Pictures: GTA V - Shanghai Restaurant Wars (UPDATE)

A gang of ten restaurants has banded together to publish a coupon book called "Springlicious". There are lots of deals in there, but we're more interested in the mad awesome pictures that illustrate the campaign of violence and intimidation that gave rise to the new Cuisine Alliance.

The story, as I see it, starts with undisputed restaurant don Eduardo Vargas happy as Buddha with his fat piece of the Shanghai restaurant pie. Then, his satisfaction is gradually eaten away by the subtle whisperings of Kelley Lee.

Beqipaoed Lee has risen to the top of Vargas's harem and plans to grow the already indomitable empire by blowing on the embers' of Vargas's paranoia. Full of fear and rage, the don sets out to conquer rivals and violently test the loyalty of his chefs.

Here's Balthazar manager Rowdee Munio-Villanueva going Reservoir Dogs on her chef, Peter.

Below, Kelley Lee acts surprised as her business partner Raffe Ibrahamian overwhelms Cantina Agave chef Frank with his flexibility and Steven Seagal ponytail.

In the final pic, Vargas doesn't just roll up his sleeves - he even liberates his navel for extra ventilation. It's gonna take a lot of work kicking other restaurants' asses and keeping "money man" Marco and Rudy "the knife" under control. There, you just clocked GTA V - Shanghai Restaurant Wars.

The shoot was managed by Vargas Group's Angwara Bowens (closest to the camera in the first pic), and the concept was hers and Kelley Lee's. Pics were taken by Sixsixty Studio's Tobias Chu. Someone from HBO call these guys up. They've created the new Sopranos.

The participating restaurants are Azul, Casa 13, Balthazar, Bistro Burger, Brasa Chicken, Osteria, Closed Door, Cantina Agave, Boxing Cat Brewery and Iiiit Cafe. (Note the absence of Vargas Grill - it's been sold to Taiwanese American Austin Hu, who plans to reopen the restaurant as "Madison" in April.) Six of these - Azul, Casa 13, Balthazar, Bistro Burger, Brasa Chicken and Osteria - are offering RMB 88 lunches, including a drink, on weekdays from March until May. There are also loads of freebie desserts and buy one get one free vouchers. That sort of stuff. You can pick up the booklets from participating restaurants.


Photographer Charlie Xia just sent in this dramatic recreation of how Kelley and Raffe at Cantina Agave recovered the missing bottle of tequila. Shanghai restaurateurs aint nothing to fork with. Thanks Charlie!



Digital Love at Not Me

Have any plans for Thursday night? No, well consider your evening sorted when TALK lets you into a little secret. Not Me is having a relaunch party to celebrate their recent refurbishment and are inviting all comers to pop down and have a gander at the new look. The night will feature a clutch of DJs and VJs dropping punked-out electro and dirty house. Expect a good night fuelled by cheap drinks and a common desire to have a good time.

And if by the end of the night you haven’t had enough of the futuristic bar you can head back there this Saturday for one of Shanghai’s famous French parties. Starting at 8.30 pm there will be a big screen showing of La Télé des Inconnus and after that DJ Raph will be cutting up the decks and treating your ears to classic French tunes from the likes of Justice, David Guetta, and Daft Punk. Allez les bleus!

Not Me. 21 Dongping Lu, near Hengshan Lu. Tel: 64330760


Expectations Flying High for Chinese Ski Team

Small but mighty, Team China is expected to sweep both the men's and women's aerials podiums this week. 

On Monday evening, 18 year old Jia Zongyang (pictured above) placed first in the men's aerials qualifying round, with teammates Qi Guangpu finishing 10th and Liu Zhongqing in 11th place. All three men will compete for the podium on Friday. Meanwhile, the Chinese women's aerials team also proved to be serious threats, with Li Nina, Guo Xinxin and Cheng Shuang ranking second, third and fourth in qualification respectively.

China's aerialists, led by Canadian coach Dustin Wilson, only recently became a powerhouse team. At the 2006 Turin Olympics, Han Xiaopeng won gold in a surprise upset in the men's competition, while women's aerialist Li Nina took silver.

According to Guo Xinxin, China's women's aerials team is stacked not just with skill, but beauty. "I think the four of us should win medals because we're pretty," Guo was quoted as saying by the Olympic News Service.

China is currently ranked 12th in the Olympic medal count, with three golds, and one bronze and silver each. The women's aerials final airs in China at 11:30am on Thursday, and the men's finals at 10am on Friday.

el Willy and HoF Join Forces

el Willy knows tapas, and House of Flour knows chocolate. Put 'em together and what have you got? Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo, a happy chocolate dream, of course. On Wednesday 24 February the two restaurants' masterminds, Willy and Brian, will be joining forces for a special dining event, featuring: king crab, "sexy" chicken and lobster, as well as HoF's chocolate creations (using the most expensive and refined cocoa found in the world, we're told). The set menu costs RMB 498 per person, and reservations are highly recommended. Should be a lip-smackingly delicious evening.

el Willy. 20 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Lu. Tel: 5404 5757.






Gold Medal Glory: China at the Winter Olympics

Despite ruling the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, no one expects China to dominate these Winter Games. Still, the small and developing Chinese team has won five medals so far, including one gold in pairs figure skating and two women’s short track skating gold medals.

Wang Meng, who easily defended her 500m short track gold, still has another two events to go but was disqualified in the 1,500m semi-final competition. Her teammate Zhou Yang, however, destroyed the 1,500m competition this morning, taking gold and setting an Olympic record of 2:16.993.

