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Where are the best restaurants in Shanghai & Beijing?

My family & I will be vacationing in Shanghai and Beijing next month. I have visited these two cities before, but the restaurants I visited were less than memorable. The worst one in Shanghai was the M on the Bund. It had a fantastic view but the food was simply awful. I hope my family can sample some of the best local restaurants China has to offer. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

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    1. Quan je du (Beijing) for Peking duck is pretty good, but expensive. I've found hole in the wall places in Beijing for $50 RMB for good duck, but not sure if it's in existence anymore.

      You might also want to visit the Wangfujing night market. They had a ton of stands of food where you can just point and order. It's not very clean, but the food is tasty.

      As for Shanghai, Jia Jia for soup dumplings/xiao long biao seems to be the current favorite.

      1 Reply
      1. re: WHills

        Actually, if you are interested in trying some street-food, the WanFuJing night market is actually a lot cleaner than most other street-food stalls, because it is pretty strictly regulated since the gov. knows that it is a tourist hot-spot. It may not look sanitary at first glance, but compared to the typical street-food vendor, the wangfujing market is sparkling. If you would like to be adventuresome and your are simply vacationing, that is a safer place to be adventuresome... if that makes any sense. (Though I'm not suggesting that cleanliness correlates with tastiness)

        Also - though taste is a pretty subjective thing, it should be noted that Beijing is not famous for their cuisine (and Shanghai isn't really either - but Beijing even less so). It is actually Southern China that is most famous for their cuisine - and is the type of Chinese food that is most familiar to American taste buds. Depending on personal preference and familiarity, even the "best local restaurants" may seem "simply awful."

        That being said, as WHills mentioned, QuanJeDu is pretty much the most famous restaurant for Beijing's most famous dish, it's namesake duck. If you are only passing through for vacation, this would probably be the spot to try it. =)

      2. For Sichuan I highly recommend Baguo buyi, about 1 km north of the Forbidden City on Dianmen Dongdajie. Menu has photos. Everything was excellent, try the yellow eels, hacked chicken and of course dan dan noodles. Then stroll north through quaint hutongs to the Drum and Bell Tower neighborhoods.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kenito799

          I second this recommendation. My wife and I were in Beijing last fall for a month and ate at Baiguo Buyi over and over again. Great food. The branch mentioned above has rooms next to the street and a large building in back, across a courtyard. In the large building at, I think 8 PM, you can se a demonstration of bian lian, the Sichuanese art of face-changing. It's a terrific show, almost as good as the food. (BTW, my wife doesn't enjoy hot food and she was always happy to eat there.)

          1. re: Michael Rodriguez

            I third this recommendation.
            We had a fantastic Szechuan fish dish there. However, we had some rather embarrassing communication issues at this restaurant. Even though the menu has photos and English translations, none of the restaurant staff when we went seemed to speak any English and although I surely don't expect everywhere I go to speak English, I didn't know enough Mandarin to get through it.
            At any rate, once we got the food it was memorably delicious, but make sure you learn some food Mandarin before you go to Beijing.

        2. I second the comment about Beijing food -- if you like oily, salty and doughy, then Beijing is the place for you. But since you're going there, you have to eat. For duck, I think the best value is Da Dong. They opened a new branch in the Nanxingcang International Plaza (next to the "New" Poly Plaza) at 5169-0329. The duck is as good as any other place , and they have other dishes that make for a decent overall meal (unlike many other duck places, which have duck, duck, and more duck -- oh, and how about the duck?). There is a good Jiangsu-Zhejiang restaurant called Zhang Sheng Ji (it's part of a nationwide chain), which is on the northern Third Ring Road, next to the Zhejiang Building (tel 6442-0006). They have a huge menu, and the taste is slightly sweet. For more traditional, there's the Hua Jia Yi Yuan restaurant on Gui Jie -- there are two restaurants, and the one you want to go to is in the old courtyard (si he yuan) house (tel 6405-1908). The cuisine is kind of a mish-mash, but it's slightly spicy. All have picture menus, and I'm pretty sure there's English w/ the Chinese.

          For Shanghai, a standby is Baoluo, on 271 Fumin Road, 6279-2827. It's tiny and noisy, but the food is not bad if you choose well. I think there's English w/ the Chinese on the menu, but I'm not positive. The xiaolongbao debate rages in other posts, but a nice place for Shanghai snacks in a clean setting with decent prices is Guangming Cun at 588 Huaihai Road, 5306-7878. The menu is only in Chinese. Finally, the Jade Garden at 127 Maoming Nan Road, near Huaihai Road, at 5403-7028 is a good bet. None of these places is as fancy (or has as good a view) as M on the Bund (I've never been, but from news articles, it looks fancy), but the food is pretty good. They have the standard picture menu w/ Chinese and English.

          If you need the names and addresses in Chinese, let me know.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Yi Chi Wei Rong

            Jade Garden has several branches:

            127 Maoming Nan Lu
            near Huaihai Zhong Lu, Metro Line 1 Shaanxi Nan Lu Station
            茂名南路127号
            近淮海中路, 地铁1号线陕西南路站

            895 Dalian Lu
            near Feihong Lu
            大连路895号
            近飞虹路

            1121 Yan'an Zhong Lu
            near Huashan Lu, Metro Line 2 Jingan Temple Station
            延安中路1121号
            近华山路, 地铁2号线静安寺站

            1-2/F, Huatai Building, 388 Zhaojiabang Lu
            near Taiyuan Lu
            肇嘉浜路388号华泰大厦1-2楼
            近太原路

            Plus two in Pudong:

            877 Dongfang Lu
            near Weifang Lu,Metro Line 2 Shiji Da Dao Station
            东方路877号
            近潍坊路, 地铁2号线世纪大道站

            6/F, 88 Shiji Da Dao
            near Yincheng Zhong Lu
            世纪大道88号6楼
            近银城中路

            I've only been to the Dalian Lu branch, so I don't know how the food compares among them.

