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Buddha_Belly

Shanghai Restaurant Recommendations

115 posts in this topic

best what?

are you talking about shanghai?


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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That's a rather broad question, like asking "where's the best Parisian food in Paris?" Are you interested in "high" cuisine, or more popular forms like traditional street foods?

Some good "old-line" places are Lao Banzhai, Lao Zhenxing and Wangbaohe (for crab).

Let us know what you are thinking of, maybe we can get a thread going here.

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That's a rather broad question, like asking "where's the best Parisian food in Paris?"  Are you interested in "high" cuisine, or more popular forms like traditional street foods?

Some good "old-line" places are Lao Banzhai, Lao Zhenxing and Wangbaohe (for crab).

Let us know what you are thinking of, maybe we can get a thread going here.

yes, that's more like it.

the question was very broad and non-specific.

Even if you get as specific as

"Where can I get the best Shanghaiese food in Shanghai?"

that's still general. but a start at least.


Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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Maybe this extension of Buddha's original question could help kickstart the thread. Can anyone help me with the following quest: I'm in the very early stages of planning a 10 day or 2 week trip to Shanghai and surrounds. Like all my travel, I'm basically going there to eat. I'm not really terribly interested in fine dining while there. Street food/daily life/local flavour and character is more my interest. I suppose the equivalent is, if I went to New York, I'd hit Jane's Corner Bistro for a burger, rather than Jean Georges (quite possibly even if I had the money! Well... OK, i'd go to both)

Are there any spots I should definitely seek out, not miss? Any local 'institutions' to track down?

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as a loyal Beijinger, I dislike Shanghai with a passion, however nothing compares to the xiaolongbao at yuyuan (Yu Gardens). Pay a little extra and go into the restaurant or just wait in line with the "masses"...Yu Gardens isn't worth going into, but just hitting the central area with the xiaolongbao and also the tea house, but now a Starbucks also in that area...Lao Shanghai is good, but becoming too much of a chain...Thats about all I have for Shanghai's local food recommendations...

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as a loyal Beijinger, I dislike Shanghai with a passion, however nothing compares to the xiaolongbao at yuyuan (Yu Gardens). Pay a little extra and go into the restaurant or just wait in line with the "masses"...Yu Gardens isn't worth going into, but just hitting the central area with the xiaolongbao and also the tea house,  but now a Starbucks also in that area...Lao Shanghai is good, but becoming too much of a chain...Thats about all I have for Shanghai's local food recommendations...

LOL, I'm a nice guy, so I won't tell you what my sister-in-law says about Beijing except that it ends with ".....BUT the people there are very friendly." I love Shanghai and plan to spend half my life there after retiring (we already have a comfortable apartment in SH).

You are right about the XLB at the Nanxiang Dumpling shop. The last time I was in town I waited a full HOUR with "the masses" at the downstairs takeout window for a single long of baozi. Not a single one of the locals in the line appeared to be grumbling about the wait, such is the anticipation of those xiaolong bao. They're still the standard all other XLB should be judged against.

Here's what passes for Xiaolong Bao in Beijing:

BEIJING XIAOLONG BAO

steamer.jpg

.... and at Yuyuan in Shanghai:

SHANGHAI XIAOLONG BAO

xlb00.jpg

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as a loyal Beijinger, I dislike Shanghai with a passion, however nothing compares to the xiaolongbao at yuyuan (Yu Gardens). Pay a little extra and go into the restaurant or just wait in line with the "masses"...Yu Gardens isn't worth going into, but just hitting the central area with the xiaolongbao and also the tea house,  but now a Starbucks also in that area...Lao Shanghai is good, but becoming too much of a chain...Thats about all I have for Shanghai's local food recommendations...

LOL, I'm a nice guy, so I won't tell you what my sister-in-law says about Beijing except that it ends with ".....BUT the people there are very friendly." I love Shanghai and plan to spend half my life there after retiring (we already have a comfortable apartment in SH).

You are right about the XLB at the Nanxiang Dumpling shop. The last time I was in town I waited a full HOUR with "the masses" at the downstairs takeout window for a single long of baozi. Not a single one of the locals in the line appeared to be grumbling about the wait, such is the anticipation of those xiaolong bao. They're still the standard all other XLB should be judged against.

Here's what passes for Xiaolong Bao in Beijing:

BEIJING XIAOLONG BAO

steamer.jpg

.... and at Yuyuan in Shanghai:

SHANGHAI XIAOLONG BAO

xlb00.jpg

Are you saying that yu yuan and Nanxiang dumpling shop are the same place?

