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Apr 29, 2007 12:58 PM

Shanghai food report: 4/07..Shanghai Uncle and Xiao Nan Guo

After 6 nights in Beijing, I took the overnight train to Shanghai. I traveled in luxury soft sleeper, where a ticket entitles you to dinner. Before you go to sleep, an attendant takes your order for breakfast ("Chinese breakfast. Noodles. No Western") which costs about 5RMB. The train ride was a wonderful experience; the berths are just fine to sleep on. But do not rely on the train food! Bring your own! Enough said about that.

I was very excited about trying the food in Shanghai and I can now say that it is one fantastic eating city, even for a novice like me who had very little clue what to order since I was not familiar with the cuisine. Fantastic food city!

Here are a few places that I sampled:


I ate here twice. This is a large and somewhat glitzy place that gets lots of business clientele as it is located in the basement of an office tower and next to the Westin Hotel. While the service was not too attentive (interestingly enough, I was seated in the exact same seat against the back wall on both visits!), the food is excellent. The first night, they were somewhat surprisingly out of red cooked pork belly and advised me to order the sweet and sour pork. This Cantonese dish was similar to sweet and sour pork back in NY, with a gloopy orange sauce. Tasty but disappointingly familiar. On the next visit I did have the red cooked pork belly and it was excellent. Very rich and fatty with lots of layers of flavor. Excellent. ( I did remove some of the fat) The XO green vegetables were terrific as well, as was another green vegetable dish which I had on the first visit and have now forgotten. I highly recommend this place, which was in turn recommended to me by Gary Soup; next time I would do more research on what to order or be more persistant in asking for the staff's (or Gary's) guidance. The menu is long and filled with temptations. Reasonable in price; if anyone wants, I will look up my slips of paper and try to find the exact price.

(I had originally planned to eat at Yeah Shanghai in Xintiandi on the first night but the concierge at the hotel dissuaded me, saying it was overpriced, for tourists, and did not have great food; I was glad I took his advice)

XIAO NAN GUO. Rujin Guesthouse. French Concessio.

The concierge hesitated in calling to make my reservation, telling me the place had great food but was "not so nice in decoration for tourists." I knew right away it would be good and it was. I ate here with two new friends so there was, finally, an opportunity to sample a number of dishes. The Rujin Guesthouse grounds are lovely at night and the restaurant is located towards the rear, to the side of the guesthouse itself. They have a few rooms; the front room is more "fancy" but we were just fine in the rather plan back room. Food here is excellent. Again, I felt hampered by not knowing my way around the menu, but here is what we ate and it was all good:

Crab in a clay pot..wonderful
Braised and friend pork ribs..ditto
Sichuan fried chicken with red peppers (recommended by the waiter)..very tasty
Fried rice (no soy sauce; I rarely saw it on friend rice in Shanghai)..this was only fair
Bok choy and mushrooms..very good
Local beer..excellent

The meal cost a total of 300 RMB for 3 persons; about $38 USD total

Both these places should be reserved in advance for popular dining hours (early) if possible.

I will be back soon with more Shanghai eating...

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  1. I finally found something in common between the China you describe and the China I visited long ago, when all the grand buildings had been built in the 1930s, a city frozen in amber. Then as now waiters would always recommend sweet and sour pork to Americans! The pork belly dish you ordered has a long and proud history:

    Thank you for posting these reports!

    4 Replies
    1. re: Brian S

      ......and this American was dumb enough to order it, thinking that it could not possibly be the same gloopy dish as back home! Wrong again! Thanks for your comments, Brian..I will finish up soon...

      1. re: erica

        Sometimes it is different. Once in southern China I had a wonderful dish of long strips of pork with crusty skin, not deep fried, with an invisibly clear tart sauce. I made the same mistake as you in Cantoon Garden in NY, ordered something from a wall poster in Chinese and it turned out to be... you guessed it!

      2. re: Brian S

        Truer words were never spoke. Here' s a page from the menu at Sun Ya restaurant in Shanghai, circa 1935. Check out item #100 and the footnote at the bottom of the page:

        I was at a wedding feast at Sun Ya (now Xinya) in 1995 and the S&S Pork was one of the dishes ordered. It was very, very familiar, down to the pineapple chunks.

        1. re: Gary Soup

          Gary that is very funny; I love the note at the bottom of the page.

      3. great! i'd love to hear more, I love Xiao Nan Guo too..
        I never miss it whenever I visit Shanghai.