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amyknyc

Beijing, Shanghai and Surrounding Areas

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I just found out that I'm heading to Shanghai and Hong Kong in less than a month for about 9 days total (3 in Shanghai and the rest in HK). I've combed these boards and others and am trying to put together some restaurant lists for me and my husband (who does lots of business in Shanghai but only seems to eat at Italian restaurants). We're in our late 20s, and both pretty adventurous eaters from NYC who can handle spicy food and I'd love some input from anyone who's been to either of these cities recently.

So far, I've found more info on HK and am considering:

Fook Lam Moon

Maxim (city hall)

Luk Yu Teahouse

Seafood in Cheung Chau island or Sai Kung

Da Ping Huo

Yu

Aqua

Any thoughts?

In Shanghai, I don't really want to do 3 on the Bund, since we've eaten at most of the J-G restaurants here, but am more looking for really good local restaurants. (As an aside, Pan, I saw your posting about Old Shanghai Moon and it looks great. Any other places you visited that you would recommend?)

TIA! :smile:

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Amy, I ate at some other places while I was in Shanghai, and the food tended to be good everywhere (except for one wretched place on Nanjing Lu), but the only meal that was outstanding from beginning to end was at Old Shanghai Moon. I liked a dim sum lunch I had, but it was way out of the center of town on the Pudong side of the river (a really long cab ride from the Peace Hotel, where we were staying - 40 minutes, I think!). I was in Shanghai for only 3 days on my trip this past August.

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I will definitely hit Old Shanghai Moon. Did you find you had to make reservations at most places? And is that a place I will be able to go without anyone who speaks Chinese?

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We made reservations at Old Shanghai Moon (calling just before taking a cab there to check if they had room) but probably didn't have to. My Mandarin is rudimentary and our waitress did speak some English, as do many people in Shanghai. It's also not uncommon to find English-language menus, even in some inexpensive, out-of-the-way places in that city.

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You'll be in Shanghai at the height of the Shanghai "Hairy Crab" season. An absolute must, IMHO, is to partake of this noted freshwater delicacy, particularly at one of the major crab fests. Here's a descripton of four of them, culled from the listings at That's Shanghai, a good resource in itself. I couldn't find the current pricing, but they are typically quite reasonable by Western dining standards (and compared to what you may encounter in HK).

Hairy Crab Menu

The "Full Crab Menu" features from steamed hairy crab, chin chow cold crab to fried crab with pepper & salt, and special created stir-fried vegetarian crab roe with bean sprouts, many more.

11am-2.30pm, 6.30pm- 10.30pm, Dynasty, Renaissance Yangtze Hotel (62750000 ext 2282)

Hairy Crab A Plenty

Chef Sam and his team prepare the season's menu featuring crabmeat soup with green vegetables, baked clam with hairy crabmeat, stir fried crab roe, sauteed prawns with soft crabmeat, crabmeat stuffed and baked in eggplant, braised with asparagus, stewed with minced pork ball and in noodle soup. Prices start from RMB 38+ onwards.

11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm, Si Ji Xuan, Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai (6256 8888 ext 1280)

Hairy Crab Festival

Apart from the popular steamed hairy crabs, new creative dishes such as stuffed hairy crab meat in the whole orange; stuffed marinated hairy crab meat, onions and mushrooms in crab shell, stir-fried hairy crab claw meat are also available. A la carte menu.

11am-2.30pm, 5.30-10.30pm, Jade Coral Chinese Restaurant, Regal International East Asia Hotel (6415 5588 ext 2760)

Hairy Crabs Feast

Indulge you to new crab dishes like steamed crab meat, deep-fried crab meat balls, sauteed shark's fin with crab meat and steamed dumpling with crab meat.

11.30am-2pm, 5.30-10pm, Banquet Hall, Central Hotel Shanghai (5396 5000)

The last listed is the most famous by far. It's prepared by Wang Bao He, Shanghai's most venerable restaurant. In case you have the misfortune of missing the crab feasts in Shanghai, Wu Kong (my favorite Hong Kong Shanghainese restaurant) will probably put on a good spread.

