Smoking cigars in Shanghai, China's largest city.
Your first thought is to stuff your travel humidor. Why? Because you're Shanghai-bound and you have no idea if good cigars have made it to mainland China. Well, stop fretting and save that space in your suitcase for something else, because China's largest city has recently become ground zero for Cuban cigars. Thanks to Eddie Li, the globe-trotting owner of the upscale cigar lounge Harvana Nirvana, not only have good cigars made it here, but the ideal place to enjoy them has as well.
Havana Nirvana's layout consists of a handsome full bar, a cigar lounge and an accessories display area -- complete with cigar-related publications for sale. Walking through the front door is like entering a candy store for cigar enthusiasts. A wall of clubby-looking, custom-designed private humidor lockers outfitted with brass lionheads catches your eye. Walk on to discover the reason you came -- the stogies. More than 70 Cuban cigar varieties and sizes are displayed behind the glass doors of a state-of-the-art walk-in humidor. This place is so well stocked that it seems almost unimaginable that there won't have something to please your palate. One look at the cigar collection and the cedar-lined private lockers lining the outside of the humidor and you know Eddie is on the right track. (The lockers can be rented for U.S.$435 per year.)
Attentively maintained by Eddie at a lovingly constant 63 degrees Fahrenheit with 75 percent humidity, this walk-in-humidor is stogie heaven. The humidor utilizes a sponge-roller that picks up moisture from within the unit and disperses it.
Because there's not much to do in Shanghai outside of working and shopping (both of which get old fast), one's hobbies and diversions become the focus of intense analysis and doting. Sometimes it's hard to get a life in Shanghai, but it's not hard to get a cigar -- anymore. And with that cigar, have yourself a Mojito made with (oh my God) fresh-picked mint, a rarity in China. Or try a Cuba Libre. If your eyes get thirsty, Li has plastered an array of antique cigar bands set out in frames throughout Havana Nirvana's interior.
If you want to quench more than your thirst and eyes, Li's thought of that as well. As Havana Nirvana is not equipped with a full kitchen, food comes directly from one of the restaurants in the adjoining Ritz-Carlton Hotel, just a few feet outside from the cigar lounge. The arrangement works well. How many cigar bars offer such a wide selection of international cuisines? Patrons can choose from such cuisines as Cantonese (big surprise there), Thai, Malaysian, Japanese, American-style Tony Roma's and from the Hard Rock Café as well. There's even good pizza, delivered fresh from the popular Long Bar next door.
Since you're in Shanghai and can't help but become wrapped up in the shopping frenzy, you may as well check out Havana Nirvana's retail displays. With a full range of cigar accessories (including cutters, lighters, exquisite handmade travel humidors, ashtrays and cases), something is bound to appeal to the cigar lover in you. No designer knockoffs here, and that's something that cannot be said for the mean streets below.
Nancy Johnson is a writer living in Shanghai, China.
2/F, Shanghai Centre Retail Plaza, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu
(8621) 6279 8008
Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. - 12 a.m.
Sundays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.