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Shanghai dining tips

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Hi all.

I will be in Shanghai for three days, traveling solo, and I'd love to get some tips for where to get good eats that aren't touristy. I'd like to mix in some street food during the day with some sit-down solo dinners in the evenings. I'd also like some recs on breakfast places if anyone has any.

If you could give me a sense of where the places are, that would help, as I have never been to Shanghai before. I'll probably be following the usual tourist itinerary, but I don't mind (in fact I prefer) venturing off the beaten path.

Thanks in advance.

Lloyd

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  1. You may want to read this thread:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/643435

    In terms of breakfast, what kind of breakfast are you looking for?

    4 Replies
    1. re: PeterL

      I did read that thread and I am looking forward to trying some of those places. I enjoy the soup dumplings we get in NYC so I'm really looking forward to the ones in Shanghai.

      For breakfast. I would prefer an Asian breakfast. I enjoy congee, dumplings, noodles, etc. but I'd also try something new.

      Thanks.

      Lloyd

      1. re: LloydG

        Be aware that the soup dumpling you get in NYC (Joe Shanghai?) is radically different from the ones you get in Shanghai.

        While in Shanghai we always get western breakfast. I don't even know where one would get a Chinese breakfast aside from street food or hotel buffetts.

        1. re: PeterL

          Thanks - I look forward to tryng the Shanghai version of soup dumplings.

          I usually avoid western breakfasts when traveling in Asia. I think I'd be happier gettng street food, or just waiting a couple of hours until the lunch food is available.

      2. re: PeterL

        traditional shangainese breakfast are fried dough wrapped with sticky rice (sorry don't know the english name) and soy milk

      3. Should definitely try 佳家汤包 (Jai Jia soup dumplings). They have the best Xiao Lung Biao in town. Made fresh after you ordered. Tel: 21-63276878.

        1. For sit down, I followed a couple of recs on Chowhound and I enjoyed them immensely. Both are in the French Concession, an area southwest of People's Square.

          First and best is Ji Shi (41 Tianping Lu). Shanghainese cuisine, something you may not have access to elsewhere.The nearby intersection is Tianping Lu, Huahai Xi Lu. The sign on the restaurant says "Jesse." Small place, so maybe ask your hotel to call in a reservation. It's good to have a pocket map (with chinese writing) or some kind of printout to show a cab driver. Or you can take the metro and walk. I got the appetizer of wild herbs and tofu which was the single best thing I ate on my three week trip. Honestly, I would have been happy to eat all my meals here. Casual. Link Below.

          http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shangha...

          The other place was Hengshan Cafe, also in the French Concession. Casual. Cantonese. Very simple, delicious preparations. Had the turbot with chili peppers, the roast goose, shallot roots, and the morning glory greens sauteed with garlic. I got the impression you can't go wrong here. Link:

          http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/shangha...

          There are several locations of Yang's Fry Dumplings. they are a MUST. Fried soup dumplings (sheng jian bao?) with a thick skin. Awesome. If you have the fortitude, you can hit two places at once: there is a Yang's Fry Dumplings across the street from Jia Jia (for classic xiao long bao). These are on Huanghe Lu, just around the corner from the Park Hotel, north side of the People's Square. I much prefer the crab/pork combination for the xlb. I found the pork rather boring. One order from each place is not really so much food as the xlb at Jia Jia are quite small and not all that filling. I actually prefer the rather monstrous soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in NYC to xlb, but I imagine not everyone agrees.

          Don't forget to get a business card from your hotel to show to cab drivers so you can get back.

          I also ate at two places that were uninteresting: one of the several seafood places on Yunnan Lu, mediocre, and at Cloud 9 bar on the 87th floor of the Jingmao Tower in Pudong. They have a few appetizers. Not only is the food uninteresting and expensive, but the view is surprisingly unimpressive!

          10 Replies
          1. re: Steve

            Thanks, these are some great recs. I will definitely check out Ji Shi and the two dumpling places. I'm staying in the Hyatt in the Jingmao Tower, but I wasn't planning to eat anything there as I think street food and local restaurants would be much better.

            1. re: LloydG

              The views looking up from ground level are spectacular. It's a pretty barren area, though, for food. Or anything else, really. I suppose you are staying there for business reasons. At least getting a cab from there will be pretty easy. At the taxi stand, they give a priority to hotel guests.