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If I am in Hong Kong, wouldn't go to Sai Kung for seafood, it used to be the new place for seafood but they couldn't maintain the quality anymore. Going to Cheung Chau island would be a better idea combining with some sight seeing around the island.

Luk Yu Teahouse, it is an old style restaurant but the restaurant next door has some pretty good roasted goose(I like bbq pork and other dishes more) if they have any in stock :hmmm: . Are you planning to go in the morning or night?

Some dishes I would recommend in Luk Yu at night

Pork Lung Soup with Ground Almond - the lung is incredibily tender and is the only lung that I would eat

Congee with bird meats - it is a cross between a congee and thick soup, the flavor is amazing

Any old style Cantonese dishes

Ask the Waiters for recommendation, I think some of them know English.

It would be a good idea to visit some local restaurants (where people from all classes in Hong Kong will visit for the good food).

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I think most hotels in Shanghai have Hairy Crabs on their buffets during the short season. Last night I had the buffet in the Westin hotel and they had whole crabs and two other preparations. They are very good, but a lot of work for little meat.

The street food options are extensive.

gallery_394_233_1098264690.jpg

More pictures when I get home and can upload the pictures faster.

gallery_394_233_1098265004.jpg

This was one combination that I did not get. It is a picture of a store called Curry & Coffee


Edited by NewYorkTexan (log)

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I think most hotels in Shanghai have Hairy Crabs on their buffets during the short season.  Last night I had the buffet in the Westin hotel and they had whole crabs and two other preparations.  They are very good, but a lot of work for little meat.

It's the hairy crab roe that's main attraction for these creatures.

-Steve

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Oh wow -- I had no idea about Hairy Crab season. That looks like a definite must-try. So do you eat all of these creatures or just the roe? What are they like?

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I haven't tried Hairy Crab. It's next to impossible to find live Hairy Crab in North America. Although I think the Japanese restaurant in NYC called Masa has it on their menu in some form, and I've heard reports of it being available in Vancouver. You eat the roe & meat. As already mentioned on this thread, there's not much meat, & it's hard to extract(can get very messy eating Hairy Crab).

-Steve


Edited by SteveW (log)

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Fook Lam Moon just opened a Shanghai branch last week, & offering the same dishes as their other locations. So you might want to check FLM in Shanghai, instead of Hong Kong.

-Steve

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I think most hotels in Shanghai have Hairy Crabs on their buffets during the short season.  Last night I had the buffet in the Westin hotel and they had whole crabs and two other preparations.  They are very good, but a lot of work for little meat.

I hear you on that. The beauty of the crab feasts is that they do all the work for you on most preparations. Of course, they also include one whole crab dish. A true Shanghainese wouldn't be denied the labor of love involved in cleaning the tiny creature of every edible morsel.

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Re your Hong Kong list... those are well known restaurants but in many cases expensive and/or touristy (which doesn't mean they're bad). Some quick comments:

Fook Lam Moon - high quality, expensive w/attitude

Maxim (city hall) - OK dim sum, not great. Maxims is a big chain with central kitchens. I never could understand why this location is supposed to be any better than any other in the group. They're all similar for yum cha.

Luk Yu Teahouse - rude service, but good dim sum.

Seafood in Cheung Chau island or Sai Kung - been a while since I've been to either. Avoid the well known Lamma Island seafood restuarants - especially Rainbow - like the plague. Very mediocre these days.

Da Ping Huo - haven't tried it, but I should...

Yu - expensive, high class, 'modern western' seafood

Aqua - expensive, haven't tried it.

Here are a few more down to Earth suggestions, the kind of places we go to again and again. All below can handle English speakers to some extent.

