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China’s Most Exciting Restaurant Chains Dazzle with Creative and Luxe New Menu Concepts

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When one thinks of opulence, of trend-consciousness, of an authentic, artisanal dining experience in a hip and fashionable environment, the name that immediately leaps to mind, naturally, is…

Taco Bell.

Lately, China has become the testing grounds for innovative brands worldwide, and nowhere is this modern dynamism and energy more exemplified than in the tastes and trends of her ever-evolving food and beverage scene. Like never before, we are witnessing the most exciting chain restaurant franchises leading the charge to bold and authentic new flavors on our dinner plates. Here in China, American fast food is going upmarket — to the thrill and delight of discerning palates across the land.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2019 and beyond, the key concepts for watchers of this culinary stage are “luxury,” “extravagance,” “exorbitance” — in a word: fashion, fashion, fashion.

So dig in, foodies! And rejoice! Here are five indulgent recommendations from China’s most forward-thinking and boundary-pushing chain restaurants and eateries.

white castle shanghai taco bell healthy kfc fast food china | RADII China

White Castle’s Black Truffle and Cheese Fondue Sliders

The storied American hamburger chain was welcomed with open arms when they opened the first of their several Shanghai outlets in 2017.

Widely known for their delectable slider hamburgers perfected back in the 1920s, White Castle knew they needed to up the ante for the “Pearl of the Orient,” catering to diners with more refined tastes. And up the ante they did, my friends.

To wit: their Black Truffle and Cheese Fondue Sliders.

Starting with the former, think rich and earthy tones of black truffle oil perfectly married to their legendary trademark onion-rich beef patty.

Exquisite. Exhilarating. Inspired. A triumph.

Upping the stakes with their Cheese Fondue offering, this slider arrives promptly to your table accompanied by wait staff ready to lovingly ensconce the dish in a velvety, lip-smacking curtain of liquid processed American cheese. (“Liquid gold,” it really must be said.)

The dish is rounded out with a playful dusting of black sesame seeds to taste.

white castle shanghai taco bell healthy kfc fast food china | RADII China

Flawless.

Of course, we’d like to see both of these offerings available as part of a prix fixe lunch (hope you’re reading this, White Castle!) but the authentic Angus Beef Sliders already on offer do much to ease the disappointment.

Salud! Taco Bell’s Tequila Sunrise, Green Mojito, and California Sunset Oolong Ice Tea

Discerning cocktail chasers are in for a treat when pairing a tried-and-true burrito meal deal from Taco Bell with something a bit more *festive* from the trendy and bustling on-site cocktail bar.

We’re pleased to report that Taco Bell’s kitchen staff are as well-versed in the esteemed art of mixing up sexy drinks as they are in crafting their trademark array of Burrito, Nacho, Taco, and Quesadilla creations.

white castle shanghai taco bell healthy kfc fast food cocktails china | RADII China

On a recent visit, we gavotted up and down their menu, enjoying the Tequila Sunrise, Green Mojito, and their latest offering: the dazzlingly Technicolor “California Sunset Oolong Ice Tea.” 

Very Insta-friendly, foodies!

white castle shanghai cocktails cheap bars taco bell healthy kfc fast food china | RADII China

One would be forgiven for being worried that presentation would take precedent over taste, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Expect a bright, fresh, and fruity affair with orange accents playing off a full-bodied Bacardi base.

We recommend applying the libation liberally, whilst taking in the trendy urban graffiti decor — think hip, Los Angeles taco truck meets TLC music video.

white castle shanghai taco bell healthy kfc fast food china | RADII China

The brand that taught us to “Live Más” have cemented themselves in Shanghai as a deftly on-trend nightlife destination. Their sophisticated bookings of cutting edge local urban DJ talent — paired with aforementioned cocktails, of course! — ensure an evening out on the town full of vibes to die for.

KFC’s New Healthy KPRO Concept — One “Kale” of an Idea

Where to begin with the recent culinary pyrotechnics that have come to us from one of our most beloved restaurant chains, Kentucky Fried Chicken — known in the P-R-C as simply K-F-C?

From their KFC taco constructed from a leveled chicken breast to their KFC pizza lovingly handcrafted from the same, the name of the game for this brand has been “invention” on a truly inspired level.

Related:

The Chizza Lands in China: KFC’s ‘Chicken X Pizza’ Hybrid is Oddly Satisfying

In doing such an article justice, we knew we had to try their new, exclusively China-launched, healthy, all-day dining concept, KPRO. On the menu: funky, fresh, and fun salad and sandwich creations that make use of a bevy of ingredients for the body-conscious to dazzling effect.

These seasonally focused plates are precise and meaningful — flawless in presentation and delicate in balance.

white castle shanghai taco bell healthy kfc fast food china | RADII China

At last one can enjoy a flavorful and toothsome KFC dining experience without the guilt that hitherto accompanied such an endeavor. One to seek out for kale lovers as well.

From Brunch to Aperitivo at Starbucks’ Reserve Bakery Cafe

For discerning foodies, knowing where to go for brunch presents an almost paralyzing quandary.

Mercifully Starbucks answered Shanghai diners’ desperate cries, and rescued us with their new Reserve Bakery Cafe, serving just that in the form of frittata, cornetti sandwiches, eggs, fruit and grain dishes, portobello plates, and fresh pastries.

Think fresh, bold, and sumptuous flavors. Think modern twists on classics. Think authentic and trendy concepts in a fully immersive, see-and-be-seen environment.

Related:

Starbucks Opens Kind of Intimidating “Reserve Roastery” in Shanghai

“But what’s brunch without the booze?” one must reasonably enquire. Starbucks Reserve Bakery Cafe has Starbucks-branded craft beer, wine, and a range of signature cocktails on offer — even Duval-Leroy champagne. Cin cin.

For the teetotalers, why not a tasting flight of their fine artisanal coffees?

McDonald’s is Serving Fried Chicken in Gold Buckets

McDonald’s is serving fried chicken in gold buckets!

white castle shanghai mcdonalds taco bell healthy kfc fast food china | RADII China

Muah!

Morgan Short
    Morgan Short is a writer and editor based in Shanghai, China.

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