Wang and Zhou’s coach Li Yan, a short track skating silver medalist at the 1992 Albertville Games, told Xinhua last week, “Yes, we are confident that we can continue to dominate this event. Why not?”

That’s what we like to hear.

An athlete’s fairytale ending, on day four of the Vancouver Games Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo finally won the Olympic pairs figure skating gold medal they had been vying for for nearly two decades. The married couple, winning China’s first ever gold in figure skating, had come out of retirement to compete in this Olympics. 

“We’ve been in competitions for many years, and won other medals,” Zhao was quoted in the Associated Press. “But every time we heard the national anthem and saw our flag being raised, we wished it was the Olympic Games. Today we’ve achieved our goal.”




Paul Lisak: Portraying the Soul

A contemporary artist from London, Paul Lisak’s paintings blend together characteristics from the classical school of painting and performance characteristics of modern art. The second time Lisak’s work will be showcased at ARTinCapitals, this exhibit reveals the artist’s dedication to portraying the Greek myth of Aphrodite and Adonis.

Until 28 February. ARTinCapitals Gallery, 20 Donghu Lu. Tel: 5407 7702


Book Review: A Most Immoral Woman by Linda Jaivin

Harper Collins Australia pp 384  

Travel back in time to the beginning of the 1900s to get a glimpse of the floating world of Westerners in China and Japan. Inspired by the true story of George Ernest Morrison, A Most Immoral Woman is first and foremost a fictional tale about Morrison, an Australian doctor, traveller and later China correspondent for The Times in London and his love for a most immoral American heiress, Mae Perkins.

Set against the backdrop of Japan and Russia's war for domination over northeast China, the novel features foreigners that were stationed in China to practice diplomacy, cover the unfolding news, and more. Morrison is like many of those around him -- young and eligible, enjoying life abroad as a bachelor with no desire to settle down -- until his eye is caught by the ravishing Mae Perkins, the daughter of a Californian millionaire. Their passionate affair leads Morrison into murky waters of love, need and a dereliction of his professional duties.

Despite Mae maintaining that she wants nothing to do with commonly held notions of the time about how women of propriety should conduct themselves, she nevertheless leads an honest life -- honestly and unashamedly seeking pleasure.

In a light-hearted manner, the novel touches on the perceptions of gender roles in society -- and their accompanying hypocritical undertones -- as well as treating readers to a colourful sneak peak at expat life in a bygone era. Four stars.

This month's reviewed books are written by authors who are making their way to Shanghai as part of next month's Shanghai International Literary Festival.




Shanghai in Numbers

0 – The number of stars that Confucius was given in a scathing film review posted on Shanghai author Han Han’s blog. Aside from being a writer, 27 year old Han Han is also a model, a race-car driver and now, apparently, a chauvinist. He writes, “Whether it’s Confucius or I am Liu Yuejin, [female directors] are quite bad at grasping…films that aren’t about feelings. I don’t really understand why [female directors] don’t go and make films about life or love.” He’s just sayin’, is all. 

4 – The number of Shanghai universities labelled ‘traitorous’ for including English in their entrance exams but leaving out Chinese. The universities dropped the Chinese component in an effort to ease the burden on applicants, provoking outrage from netizens, nationalists, and various other groups without a bunch of exams to take. 

9,200,000,000 – The amount of RMB handed over by Shanghai Zendai Property Ltd. this week, in exchange for a giant slab of Bund. The sale of the 57,000-square metre plot has set a new Shanghai record for both total and average price. 

2 – The length in hours that folk musician Andrew Bird’s played at Shanghai’s Zhijiang Dream Factory last week. Quite a feat, considering he’s essentially a one-man orchestra. 

100 – The likelihood in percent that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will say or do something to offend someone, should he come to the 2010 Expo. The gaffe-prone leader, who was recently hit in the face with a model of the Tower of Pisa, has expressed an interest in visiting the Italian pavilion later this year. 

10 – The number of giant stainless steel ants climbing a 26-metre pole in newly-opened 106 Creative Square in Zhabei district. Creepy.

- Compiled by Alex Taggart

Movie Review: Bodyguards and Assassins

With a cast of martial-thespians, a sprawling replica of turn-of-the-century Kowloon, and subject matter that sits deep in China’s patriotic heart, it would be a shame if Bodyguards and Assassins failed to deliver the goods.

The film tells the story of Dr Sun Yat-Sen’s return to Hong Kong in 1905, and the efforts of a band of bodyguards to prevent his assassination. Director Teddy Chan attempts no delicate balancing act of historical drama and martial arts action; he simply splits the film right in two. The first half is politics, the second half is fighting.

The story’s patriotic spirit is likely to have both foreigners and Chinese welling up with tears of revolutionary joy. All 12 stars put aside ego in the name of accurate telling of historical events, but Wang Xueqi stands out with his portrayal of businessman-turned-revolutionary Li Yutang (his angry refusal to respect the authority of the British-led Hong Kong police is one of the film’s most stirring moments). Media-superstar du jour Li Yuchun is also notable for a confident yet modest performance in her big screen debut.

Amid a handful of big name New Year turkeys (Jay Chou’s Treasure Hunter, Zhang Yimou’s Simple Noodle Story et al.), only Chan’s movie has been successful both commercially and critically. A political-action-blockbuster may be a tall order, but Bodyguards and Assassins does not disappoint. Four stars.

- Alex Taggart


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