Affordable authentic Sichuan:

Man Jiang Hong, 1/f 482 Hennessy, Causeway Bay, entrance is around the corner on Percival St. tel 2838 8811. You can buy Sichuan spices in their shop.

Roast goose and very reliable all around Cantonese cooking, less expense and less attitude than Fook Lam Moon. This may be the roast goose place Yuki said was next to Luk Yu - it's not, but it is on a street nearby.

Yung Kee, 32-40 Wellington St. tel 2522 1624

For dim sum, I suggest Metropole in United Centre, Admiralty. Big noisy restaurant, not in all the guidebooks, better dim sum.

If hubby still wants Italian, there several very good choices, the best of which is probably Toscana in the Ritz Carlton (expensive).

Many Cantonese restaurants here have hairy crabs in season.

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I just got back from a week in China ( Guangzhou) - I regret to say that the best thing I ate while I was there was a can of Pringles.

Sad.

The water situation freaked me out ( and I dont get freaked out too easy - freaked on maybe - freaked out rarely)

The water was very very dirty and stinky and nasty (even in the hotel)- The veggies are watered with it and the beast drink it and the fish swim in it so how can the food be any good?

A little train ride through the countryside only made things worse - garbage - more than I have ever seen ( the pigs seemed to think it was tasty)

Ive heard Shanghi is better but I have my doubts.... although getting better than my experience is not a difficult task.

Hong Kong on the other hand seemed to have potential as far as finding something decent to eat -

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Water is not safe to drink anywhere in China, as far as I know, including Hong Kong (though I'd love to be corrected if the water supply is now purified in Hong Kong or somewhere else in China). I've never spent time in Guangzhou but the water in Shanghai is known to be dangerous to drink without boiling and even when boiled tastes so bad that I found it tough to drink tea there and tended to stick with bottled water.

Because of the use of nightsoil (human excrement) as fertilizer more than for any other reason, it is unsafe for visitors with no built-up tolerance to the local microbes to eat raw fruits or vegetables that can't be peeled. It is safe to eat cooked food, and I also ate pickles, figuring that since they were fermented, there was a better chance they were safe. I may have been wrong on that but I'm glad I indulged.

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Tap water is safe in Hong Kong, although most people (like me) still boil it just because we've been in Asia too long to trust what any government says. But seriously, it is safe, unless you're in an old building (suspect pipes) or one of the few villages in the New Territories that uses well water. An American couple living in my building drank tap water for the several years they lived here without any problem.

Unboiled tap water is not advisable anywhere in China, or most of the world for that matter. Just drink tea (puerh/poleh tea masks funky water nicely), or bottled water. Don't eat uncooked/unpeeled produce outside 5 star hotels or restaurants in China - and even there I wouldn't recommend it for a casual visitor. Stick to cooked food.

There's great eating in Guangzhou. There's no need to be freaked out just because of the water. Hygiene standards in most of world are not the same as those of the USA or Western Europe. If you can't handle that, best to stay home.

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I just got back from a week in China ( Guangzhou) - I regret to say that the best thing I ate while I was there was a can of Pringles.

Sad.

The water situation freaked me out ( and I dont get freaked out too easy - freaked on maybe - freaked out rarely)

The water was very very dirty and stinky and nasty (even in the hotel)- The veggies are watered with it and the beast drink it and the fish swim in it so how can the food be any good?

A little train ride through the countryside only made things worse - garbage - more than I have ever seen ( the pigs seemed to  think it was tasty)

Ive heard Shanghi is better but I have my doubts.... although getting better than my experience is not a difficult task.

Hong Kong on the other hand seemed to have potential as far as finding something decent to eat -

I went to Guangzhou during the summer and my experience certaining was not that bad. Did you go to some really remote area?

Is the tap water yellow? So did you eat any food in the restaurant and found out the food was bad? Or was it just your conclusion that food is bad because water quality is not high.

The water I got in the hotel in Guangzhou and restaurant(including the washroom) are clean water.

