towards the future, or an LA club. Or even, if you’ve been in Shanghai long enough you might get my reference when I say it kind of reminded me of the tunnel entrance of Ruby’s… but way classier.

The venue is bright and clean, with blue, white and grey hues that make up for an almost aseptic modern environment, with glass and marble everything, from tables, to floor, to walls, doors and cutlery. A stunning central wine cellar and bar warms up the atmosphere with striking metallic bronze surfaces.

Our table was presented with a selection of dishes expertly created and executed by the talented Executive Chef Jair Gudino Chavez former of 1515 West at the Jing’an Shangri-La. Here’s a picture of him… because he’s cute!

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To start off with, guests are invited to open up their appetites and trigger their tastebuds by trying one of the 365 types amuse bouche: a different one will be served each day of the year. Crazy, I know.

Appetizers are delicate and elegant. My favorite was by length the Vitello Tonnato (RMB 138), a clear revisitation from the Italian tradition. While usually this dish would be made with a slow braised round eye veal fillet that looks quite pale and grey, at LAGO it’s instead kept almost raw. The tuna sauce is more delicate than in the traditional recipe. Overall the dish makes for a very welcome and successful evolution of this Italian classic, apt to a fine dining experience.

Next up, the Burrata (RMB 98). Talking about revisitation of classics, this Burrata almost belongs to the dessert menu, for all good reasons. It’s accompanied by fresh berries, honey and a lovely berry coulis, so that it can be enjoyed at the beginning or at the end of the meal.

We were also presented with Salmone (RMB 118), a beautifully plated Saint Jacque seashell which I expected to be hosting a scallop carpaccio. Instead, trick of the mind, it was the vessel for a tasty salmon crudo. I tend to dislike rocks in my plate, so I’d rather see a big gorgeous rock AS the plate instead.

For the pickles lovers, there’s a pickle and cream cheese appetizer plate that’s perfect for you. And it’s beautiful.

If you fucking love Jamon and love it so much you don’t mind splurging a whopping RMB 488, De Bellota Iberico Ham is right here waiting for you. It’s some of the finest ham in the entire world and it’s made its way to Shanghai. That type of treat ain’t gonna come cheap.

Moving onto the mains, this absolutely perfect juicy and flavorful Stockyard Wagyu Beef Sirloin steak will make you reconsider what a good steak is. The kuais are slipping fast from your wallet here too, costing you RMB 568.

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For the lobster lovers, they have a unique British Lobster with caviar. This tastes infinitely better than your regular Boston lobster, but it’s also smaller… and pricier. It’ll set you back by another RMB 558.

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The good news is that the menu also features more price friendly options. I may be a simple person, but three of my favorite dishes of the night were actually among their pasta selection, the Agnolotti (RMB 188), the Strozzapreti (RMB 168), and the Risotto Nero with scallops (RMB 228), which makes me think pasta courses may be LAGO’s true identity.

While Chef Jair mentioned desserts not being his strong suit as he himself doesn’t particularly like sweets (welcome to the team bro!), I have to say what we had was quite remarkable, especially the Amalfi (RMB 68) is a tremendous work of pastry craftsmanship that comes across as beautifully balanced in all the components.

The fun and deconstructed take on Tiramisu was also pleasing, but I would have indeed loved a bit more mascarpone cream to reach complete satisfaction as it overall came off a bit dry.

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The crowd pleaser was their signature affogato, where a little bit of spectacle adds onto the sensory climax: the waiter pours hot espresso on a thin chocolate disc that melts and discloses a brownie base topped with vanilla ice-cream.

The drink list wasn’t available when I visited before the opening. I did have a glass of Australian Malbec. At RMB 138 per glass (excluding tax and service charge) it better be good, and it in fact was outstanding.

All in all, LAGO caters to refined diners who understand the quality of ingredients and craftsmanship that goes into preparing them so they can reach the top of their natural taste. Such diners also don’t mind a price tag above RMB 700 per person. I will be looking forward a possible brunch set for the spring and summer, to be enjoyed at their massive, gorgeous terraces.

Make your reservation by calling 021 3680 6777

Address: Shanghai – 188 Bei Suzhou Lu, Bellagio, 6/F, near Zhapu Lu 北苏州路188号宝丽嘉酒店6, 近乍浦路

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