Since his 2010 debut solo project in Shanghai—Table No. 1—Brit star chef Jason Atherton has opened a swift succession of buzz-worthy restaurants in Singapore, Hong Kong, and London. The Gordon Ramsay protégé has now returned to China’s second city with the Commune Social, a hip neighborhood tapas and dessert bar manned by chef Scott Melvin and pastry maestro Kim Lyle. Following Atherton’s mission to “deformalize fine dining,” the narrow eatery, which occupies the annex of a Concession-era police station, has a no-reservations, no-service-charge policy and zero table trimmings. Instead, gourmands happily bump elbows at iron counters around the open kitchens, as they tuck into hearty sharing plates. The Spanish breakfast is a favorite, topped with crispy chorizo and smoked potato foam, while a perfectly crisp-skinned suckling pig is served in its copper roasting pan with charred pineapple and sherry dressing. Afterwards, guests can relocate to the upstairs cocktail bar that opens onto a roof terrace or—better yet —to the dessert bar. Here, Lyle gleefully wields blowtorches and dry-ice canisters as she creates things like a crunchy peanut ice cream with red berries and salted peanut caramel. The dentist mirrors overhead are yet another reminder that masterful food need not be too serious.
511 Jiangning Lu, Jing’an; 86-21/6047-7638; communesocial.com.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2013 issue of DestinAsian.