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Sep 21, 2009 07:51 AM

Shanghai dining tips

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.


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  1. You may want to read this thread:

    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.



      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.

          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:

          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

                            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'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.


                            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 . 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.