Down-to-earth flavors without the 'Instagram chic'
Solo is a relatively low-key Italian restaurant among the expat circle yet an ultra-popular venue for locals to dine out, with a dark, moody decor that invites you to embark on an intimate evening.
Inside a three-level street-side building on Hengshan Road, Solo is run by Leo Dai, who also takes the helm in the kitchen. The Shanghai native had authentic Italian cuisine training in Piedmont in his early years and has updated his skills and tastes ever since.
The place doesn’t play the game of “Instagram chic” like most of the restaurants seen nowadays but stays true to genuine atmosphere and true Italian flavors. White tablecloths, funky wall murals and Italian wine bottles lined up along the wall, the space gives off a vibe similar to the osterias in Italy.
And after five years, Solo has finally achieved a reputation for anyone in need of a decent Italian dinner or a proper group wine dinner on its top floor.
Dai continues to adjust and perfect his recipes, so you find satisfying smiles throughout the dining room.
Solo has a carefully selected menu of recipes from across Italy, including traditional seafood and olive oil-based dishes from the south as well as richer meat dishes from the north. Here, you can get a dinner set menu at 168 yuan with the choice of one starter and one main course that has been extremely popular among those in the know.
However, I preferred a few of their signatures from the a la carte menu. One notable appetizer is the octopus and potato salad — tender octopus in combination with potatoes, black olives, avocado soaked in an amazing dressing of white wine, vinegar and chili. It’s so refreshing and appetite-enhancing to start with this dish.
Ox tripe stew in cuttlefish ink with abalone is another not-to-be-missed plate here and it’s very special indeed. Ox tripe and cuttlefish ink are common Italian ingredients and together with abalone, you experience the complex textures and great flavors. It may not be a dish with divine presentation, the focus is on the flavor. One bite and its rustic, humble appearance won’t matter. Also, you will finish the delicious cuttlefish ink sauce by dipping the bread.
A highlight of the main courses is the Sicilian-style fish in “crazy water” — a secret sauce full of Mediterranean ingredients. For the loyal customers of Solo, coriander noodle is a favorite late-night snack.
Opening hours: 5:30pm-midnight
Address: 237 Hengshan Rd
Average price: 250 yuan