If so, where in Shanghai is it?

Can you talk more about the other Shanghaiese restaurants you mentioned.

Actually I will be in Shanghai during March and would love to hear more thoughts on places you like, what you dishes you eat where, and enough information to actually find the restaurants you're talking about.

thanks, Ed

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Are you saying that yu yuan and Nanxiang dumpling shop are the same place?

If so, where in Shanghai is it?

Can you talk more about the other Shanghaiese restaurants you mentioned.

Actually I will be in Shanghai during March and would love to hear more thoughts on places you like, what you dishes you eat where, and enough information to actually find the restaurants you're talking about.

thanks, Ed

The name of the landmark xiaolong bao place is actually "Nanxiang Xiaolong Mantou Dian", and it's located in the Yuyuan classical garden area of the Old City, which is undoubtedly the No. 1 tourist magnet in Shanghai.

I've always had local help (now family help) since I first started going to Shanghai in 1992, and have mostly stuck with the old-line places, local cheapo favorites and street foods, and am not too familiar with the newer, more accessible (in terms of English-speakers) that expats and travelers get to, though I can point to some of the literature and on-line resources.

How long will be there, and where will you be staying? What sort of help will you have from travelling companions or local contacts in terms of communicating and navigating? I know you have been involved with Chinese restaurants; can you speak Mandarin? Read a simplified Chinese menu? It will be helpful to know these things. I'll put together some resources and collect some thoughts for you, and maybe arrange a little help over there if need be.

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I'll work on thinking up more local flavor type restaurants in Shanghai, but as was said earlier, if you have any Chinese speaking ability or sense of adventure, just stop into some local restaurants along the way, its a good way to really see what locals are eating. I know one thing I loved about Shanghai was how, late at night, you would see locals setting up their little, i guess it would be equivalent to the da pai dongs of HK, just little stalls along the street where you could get pretty good food very cheap. I would have never survived a semester at Fudan without the vendor at the west gate who would set up shop selling spicy fried chicken every night...Okay, thinking about more restaurants, Shanghai Ren Jia is very good traditional Shanghai fare with restaurants around the city, ask your concierge for the closest one. For upscale dining there is the Xintiandi area with 2 favorites, The Dome (very...interesting, set in an old Orthodox church) and Ye Shanghai, but anything in that area will be very expensive. Xintiandi is interesting, at the very least for the contrast, expensive restaurants and bars charging up to 80 RMB for a can of coke (CRAZY!!!) while if you keep walking a bit, you will be at the sight of the first Communist Party Congress...This is New China for you...

For Sichuan food that isn't too spicy (Shanghai people can't handle it), hit Darling Harbour (Dalinggang) on Nanjing Xi Lu. I had really good Sichuan at a place in Pudong across from the Crowne Plaza, but the name escapes me...I will ask around and see if I can come up with a few more...

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There's some perception shining through chengb02's unreconstructed Beijinger outlook, especially with regard to the Shanghai Ren Jia chain and the street food. I don't know if you're going to be looking for Sichuan food in Shanghai, but Shanghainese have palates sophisticated enough to know that there's a lot more complexity to Sichuan food than high heat (which can easily be used to mask lousy food). You'll find, for example, that they make a lot of use of "Yu Xiang" treatments in their own foods. A knowledgeable source tells me that the best Sichuan cuisine may actually be at a restaurant in the the Hilton, and another one suggests a place called the Shanghai Rose Queen in the Xujiahui area.

The Dome (aka Ashanti Dome) might be for another time, as it's French and pricey. As a general rule, I tend to flee from restaurants with one-word names, but a restaurant called "Grape", next door to another Russian Orthodox church (you can't miss it, the dome looks like a giant blue onion) is not a bad option. It's beloved of locals and foodie expats alike, and cheap. It's also the only place I've seen dog on an English menu, though I'm told it's very well-prepared dog. :laugh:

I'll come up with more strateries and locational specifics later, once I have some sense of your parameters.

It'll be great if this becomes a rich, undying thread!