From the Hong Kong Water Supplies Department, the water in Hong Kong have been safe to drink straight out of the tap for many years. Wonder why most people still boil their water?

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I visited Hong Kong in 1987. I drank some water out of the tap in a bathroom in Kai Tak Airport, and mentioned to the woman I was travelling with that it tasted strange. The following dialogue then took place:

"You drank the water?!"

"Yeah."

"It's not safe to drink the water in Hong Kong."

"Bullshit! This is a big, modern city! How could it be unsafe to drink tap water here?"

"If you don't believe me, ask the woman over there."

So to settle the question, I asked a woman at the Hong Kong Tourism counter, and she said it wasn't "recommendable" to drink tap water in Hong Kong. Is it safer now than it was in 1987?

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It wasn't safe as of 1997.

Aprilmei and HKDave'll have to comment about now.

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Yuki - Which hotel did you stay at? My hotel def did not have clean water. It had a really bad odor to it- really bad. As in you couldnt even brush your teeth with it.

I will be going back there in a few months so I would love to hear a few recomendations of good restaurants there.

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One of the reasons why people boil water in Hong Kong is to get rid of the chlorine smell. Another problem is probably with the pipes in buildings, back then there was not much regulations on what kind of pipes can be used so many times, water will turn yellow due to rusty pipes. Some times the water at my home will be slightly yellow in the morning but after a minute or two, it will be back to normal. Also, many Hong Kong people don't trust their water source from the Dongjiang, there are many factories and village living along it that the water is polluted. Although there are agreements between Hong Kong and Guangdong to keep the Dongjiang water clean, but I still think there are pollutions being dump there everyday. So overall, people can't trust water that came from such a dirty source and would rather be safe than sorry, so they boil their water.

My counsins from Canada drank tap water when they visited us in Hong Kong in 1992, and my parents freaked out. Anyways, they are too lazy to get water from the jug and still drank water out of the tap when no one is watching.

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Agree with the earlier poster who said your list of HK restaurants included well-known "standards," a bit on the pricey side.

Also, I second the recommendations on Man Jiang Hong (the chili chicken, in Cantonese it's called la ji kai, is out of this world, as are the dumplings in chili oil, hong yau cha sau). Same goes for Metropole for dimsum.

I've been to a few of the other restaurants mentioned here and NONE of them are bad- you'll get a great meal in any of them. Da Ping Huo is good and quaint (for the paintings decorating the restaurant and the famous opera number which concludes your meal). I haven't been to Aqua since they moved to Kowloon but it was very good before.

Here are a couple of other suggestions:

(I'll give English / Mandarin / Cantonese names in that order if I know them all):

1. "Mum Chau" / Zhou Ma Ma in Mandarin / Chau Ma Ma in Cantonese, on (I think) D'Aguilar St, in the building whose extrance is right next to Al's Diner, in Lan Kwai Fong- even better than Da Ping Huo, in my opinion, and cheaper. Go for dinner- you get a set menu, don't need to order a thing (can't even if you wanted to) of way too much food than you can handle. I've been there numerous times and never had a bad dish. The best Sichuan food I've had outside of Sichuan itself.

2. (no English name) / Shui Hu Ju / Soi wu kui on Peel St in the Soho district. Non-traditional northern Chinese-inspired food in a beautifully decorated cozy setting. Expensive, but well worth a splurge. The same owners have a place called Hu Tong (in all three languages, it's more or less the same) in 1 Peking Rd in Kowloon, same building where Aqua is. Menu is about 60% the same, prices I think are slightly higher, view is spectacular, as is the food and the decor.

3. "Winner" / Wan Loi Kui / Yun Lai Ju somewhere in Quarry Bay, don't remember the exact street but well worth seeking out. They advertise themself as a Shanxi restaurant. I've never been to Shanxi so I don't know how authentic they are but I couldn't care less- this is a true hidden gem, known to very few non-Chinese. The Hunan braised pork is so good that my ex-colleague from New Jersey would take a 20-minute cab ride to buy some at lunch time. Great with beer and "choi fan," rice cooked in chicken stock with chopped greens. Also known for their "dou siu meen" or hand-cut rough broad noodles, with a variety of sauces. Cheap, too.