              1. re: LloydG

                The recs are all in Puxi across the river from the Hyatt, you will need to taxi over. I've never eaten in Pudong, wonder what the scene is in that part of town? PS jealous jealous, no China trip this year, sigh. Enjoy for me too please.

                1. re: buttertart

                  There is also the subway, about three long blocks from Jingmao.

                  1. re: Steve

                    Was going to mention it too but not sure how easy it would be for first-timer presumably with no Chinese language knowledge to find particular addresses. Taxis are pretty cheap but those are longish rides from Pudong.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      I'll probably venture on the subway and by foot all over town for the three days I'm there. I'm pretty adventurous and part of the fun is getting lost and then figuring out where I am. I will of course carry the hotel address and a map with me so that if I am truly lost I can always grab a taxi or ask someone for directions. I also find that this can be a great way to find street food and other interesting eats.

                      1. re: LloydG

                        That's the spirit! It's a great city, I'm sure you will enjoy it. Look forward to reports.

                        1. re: LloydG

                          Here's a good website for navigating the Metro http://www.exploreshanghai.com/metro/

                          1. re: LloydG

                            In my three days in Shanghai, I got to where I was able to pronounce the nearest intersection where I wanted to go. That way I could hop into a cab if I needed to and not feel so limited. Want to get back to your hotel quickly? Just say "jee-mao poo-dong" to any cab driver. That'll be good enough.

                  2. re: Steve

                    jesse is superb!!! am i'm shanghainese

                  3. try Element Fresh-there are 3 of them scattered about Shanghai
                    2 in Puxi and i in Pudong

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: dinglis

                      What else is good in Pudong? We've always stayed and eaten Puxi side. Would be very interested to know.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        Element Fresh is overpriced, mediocre western food. The reality is that there's little worth being searched out in Pudong, though some chains do have locations in Pudong. I used to stay there a lot and its sort of a dining desert, though Jade on 36 in the Shangri-La is amazing and quite possibly Shanghai's best restaurant.

                        1. re: modernleifeng

                          I thought as much but wasn't sure. Tell me more if you would on Jade on 36, please, xinleifeng shushu. And happy glorious 60th anniversary National Day to all Chinese friends!

                          1. re: buttertart

                            I must start out by saying I haven't eaten there since Paul Pairet, who was presenting food influenced heavily by molecular gastronomy, but not completely of that vain, left. From feedback, I've heard it hasn't slipped under the new chef and is still going strong. The restaurant offers amazing views of the city (request a window seat when you make your reservation) and serves high end French with molecular and Asian influences. The menu offered is excellent and, for the price, its a pretty good deal.

                            Though, unless you've been to Shanghai many times before or are a real foodie, its probably best to stick to local Chinese restuarants.

                            1. re: modernleifeng

                              Will keep it in mind as a possibility for next trip, thanks. The only high-end non-Chinese meal we've had there was at Sens and Bund in 2007, what a waste. I understand it's closed and can only say good riddance.

                              1. re: modernleifeng

                                I'm inclined to stick to local Chinese joints and street food, as this is my first trip to Shanghai. I'm not really interested in having a non-Chinese meal while I'm there. If I visit regularly, though, I could see expanding to the larger dining scene. When I'm in Hanoi, where I go regularly, I always have a french meal at Green Tangerine. Its the only time I pick up a fork on the entire trip, but its worth it.

                                1. re: LloydG

                                  Yes absolutely go Chinese all the way. I regret only the meals I wasted on western food in Asia.

                                  1. re: LloydG

                                    sounds like a good plan...but if you do suddenly crave a Western meal, i recommend Franck, a French bistro in the westernmost part of the Fr.Concession...it's a better bistro than anything available in NYC (if that counts for anything...*smiles*)...

                                    1. re: Simon

                                      tried franck bistro the other night, it was indeed very good. thanks for the recommendation. mr. and mrs. bund is also very impressive. i had the perfect duck confit there. a tapas restaurant called el willy is also highly recommended. better than any spanish tapas restaurant in hk.

                              2. re: modernleifeng

                                Agree on Element Fresh. Shangri-La also has a branch of the Hong Kong restaurant Fu Lin Men (福临门 Fook Lam Moon?) which serves really good dim sum at correspondingly high prices.

                                The Superbrand Mall's top floor has a decent Chinese restaurant - comparable price & quality to Crystal Jade, but can't remember the name. Superbrand Mall also features said Element Fresh & a Hooters. Not that I know anything about that . . .