            1. re: Yi Chi Wei Rong

              HuaYia YiYuan is beautiful inside. (However, the picture menu is the first tip-off that it doesnt' cater to many locals).

              In Beijing, I also quite like South Silk Road in HouHai (though you def. need a reservation there).

              Also, South Beauty has restaurants in ShangHai and BeiJing - upscale southern Chinese food with really delicate and beautiful preparations.

              1. re: clearskies0810

                Just back and immensly enjoyed South Beauty: went to the one in the SuperBrands Mall - 10th floor overlooking the ever gorgeous Bund at night. Tried to spend money and it still came to approx US$60 for two. The chili garlic shrimp alone are worth another trip back.

              2. re: Yi Chi Wei Rong

                I thought Dadong was just ok, but they did serve a "healthy" duck (i.e. less greasy) if you're afraid of oily food. But there is fantastic food in Beijing, though it helps to speak mandarin or at least not fear signing for your food. If you're on this website you love food so may be willing to brave it...

                Dumplings (Jiaozi) are northern staples, and old style Beijing food is coming back with a vengeance. There are a ton of recs on cityweekend.com (can i post that?) by cuisine with addresses in both English and Chinese.

                Baoyuan - Shuzhuyu is a combo dumpling/Sichuan restaurant with menus with pictures (Chaoyang district, Maizidian St. #6 (north side) 朝阳区,麦子店街6号楼北侧。Off the North 3rd ring road, on same block as Hard Rock/Lufthanza but way on the other side of the block (east side).

              3. Some good thoughts below. I agree that M on the Bund's food is rather uninpiired. I would not say that it was bad, but other than the view on a special occasion, definitely not worth it. To be honest, much of Shanghai's "haute cuisine" leaves me deflated. We had eaten at Jean George's a few months back and while good, it left me expecting more. I have been to a few of the upper echelon dining establishments here and my recommendation is this, spend your time and money somewhere else. There really much better value and "wow" at the local places.

                So, some to consider in Shanghai. Chun on Jinxian lu, and you would need to make a booking. This place has all of 4 or 5 tables and you get what she is making that day, but very authentic Shanghainese, very natural. (Ask hotel for help.)

                1221 (1221 Yanan Lu) is a good choice that ever so slightly caters to expats, both Asian and Western. Good food, nice ambiance, good choices for a range of eaters.

                Although they are in the process of cleaning it up a bit, the street food on Wujiang Lu, close to Nanjing Lu is also a good choice. This is one of the few places you feel like your in China while in Shanghai. Try the Shanghai soup dumplings, fried on the bottom, crispy, softer on the top, pork meatball with soup inside (be careful!! the soup is hot, bite a small piece and gently suck the soup out). Can't remember the name, but just look for the very small restaurant (almost a stand) with a line of people waiting.

                For a bit of modern Chinese, try Shanghai Uncle, several locations. If you like duck, preorder the 8 treasure duck, a great dish.

                Yang's Kitchen, in the middle of the French Concession, good and cheap Shanghainese food.

                A bit out of the way, but still close is Southern Barbarian, a Yunnan restaurant with some nice dishes, some spicy others not, good beer selection. (1440 Qiujiang Lu near Gong He Xin, owner speaks English, very friendly 13621797634)

                For Xinjiang (Chinese Muslim) try Yakexi, Wujiang Lu north of Nanjing Lu. (most Xinjiang places here are pretty decent, run by Uighurs.)

                If you like Indian we have quite a few places that are good. My favorites are Vedas, Bukhara and Nepali Kitchen. Nepali Kitchen is a Shanghai expat institution, second floor has cushion on the floor seating, very cool. If you go, definitely get the cheese balls.

                Lastly, being from Texas, there is one BBQ place I can recommend, Bubba's out by the Hongqiao Marriott. Ken does a good job on most meats, Smoked chicken is great. They have a range of beers and now some East Coast microbrews. Good if you get tired of local food.

                Hope this helps.

                5 Replies
                1. re: JackDerington

                  The dumplings you are talking about on Wujiang Lu are shengjian bao. The stall (many people think it serves the best in Shanghai) is Xiao Yangs' Fry Dumpling. Nearby, two ladies make and sell from a cart the best fried stinky tofu ever!

                   
                   
                  1. re: Gary Soup

                    Just out of curiosity - Does their shengianboa have thick doughy skins (like other bao's) or thin skins (more like xiaolongboa or wontons)?

                    1. re: clearskies0810

                      They are similar to xiaolongbao wrappers but thicker, and made with a single-flour dough instead of a two-flour dough.

                  2. re: JackDerington

                    It may be personal, but was not happy with Shanghai Uncle or the 8Treasure Duck. The 8 Treasures was nothing more than a duck fat soaked pilaf in my estimation. Tasty but undistinguished and an appetite killer for much more. Cold smoked carp full of treacherous bones, though tasty. This was only an okay restaurant for us - loved South Beauty far more for a good tourist experience: good pictures and descriptions in English on the menu. Shanghai Uncle menu was hard to figure out and didn't provide enough information.

                    1. re: glbtrtr

                      I think Shanghai Uncle is hit and miss. I thought the dry scallop dish with XO sauce on Peking Pancakes didn't work, but enjoyed the other things I tried.

                      I thought the xun yu (smoked fish) was a great version, but I've also learned that to appreciate Shanghainese food one needs to overcome the Fear of Fishbones.