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Gary, sorry to offend...well, my comment about street foods was just because in a lot of other parts of China there is nothing similar and I just think its cool how after around 8 or 9 pm many of the side streets just sort of clog with people setting up their mini restaurants. As for the dome, I would consider it more as fusion or "modern Chinese" and not so much pure French. The "lavender menu" there is one of the more creative dinners I've had in China. However its Xintiandi and so its a bit overpriced, for a first timer, unless a big foodie, I would advise against it. As for the "Yu Xiang" comment, touche...Yes, its true that not all Sichuan dishes need to be extremely spicy, but there are some that should, and I haven't had many that have been spicy enough in Shanghai. Talking with a friend who used to run a Sichuan restaurant in Shanghai, this is mainly because of the Shanghainese palete. I am interested in hearing your suggestions in general though, as my typical stops in Shanghai are usually short and are usually business related and so its hard for me to avoid the Xintiandi/M on the Bund type meals....Do you have a recommendation for a good dongbei restaurant in Shanghai? Any ideas on whats happening with 3 on the Bund? I will try to keep my regionalism contained in future posts, but I agree this is a good discussion and hope that it can continue. There arre so many good restaurants in the major cities in China, both for high cuisine as well as local Chinese food. Being able to speak Chinese is a huge advantage as you can just stop anywhere around a neighborhood and probably have an excellent meal, the only problem is finding them. As I said, recent visits have confined me to specific areas of the city so its a little harder. As an aside, two more questions to ponder...What is the best place for a meal around Nanjing Xi lu or Hua Haui Zhong? What about a good bar in Maoming Lu?

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Xiao Cheng, I couldn't resist tweaking you for your intital attitude, and it's all in jest. In any event, I'm well aware of Shanghai-bashing, which seems to be a national sport in China outside of Shanghai. IMHO, it's a combination of envy and intimidation by the "front" that Shanghainese tend to put up.

I currently only get to Shanghai once every year or two and for three to four weeks at a time. That will change soon, depending on when the stock market decides I can retire. When we are there, we travel on my wife's idea of a budget, which means we seldom have a meal that would put a dent in your expense account report. When we are in the Nanjing Lu area at lunch or dinner time, we usually head for Yunnan Lu and indulge in stuff like Xiao Shaoxing, Paigu Niangao and other "xiao chi" (that's something like small plates, for those who want to know). Last time around we did get to Lao Banzhai on Fouzhou Lu for one of our "high end" meals (maybe $30 for three people) and it was still living up to its reputation as one of the best old-line places.

Sad to say, our favorite place in the Huaihai Zhong Lu area (and favorite in all of Shanghai for family gatherings) has bit the dust, a victim of progress. That was "Yue You" on Fenyang Lu, now replaced by an ultra-trenty, ultra-pricey Japonais venue called "Aroma" (another dreaded one-word restaurant name).

Not being a swinging single I've never been to a bar in Shanghai, but I do down more of my fair share of the palindromatic Reeb Beer with dinner and sometimes before and after. That's my beer recommendation, if Eddie is listening. Get the Gold (second from the left).

REEB BEER

12-11-01.jpg

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Hey Gary

On those photos of xiaolongbao what were the Beijing ones? (apart from, yeah, blatantly not xiaolongbao!) - haven't seen them before; what was inside them?

They actually looked spookily like the shanghai version of shao mai they sell on the streets - stuffed with steamed rice and chinese sausage

cheerio

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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Hey Gary

On those photos of xiaolongbao what were the Beijing ones? (apart from, yeah, blatantly not xiaolongbao!) - haven't seen them before; what was inside them?

They actually looked spookily like the shanghai version of shao mai they sell on the streets - stuffed with steamed rice and chinese sausage

cheerio

J

Jon, the pic is a link to an image on Ditty Deamer's Breakfast in China website. She's spent quite a bit of time in both BJ and Shanghai investigating street foods so I'm guessing that she didn't find it totally improbable that such a thing could be represented as xiaolong bao. The picture you refer to is of the leading contenders in my "ugly xiaolong bao" contest. Second place is currently held by the beauties below:

First Runner Up -- Ugly Xiaolong Bao Competition

steamedbuns2.jpg

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How long will be there, and where will you be staying? What sort of help will you have from travelling companions or local contacts in terms of communicating and navigating? I know you have been involved with Chinese restaurants; can you speak Mandarin? Read a simplified Chinese menu? It will be helpful to know these things. I'll put together some resources and collect some thoughts for you, and maybe arrange a little help over there if need be.

I'll be in shanghai and environs for a week. Don't have a hotel yet, but would love to hear what you might suggest (really nice, not too dear)

We will be traveling with a literate Chinese Mandarin speaking friend. My own speaking skills are limited to food, money, greetings and bad words. I usually do quite well here in a Chinese speaking environment where there is some English - over there, well I'm not so sure - but I'll have no trouble ordering dumplings. Absolutely minimal reading, just a few basic food characters.