                                I used to work down by Dongchang Lu, near the stock exchange. Across the street was a standard neighborhood, with la mien and rice plate joints, etc. But none of the food was worth seeking out. It was just like any other Shanghai neighborhood.

                                The problem with Lujiazui is that it is so big, it might take you 30 minutes to walk 2 blocks, and there's no stores or street life, it's just skyscrapers.

                                The Hyatt restaurants have good reputations for making high-quality high-price Chinese food, and I guess there's a couple Hyatt's in the area. The Jin Mao is a Hyatt if I'm not mistaken. I've only eaten at Canton restaurant in Jin Mao, and the dim sum was really good once and very ordinary once.

                                1. re: JTS

                                  Oh yeah, and Superbrand Mall also has Ding Tai Feng on the 2nd or 3rd floor, which is good quality xiao long bao (soup dumplings), taiwanese beef noodle soup, hot and sour soup, and a bunch of other stuff, at a price point around TGI Friday's.

                                  1. re: JTS

                                    For dining in Pudong, there are really few good options, and if only in Shanghai to visit, who wants to eat in a mall? Unfortunately, this is where you'll have to go to eat at Din Tai Fung (and you should go there). For an ultra modern Pudong dining experience, go to Y's table, the fancy food court in the basement of the new World Financial Center (the bottle opener).

                          2. Thanks everyone for the great tips. Here is what I managed to try last weekend in Shanghai.

                            I had dinners at Ye Shanghai (in Xintiandi) and Di Tai Feng (in the Superbrand mall). Both were excellent . At Ye Shanghai I had a shredded pork rolled in pancakes, a spicy braised eggplant dish and ma po tofu. All were excellent, although I think I ordered a bit too much (I tend to do this when dining alone). At Di Tai Feng I had the soup dumplings, a bowl of hot and sour soup and some sauteed asparagus. Excellent!

                            I managed to get to both Jia Jia and Yang's Fry dumplings, although on two different days. They were both great in their own ways, and I really enjoyed sitting down and eating in the middle of a lot of walking around. When I was eating the fried dumplings, which are larger than the others, I couldn't help noiticing that I was the only one spewing soup all over the bowl. However, even missing some of the soup, they were great.

                            I also enjoyed a good number of the lamb kebabs that are available everywhere, including at an outdoor food area across from the Superbrand mall.

                            I had some not so good dumplings from random stalls, some uninteresting buns, and some fried tofu that I could have done without at Yu Yuan, but that's all part of the adventure.

                            Thanks again for the recommendations.

                            Lloyd

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: LloydG

                              Great report. Did you notice a difference between DTF and Jia Jia?

                              1. re: Steve

                                It was hard to tell because at Jia Jia I had pork and crab (all that was left when I got there) while at DTF I had pork. I would say, though, that the dumplings at DTF were more delicate and the ones at Jia Jia had a bit more soup in them.

                                I liked both more than the ones available in NYC at Joe's Shanghai, where the skins are thicker, although I'll still get them regularly since its the only game in town.

                                1. re: LloydG

                                  There are lots of other places that have soup dumplings in NYC that are the equal or better of Joe's Shanghai (and heresy of heresy, of some I've had in Shanghai) in my opinion - you won't lack for them on your return.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    Can you name some? I've never found xiaolong bao in New York as good as you can get on almost any street in Shanghai.

                                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                                      I adore the stuff at Joe's Shanghai, though it's true they aren't XLB at all, but they are indeed soup dumplings.

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        Well, yea and no. In Shanghai "tang bao" is sometimes used to mean conventional xiaolong bao (as in Jia Jia Tang Bao) and other times it is used to refer to the monstrously large dumpling that comes with a straw to drink the soup with, like this http://is.gd/4oz44 . Joe's are neither, though I think he intended them to be xiaolong bao.

                                      2. re: Xiao Yang

                                        I like the ones at Tang Pavilion and those at Yeah Shanghai Deluxe - although they are spotty, sometimes better than others. I don't in any way mean they are better categorically in NY, but that they are widely available other than just at Joe's. (The ones I had in a place in the Yu Yuan in Shanghai were not stellar.) None will ever compare to the ones we had at the Sui Yuan restaurant in Taipei back in the day, they were the size of quarters and had gossamer skins stuffed full of juice, pork, and xie fen. As we all know soup dumplings are not the be all and end all of Shanghai food, which is endlessly fascinating.

