Conspicuous consumption at High Heels 73 Hours

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Experiencing High Heels 73 Hours summed up a whole lot about affluent Chinese life. The “girly apartment-themed lane house cafe” is part of socialite Ruohong Zhao’s restaurant business, comprising of six locations, including the well-received Zhao Xiaojie Bu Deng Wei (a Chinese food place with a name that translates to “Miss Zhao doesn’t wait for a table”). Before getting into the food and beverage business, Zhao was a media personality who has used her friendly personality and social connections to her advantage. Here she is (photo from That’s Shanghai), carrying a bag from 73 Hours (more on that later):

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Her restaurants have successfully branded themselves as places for affluent young women to see and be seen, in settings as beautiful as their designer outfits. It worked – I totally went in High Heels 73 Hours while walking through Shanghai’s former French Concession because it looked cute.

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The ground level is darker and trendy. The bright, happy upstairs space is really nice. Makes me feel like I’m in a friend’s home.

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As the name suggests, high heels are the theme here. A couple websites said that 73 Hours sold high heels in vending machines, but there wasn’t one here. Apparently the 1000 RMB (around $145) shoes (that you can’t try on first because they’re in a vending machine) sell out quick. Um…no.

There was, however, an un-refrigerated fridge with high heels arranged in it. #modernart

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Pretty table settings too. We started off with complimentary glasses of champagne.

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The food, while beautiful, was not all great, especially considering the prices, which were the kind of prices you’d find in America. Since this is China, that means expensive.

My friend Peace had this omelette, croissant, sausage, and salad plate which was good but nothing special.

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I ordered a stunning seafood risotto (78 RMB if my memory serves me). It came to the table when Peace was almost finished with her food – I’ve written about the endemic inability of restaurants in China to bring out food with appropriate timing in restaurants where everyone orders their own food. On the other hand, Chinese banquets don’t have this problem because food is served family-style.

I wanted to like the risotto so much but after the first few bites when the dish cooled down, it became apparent that the spicy tomato sauce was ketchup-based. Using ketchup as a tomato sauce substitute is never ok.

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On the plus size, there were generous amounts of seafood and a good variety – shrimp, clams, mussels, and squid.

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Originally, we weren’t decided on whether we’d get dessert or not. Then this was delivered to a table next to us, so immediately we had to get one too.

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The Swiss roll strawberry mousse (68 RMB) was amazing! On the outside, snappy white chocolate, a candy gem, and sugar pearls. Inside, vibrant, moist strawberry sponge cake and wonderful strawberry mousse. (The cake alone made this the best Swiss roll I’ve ever had.) Whipped cream, fresh strawberries and blueberries, mint, and a chocolate disc finished the presentation. It was very sweet and big enough for two people to split.

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More beautifully-constructed desserts from the menu:

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For the amount of effort put into the presentation here, I’d say the desserts are a great value.

It got weird as we left. I couldn’t finish my ketchup-flavored risotto so I asked for a to-go container so I could feed it to the stray cat that lived in the courtyard of my apartment complex. The risotto went in a normal plastic tub but the bag that came with it was way too luxurious for leftovers. Stiff cardstock, gold foil, a silky cord. Peace is contemplating the extravagance.

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I guess this is part of the over-the-top image of the brand? In the photo of Zhao Ruohong above, she’s carrying a bag with the same aesthetic with the same 73 Hours logo on it only it’s even more extravagant. Is that, like, a hatbox? For carrying restaurant leftovers? This is edging into Chanel Chinese food takeout box bag territory, except it’s disposable so it’s not a Chanel bag. Maybe they’re going for a Lululemon strategy. Lululemon purchases all come in a reusable shopping bag which, unlike most reusable bags you see at supermarkets, are free and have cool designs any trend-chasing millennial can integrate into their “it’s-not-like-I’m-trying-or-anything” “effortless chic” outfits. These 73 Hours bags are pretty durable and eye-catching, just like the Lululemon ones.

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Then we went to the bathroom. There were several private bathrooms next to each other, all spotlessly clean, with eclectic decorations.

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The ladies rooms had brand-name makeup, and a lot of it. I’ve seen lotion in bathrooms for communal use before, but never eye shadow. Think of the germs. Who is using communal eyeshadow? Ew.

It turns out that the communal eyeshadow was the only thing anyone could use, because the lotions  were all empty. The perfume boxes were also empty. Everything was there for show. This is taking the “welcome to my home” vibe too far. I’m not sure if this is more tacky or more chabuduo to have empty luxury cosmetics that shouldn’t be shared in the first place.

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Conspicuous consumption, media entrepreneurship, image-conscious young women, ketchup masquerading as tomato sauce, expensive tackiness, and chabuduo. This is how the China’s rising consumer class lives.

 

High Heels 73 Hours

502 Julu Lu, Shanghai

 

 

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