Love any help or contacts - we have a few people to look up already.

Very interested in:

Great Shanghai cooking

Great dumplings

Local seafood

Great classic restaurants (other categories: old, particularly beautiful, the most popular, great BBQ, red-cooking specialties)

Street food

Markets

Egg cream venues

thanks for your thoughts

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I'll be in shanghai and environs for a week. Don't have a hotel yet, but would love to hear what you might suggest (really nice, not too dear).......

For starters, here's a good link for finding a hotel at a good price. You can book through it if you like.

Shanghai Hotels

I don't know that much about the hotels, since I haven't had to deal with them in recent years (we have an apartment in Shanghai) but you can pretty much go by the stars. A three-star would be about the equivalent of a run-of-the-mill Holiday Inn; some rankings might be a little inflated at the high end. The Peace Hotel (North Building) and the Jinjiang Hotel (not the tower) are very historic and charming, and may not have the level of amenities of the more modern places. If you are going to do some strolling, I'd suggest Nanjing Lu (East or West) or People's Square area. I would avoid Pudong, just too inconvenient.

I'll get back to you with more info on foods and restaurants.

Egg cream????

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This is with Eddie and his Grand Tour in mind, but possibly interesting to others. These are my thoughts on not necessarily the best (in some cases definitely not) but the most notable old-style Shanghainese restaurants:

Shanghai Old Restaurant (Lao Fandian)

242 Fuyou Road

This use to be the lead recommendation in all guidebooks, but the food has gone way downhill. It's pricey by local standards, but of historical interest. It's the dowdy Grande Dame of Shanghainese restaurants, and there's usually a music ensemble on a small stage playing classical Chinese music. Don't order the braised eel, the last time we were there it was a few meager shreds of eel swimming in an ocean of oil, yet it's one of their priciest dishes. The salt and (Sichuan) pepper ribs are still good, however, and probably the red-cooked pork dishes as well.

Sun Ya (Xinya)

719 Nanjing Lu

I've posted on the importance of this place in the interface between Cantonese food and the western appetite during the concession era and its possible impact on expectations of Cantonese cuisine abroad. Like Lao Fandian, whatever glories its cuisine ever had have faded, and you'll find it very familiar to your experiences in middling Cantonese restaurants in the US. They do (or at least did) have one floor devoted to seafood hot-pot, however, and it was excellent in its bounty of fresh seafood, including live shrimps (the ones that tried to make a break for it got tossed into the pot first). They also serve a great fried milk dessert.

Lao Banzhai

600 Fuzhou Lu

Lao Banzhai has similar pretenses to elegance as Lao Fandian (the Eight Treasure tea setups at every place setting is a tipoff) but is less pricey and has much better food. The braised eel here is very good, and, living up to its reputation as a "Yangzhou style" restaurant, has what may be as good a "Lion's Head" meatball dish as anywhere in town.

Meilongzhen

22 Lane 1081, Nanjing Xi Lu

Meilongzhen started out as a Sichuan restaurant and morphed into a Shanghainese restaurant with Sichuan characteristics, sort of a spicy third stream alongside the saltiness of Zhejiang cuisine and the sweetness of Jiangsu cuisine. It's one of the toughest tables in town to get, especially during wedding season, and probably the main reason every family's cook has ma la doufu in her/his repertoire. The twice-cooked pork and the eggplant dishes are exceptional. They also have a Sichuan-style tea service, with the long-spout tea kettles.

Lao Zhengxing

556 Fuzhou Lu

A favorite of mine, even though it moved from its original homey premises near the old city to a larger, glitzier space. It serves food which tends to be lighter than elsewhere, serving seafood by season and good fowl dishes too. It's especially famous for its herring dishes during winter, but will always have fresh fish and shrimp dishes. It's a good place to try the "squirrel fish", and it also serves a furong chicken dish I like. Along with Meilongzhen, it's the most copied restaurant name from Shanghai

Wang Baohe

603 Fuzhou Lu

Wang Baohe bills itself as the "king of crabs and ancestor of wine". It's been around for about 250 years, originally as a wine house and is especially famous for it's hairy crab set meals. If you saw the Iron Chef special where Chef Michiba went to Shanghai and prepared a crab feast, it was Wang Baohe's kitchen he took over for an afternoon. Even if it's not "hairy" crab season, they will have plenty of fresh crustaceans available. Pricey, by Shanghai standards, but won't bust your per diem.