                                    2. re: LloydG

                                      You went the wrong way on that one...Jia Jia's pork and crab are too crabby, they are more famous for the pork ones, while Din Tai Feng are more famous for their pork and crab (the more expensive ones), as well as the soup dumplings served in soup.

                                      1. re: hafnerd

                                        Too crabby... Isn't that like being too handsome? Or too rich? I loved them, but before i got them I was worried they wouldn't have enough crab flavor......

                                  2. re: LloydG

                                    You must have had some stinky tofu...although it would be weird to have them fried since Shanghainese tend to get them steamed.

                                  3. I too am headed to shanghai and looking for good, cheap eats as a solo diner.
                                    Not looking for "the best" of anything, just good food.

                                    From this thread, I see that Pudong is not a good neighborhood for finding chow.
                                    What neighborhoods are better?

                                    Also, anyone have other recommendations for chinese food other than dumplings?

                                    Btw the way, does anyone know of any good english-accessible blogs covering the local food scene (especially the non-Western, non-haute restaurants)?

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: racer x

                                      Check out my recs above and the links I provided to city weekend.

                                      It's easy and cheap enough to get around Shanghai by subway or taxi. There seems to be plenty of good eats in the French Concession. If you stay in a central location (near People's Square), you'll have the best of all worlds. Avoid the Bund as it is under construction for Expo 2010. Do you already have a place to stay?

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        No, haven't booked yet. Was considering staying in the Hyatts for a couple of nights, just for the thrill of it, but plan to stay elsewhere for the rest of the trip.

                                        1. re: racer x

                                          I would not be thrilled to stay at the Hyatt in Jingmao Tower. I would feel trapped. It's a great area to briefly visit, with the best view being from the sidewalk looking up. If you want a thrill, then stay at the Okura Garden, a historic hotel in the French Connection, or just go up the glass enclosed elevator for a nice view. If you stay near the People's Square, you will have easy access to all areas plus be able to venture out on your own and stumble across a myriad of obscure eats.

                                          1. re: Steve

                                            The Park Hotel (Chinese name Guo JI Dafandian, International Hotel) across from People's Square has reasonably-priced rooms, original Art Deco decoration, a very good Northern Chinese restaurant - and is smack dab in the middle of Puxi, near the new Shanghai Museum among other attractions, with subway access to everywhere right across the street (and taxis of course). I also would not stay at the Hyatt - take a trip up to the bar and hope that it's clear enough out to see the surrounding skyscrapers and as much of Shanghai in general as possible. Don't expect the expensive drinks to be generous - my husband's Scotch just about wetted the bottom of the glass.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              A very disappointing view from Cloud 9, and don't expect to see anything when you are sitting down at your table. Around the corner and down a block from Park Hotel, right across the street from each other, are the two highly praised dumpling places, Jia Jia for XLB and Yang's Fry Dumplings. Now that's my kind of view. The historic Park Hotel is a tourist attraction in its own right.

                                              1. re: Steve

                                                Yes indeed, a great location and illustrious history. Did you know that the Park was the tallest building in Shanghai until the middle 80's? Pretty amazing when you see the city now. (We were first there in 1994 when the boom was starting - the city was a forest of cranes - we counted a hundred from our window at the Novotel.)

                                                1. re: Steve

                                                  Jia Jia and Yang's, two of the best and least expensive eats in Shanghai. I'd do them on separate days, as it is pretty easy to eat too much at one sitting.

                                            2. re: racer x

                                              I stayed at the Hyatt and while it was cool and a very nice hotel, I don't know that it is essential. The two advantages were 1) it was a luxury hotel, which I like when I'm traveling in Asia, and 2) it had a nice gym, which is also important to me. I didn't find it that inconvenient, since it was maybe a 7 minute walk to the subway, but next time I would stay on the other side of the river.

                                              The two best meals I had (other than dumplings in the street) were at Ye Shanghai in Xintiandi and at Di Tai Feng in the Superbrand Mall (although I think there are multiple locations). There was also a great food street between the Buddhist Temple and People's Square, just south of the main street.

                                              Enjoy!

                                              Lloyd

                                              1. re: LloydG

                                                I've been staying at the Grand Hyatt the past few days. A wonderful hotel (and a great bargain at the rate I got it).

                                                True, there's construction all around the hotel. But I haven't heard anything from the room. Besides, in walking miles around the city the past few days, I have yet to find a single block that isn't under construction. (And that's not an exaggeration. This entire city is under construction!)

