Shanghai: The Return

owner of local favorite Shanghai Bistro wants to reopen

Mike Paulus, photos by Thresa Zvolena

BACK ON A ROLL. Announced via Facebook on Sept. 28, Shanghai Bistro owner Henry Chan will reopen the sushi and American-Chinese eatery, aiming to open its doors near the first of the year. The restaurant closed in early 2016.
BACK ON A ROLL. Announced via Facebook on Sept. 28, Shanghai Bistro owner Henry Chan will reopen the sushi and American-Chinese eatery, aiming to open its doors near the first of the year. The restaurant closed in early 2016.

According to Shanghai Bistro owner Henry Chan, “When Shanghai opened in 2004 sushi was not mainstream. Sushi was very new and exotic in Eau Claire. As Eau Claire’s first sushi bar, we talked to a lot of people and suggested they try sushi. One of the most memorable comments we heard often was ‘Sorry. We don’t eat our bait.’” 

As Eau Claire’s first sushi bar, we talked to a lot of people and suggested they try sushi. One of the most memorable comments we heard often was ‘Sorry. We don’t eat our bait.’ ” – Henry Chan, owner, Shanghai Bistro

His chefs would prepare a half pint of spicy tuna mix – one of the sushi world’s most popular varieties – only to throw the whole thing away. But they kept at it, and eventually Shanghai Bistro (and its sister eatery in Hudson) would go through a whole pint in an hour. By the time the restaurant closed its doors in 2016, things had changed. Sushi had became a relatively common item at Asian restaurants in the area and the restaurant had found a loyal customer base attracted to its American-Chinese menu and – yes – its sushi. Yet Shanghai still closed. Chan had started other businesses outside of his native Chippewa Valley, and his mother, who’d been running the restaurant in his stead, was ready to retire.

Now that loyal customer base has reason to rejoice. After months of his mother prodding him to find a way to reopen, Chan, who still owns Shanghai’s building at 2930 Craig Road, returned to Eau Claire for a short visit in late September. He hadn’t really seen the city in a few years, and driving around town, he was amazed at the recent changes – downtown’s development and a bunch of new, ambitious restaurants. He’d also been keeping tabs on the national attention Eau Claire has received over the past year and a half. All of this boiled down to a big decision: Shanghai Bistro will reopen its doors.

Chan says that while nothing is set in stone, he’d like to reopen the restaurant around the first of the year, with a refresh of both the interior and the exterior. As for the menu, Chan knows he needs to bring back the old favorites – the Chinese dishes and sushi rolls and appetizers that kept people coming back. But he’d also like to offer dishes new to the area. He’s experimented with a modern fusion menu at Hudson’s Shanghai, seeing what works and what falls flat, and he hopes to liven things up in Eau Claire with a rotating menu of more complex, seasonal Edo-style sushi in addition to the standards.

Time will tell how everything shakes out, but Chan believes the time is right to give Eau Claire – its people and their tastes – another try.

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