Meiyuancun

255 Dalian Xi Lu (Hongkou)

4. No. 240 Lane, Beijing Xilu

18 Xizang Zhong Lu (newest branch)

Meiyuancun is my wife's favorite for "stepping out" in Shanghai, probably because the original branch is in her old Hongkou neighborhood. Its somewhat unusual in that its fame spread from a neighborhood to downtown instead of vice versa, and there are now two branches in the downtown area. It's strong in the seafood and vegetable areas, and in attention to presentation, but is quite reasonably priced. Meiyuancun also serves what some consider the best Beijing duck in Shanghai.

More thoughts later on less formal dining and snacks in Shanghai.

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I am heading to Shanghai in Feb 2005 and will have a full 48 hours in the city. I realize I should spend more time but the plans just worked out that way.

If you have been to Shanghai I would really appreciate some feedback on the following:

Top few things to experience/do while in Shanghai?

Top few foods to try or maybe a restaurant recommendation or two.

A travel resource (book, map, website) you found helpful for your trip.

I also think I read that currently there are no eG'ers in Shanghai, is this still correct to anybody's knowledge?

Thanks in advance for responses.

Willie

Some eG threads on Shanghai:

What is Shanghai cuisine: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=42275

Some Shanghai observations: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=16283

Some Shanghai dining recs from the NYT.: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=13992


Edited by Sweet Willie (log)

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be"

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The best meals I had in Shanghai were always street food: Xiao long bao (small steamed dumplings), la mian tang (noodle soup - the noodles are made in front of you), etc. I know Shanghai is supposed to be famous for seafood dishes with light sauces, but when I was there, it wasn't what I was looking for.

The Peace Hotel on the Bund has an amazing American style brunch on Sundays, but it doesn't sound like you'll be gone from the States long enough to appreciate the anomaly! :biggrin:

Happy travels! I wish I had your plans!


I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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If you can get somebody to get you into the China Club -- for lunch, for a drink, for anything -- go and plan on taking an hour to walk up the stairs. The food is fine, but the art on the walls is absolutely staggering.

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first off, while 48 hours is never enough in any major city in the world, it should be enough to hit the main sights in Shanghai, as many of them are outdoors (ie buildings or the Bund). I would definitely recommend hitting the Shanghai Museum and seeing the Bund. For a first timer to the city, I would recommend a trip up the Pearl TV Tower (or alternatively a drink in the bar of the Grand Hyatt, which is only open at night). Outside of that, I would leave restaurant recommendations to those who know more about Shanghai than I do. However, if you decide to go to the Yu Gardens in your short time (which is a popular tourist stop), I would definitely make sure to grab some Nanxiang Xiao Long Bao, some of the best in the city. Hopefully you won't be there on a weekend, or else you may spend more time waiting for a table than you do actually seeing the gardens. Another thing about restaurant recommendations in China is that places pop up and change very fast, so asking now for Febuarary is very early. Sorry I can't really help on travel books, but I would advise to grab one of the city magazines or visit them online (for example www.thatsshanghai.com), but beware, much like Where? magazine in the states, their reviews are not always reliable.

As an aside, Gary, do you know anything about Shanghai's contemporary art museum?

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The Peace Hotel on the Bund has an amazing American style brunch on Sundays, but it doesn't sound like you'll be gone from the States long enough to appreciate the anomaly! :biggrin:

This is one of the great things about China (well, Beijing and Shanghai at least), you can get unbelievable food, typically at really good prices, from around the world. The Bund is a great example of that, with many hotels offering really good breakfeasts, M on the Bund, and the (now not so) newly opened 3 on the Bund, which includes a Jean Georges.

At the same time, it is interesting how high the standard is for "authentic" Chinese food. So much so that for the most part, the only way you can get truly "authentic" Sichuan food for example, is by traveling to Sichuan Province.

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As an aside, Gary, do you know anything about Shanghai's contemporary art museum?

Are you addressing that to me? (I'm on vacation and only have occasional access to the net, so I haven't been paying very close attention, and will be in a better position to shoot my mouth off come this weekend).

The Shanghai Contemporary Art Museum (aka Shanghai Art Museum) is "official", hence conservative. Best to start with the private galleries, starting with ShanghArt next door to Judy's Too by Fuxing Park.

The Shanghai Museum, on the other hand, is a definite must for anyone who has any interest at all in Chinese antiquities.

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