                                                The mention of the hotel is relevant because it's only a 5-minute walk from Superbrand Mall, where there a re few restaurants, as noted already.

                                                I had lunch at Di Tai Feng in Superbrand Mall yesterday. The food was very good. The server brought me shrimp and pork dumplings by mistake (I'd ordered shrimp and crab), but I ate them anyway and they were delicious, as were the pork buns I had.

                                                Decided to try another restaurant in Superbrand tonight for dinner (too lazy to trek back across the river): South Beauty. Try to get a table by the windows if you can because it looked like the view from those tables was quite something. The menu was enormous -- I think it took me 10 minutes just to go through the menu, which came in Chinese and English along with pictures.

                                                Had geoduck stir-fried with asparagus with garlic and ginger, king prawn with chilis and peanuts in a somewhat-gummy sweet sauce, eel stir-fried with chilis and other peppers, and kale with lily buds. This probably sounds like more than it was; the quantities of meat were not as generous as you might expect in an American Chinese restaurant. All of the dishes were pretty good, although nothing earth-shattering. The eel dish didn't have the sichuan kick I was bracing myself for - not sure whether the kitchen toned the heat down just for my benefit.

                                                The staff did try their best to communicate with me, as I speak no Chinese. This led to a bit of confusion when I noticed a distinctly porky-smelling item in the eel dish (I don't recall having seen this item mentioned in the menu's description of the dish). When I asked one of the servers what it was, he said it was pig's foot, which didn't sound right, from the texture, taste, and smell. When I subsequently asked another server whether it was from the pig's insides (pointing to my belly), she nodded. Now, I have nothing against eating pork stomach or chitterlings (I think these bits were from the colon rather than small intestines), but I kind of need to be in the right frame of mind going into the experience! I washed this all down with a couple of refreshing glasses of canned lily juice (new for me).

                                                Last night had dinner at a restaurant I stumbled upon walking around lost in the cold. I saw a bunch of other people going in, so I figured it couldn't be too bad. Hengshan Cafe, which specializes in Cantonese cuisine, although they also serve dishes from other regions of China. Had prawns stir-fried with celery and other vegetables (rather tasty), and "home-style" pork belly, which was disappointingly bland. As I am typing this, I see that Steve linked to a brief review of Hengshan cafe above (no wonder the name sounded familiar to me), so it's hardly a new discovery.

                                                1. re: racer x

                                                  South Beauty is a decent major mall chain restaurant that "specializes" in nouvelle "Sichuan" food. Its decent stuff, nothing fabulous, but good to impress as they pay attention to things like the interior design and presentation. Some of the dishes definitely worth checking out (both for presentation and taste) are the kungpao bull frog and the "beef served in hot oil with a rock", as well as a great dou hua that can be made spicy, sweet, or salty.

                                        2. Had the best meal of my trip to Shanghai so far for lunch this afternoon.
                                          I had intended to go to Yin, only to discover that it had been closed and replaced by a different restaurant.
                                          Instead, I ended up at Di Shi Dong, a rustic Hunanese place up the street.
                                          A very simple dish of stir-fried pork Hunan style with tender green beans was out of this world. The pork belly (thick-cut bacon slabs) was wonderfully smoky. The dish was oily, but I loved every bite of it.
                                          Also had a dish of eel slices that had been battered and deep fried with a touch of cumin flavor, then coated in chilis, scallions, and I think a touch of ginger. Also very good, although a bit heavy on the salt.
                                          The prices here were a lot lower than at the other places I've visited.

                                          1. I think the hardest thing I found as a solo diner in Shanghai was adjusting to the early closing hours of many restaurants. I had hoped my last dinner would be at Nina's Sichuan House on East Nanjing Rd.
                                            I was turned away when I arrived at 9:35pm because it was past their last seating.

                                            1. The food I most enjoyed in Shanghai was at Di Shui Dong, and that includes having had the crab roe xiao long bao at Jia Jia.

                                              I returned to Di Shui Dong the last night partly because the restaurant stays open pretty late (I'm not sure exactly what the closing time is, but another diner there with whom I struck up a conversation said that they close after 2am or maybe 4am.)

                                              For that last dinner, I again had the delicious bacon with young garlic shoots (garlic shoots, it turns out, not green beans, as I previously said); and a spicy dish of braised bullfrog in a chili pot, which was loaded with garlic, scallions, chilis, and thick noodles.

                                              Here are pictures of the bacon & garlic shoots and the fried eel dishes I had there on my first visit.