French canteen's fun, organized mess
The newly opened Blaz is a modern French canteen where good produce is effortlessly prepared and where good wine is served without fuss or formality.
The place, housed in a historic villa on 20 Donghu Road, is anchored in the heart of the neighborhood, making it very much a big part of the community.
Blaz is a new concept set up by Simon Briens, an entrepreneur who has already tasted three years of success with RAC, a bistro centered on French-style galettes and crepes. Blaz in French Brittany’s local dialect means “le gout” and “the taste” in English.
“I have been thinking of creating a new concept for a while and the opportunity came to make it happen here. People in Shanghai must know how beautiful the villa is with its garden,” the Frenchman said.
“I want Blaz to be casual with a focus on quality and details — a vibe of organized mess, which means lively, noisy, flexible with customers and a special attention to service in a relaxed way.”
The indoor dining space is hip and contemporarily balanced, while the exposed brick columns give off a warm, homely feel.
Chris Zhu, a Shanghai native, is the head chef and is never intimidated by tradition. With a great knowledge of French cuisine, he is able to provide a modern French menu while adding a personal touch to it.
Briens said calling Blaz a canteen means they do not have to stick to an exclusively French menu.
“We can serve some classics like Borguignon, terrine and bone marrow, as well as dishes like drunken hairy crabs when the season is here. The idea is to be fun, for the team and for our guests, as long as we use the best products and respect the DNA of the main ingredients,” he said.
The team is still working on a regular menu but the feedback has been great since opening. Dishes such as Burgundy snails vol-au-vent, beef tenderloin and pepper sauce and bone marrow are all popular with customers. I personally liked the mackerel from the snack section and the foie gras mousse served together with duck breast.
Wines are an inseparable part of French dining. Here, more than 200 wine references are featured, half being “natural-low intervention.”
“You can find something for every budget and style,” Briens said.
About eight wines are chosen for serving by the glass. No wine list is provided; bottles are either on shelves or in wine fridges with price tags. And the team is more than happy to assist anyone selecting their choice of wine.
Opening hours: 6pm-midnight (Closed on Tuesdays)
Address: 20 Donghu Rd
Average price: 350 yuan (US$53.38)