4. (no English name) / Cheung chung kui on (I think) Percival St, across from the entrance of Lee Theatre Plaza, big blue Chinese sign with a yellow neon duck. Hakka restaurant, been there for ages, try their salt-baked chicken (yim kok kai) and pork shoulder in preserved vegetables (mui choi hau yuk).

5. Super Star / Hong Sing on the downhill section of Wyndham St just next to Lan kwai Fong in Central. Good, moderately priced Cantonese restaurant with all the standards- dimsum, roast meats, steamed fish, hairy crab at this time of the year.

6. (no English name) / Tam to. The best "chachanteng" I know of- a chachanteng is a cheap restaurant which serves a wide range of cooked foods, not just roast meats or noodle soups or congee. Easiest branch to locate is on Stanley St in Central. My favorite dishes here are the salted fish fried rice (ham yu kai lap chao fan) and Amoy fried noodles (ha mun chao mai fun), but another friend loves the pork chops in black pepper sauce.

7. Zahra, on Jaffe St in Causeway Bay- my favorite non-Chinese restaurant in HK, serves good Lebanese food, particularly the "josh mahrouz" or something like that, spicy pistachio and garlic dip with hot pita breads. I know it's funny suggesting Lebanese food in HK but I've never found this particular dish elsewhere.

8. My favorite Italian restaurant in HK was Panevino on Mosque Junction about a block away from the escalator.

Sorry I don't have more detailed addresses but you can try to find them on www.foodeasy.com or ask your hotel concierge to track them down for you.

Last: I love Shanghainese food and the stuff you can get in HK is pretty good- actually better than what I've had in Shanghai but then I was a tourist in Shanghai while I lived in HK for a long time so knew my way around. Food in Shanghai can also be very very good and it comes at a fraction of what it costs in Hong Kong. You may want to take advantage of the regional Chinese cuisines you can get in Shanghai which you are harder to come across in HK, such as Xinjiang, Hunan, Sichuan, and Yunnan foods.

Enjoy! I live in Madrid now and miss eating in Hong Kong so much.

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Thanks so much for all the suggestions. I have now thoroughly revised my list!

One question: Is dim sum at Metropole something I can get any day for lunch or only on the weekends? We're going to be there on Saturday, but not Sunday (and in NYC at least, Sunday is the big dim sum day -- is this true in HK too?) Do people eat dim sum for dinner?

OK, so we have four nights in HK. Right now, definites are Da Ping Huo and Man Jiang Hong -- are both these Sichuan? I'm also considering Yung Kee for Cantonese or Luk Yu for dim sum.

I do want one nice, upscale splurge place -- should we do Fook Lam Moon? Or is the price astronomical (even by NYC standards)? Will it be a memorable experience?

I also want a seafood restaurant. If Cheung Chau island or Sai Kung aren't places for this, where do you think we should go?

Thanks again for everyone's help -- this is great!

Amy

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2.  (no English name) / Shui Hu Ju / Soi wu kui on Peel St in the Soho district.  Non-traditional northern Chinese-inspired food in a beautifully decorated cozy setting.  Expensive, but well worth a splurge. The same owners have a place called Hu Tong (in all three languages, it's more or less the same) in 1 Peking Rd in Kowloon, same building where Aqua is. Menu is about 60% the same, prices I think are slightly higher, view is spectacular, as is the food and the decor.

Maaraw, what is non-traditional northern Chinese-inspired food?? This sounds really interesting!

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Fook Lam Moon - high quality, expensive w/attitude

I absolutely agree. I should of mentioned it previously when discussing FLM. Although I didn't know they had 'attitude.' Do you mean they're 'elitist' with customers?

-Steve


Edited by SteveW (log)

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