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Oct 13, 2009 03:11 AM

Best Shanghainese Restaurant

Shanghainese cuisine gets a lot of complaints; usually it is either too oily or too sweet; some say only the locals like it. But being stuck between two provinces (Jiangsu and Zhejiang) with some of China's most famously vibrant cuisines, at its best, Shanghainese cuisine can take the best elements of both cuisines and create a very powerful, unique cuisine of its own.
That the restaurant scene in China is not fully developed to allow for many consistently great dining experiences is a reason I attribute to the many complaints about Shanghainese food (a difficult cuisine to do well), but there are, I am sure, at least a few great Shanghainese restaurants hidden somewhere in this city.
Does anyone have any tips on where to go?

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  1. My vote is for Jesse (吉士酒家). Go to the original on Tianping Lu, not one of the spinoff "New" 吉士 restaurants. Info in English at Info in Chinese (with more than 200 pictures) at

    1 Reply
    1. re: Xiao Yang

      You shouldn't miss the wild herbs wrapped in tofu at Jesse.

    2. Define "Shanghainese food" - it is different depending on the generation and whether you are seeking "restaurant food" or "home style food" or "food that suits the non-asian palette" (sorry - I find tastes differ wildly amongst my diverse acquaintances in Shanghai). Wild herbs wrapped in tofu already sounds like a nouvelle cuisine......
      how much does "ambiance", presentation and service factor into your definition of "good" or "best" food?

      "The restaurant scene in China is not fully developed..."!!!????
      according to whom? have you looked at the list of internationally acclaimed western chefs who are stepping all over themselves and each other to establish an eatery in Shanghai, currently the hippest city on the globe?
      Hate to break it to you, but the "restaurant scene" has been happening in China for thousands of years with various peak and lull periods. Maybe "the scene" just wasn't your flavor of the month - just as "the scene" now in skews too young and portions too tiny for my sensibilities, tastes and wallet.

      5 Replies
      1. re: makanhounds

        I've been living in Shanghai for several years now, and the restaurant scene is certainly not up to the standards of restaurants in New York, Paris, or Hong Kong, not by a long shot. Even at restaurants owned by internationally acclaimed western chefs like Jeans Georges are prone to inconsistencies occasionally (their problems more often arise with service than food).
        I'm well versed in Chinese cuisine, but whether it be ben bang-style cuisine at Xinjishi, or contemporary Shanghainese at Lynn, we know where the food's origins lie.
        In my opinion, the list of great Shanghainese restaurants in this city is short, but I would put FU1088 at the top.

        P.S.-Most hip city in China, maybe. One of the hippest cities on the globe, yea right.

        1. re: hafnerd

          My votes for the best Shanghainese in Shanghai (u didn't specify which city in the original post) go to Jesse and Fu 1039 (same owner as 1088). But Fu1039 imposed a ridiculous RMB 150/head minimum charge for dinner when I was there, excluding beverage. This forces you to order some expensive items and annoys me a little.

          Blogposts from most recent visits:

          I avoid Jean Georges, Laris...etc like the plague when I'm in Shanghai. Absolutely no point to travel there and spend $$ on that kind of stuff in China.

          1. re: Peech

            Wow, Fu 1039 has lowered their prices, when I was there they charged 200 RMB per person excluding drinks. The biggest problem with that was most of the dishes were less than 40 RMB. With a table of 12, we had to order a plate of foie gras for every person.

          2. re: hafnerd

            Arguing the "restaurant scene" is pointless because its easy to look at it two ways, allowing either side to be right. Shanghai has an amazing scene with a lot of diversity in cuisine, a lot of great Chinese and non-Chinese options and just tons of great food to be had. At the same time, when you start talking about NYC, Paris, etc "standards", you get into the expectations of the expat diner (ie white table clothes, highly trained wait staff, the whole "experience"), for which Shanghai is still a few years behind.

            I'd add Maggie's 5 as my own choice for the best Shanghainese restaurant (and this is based both on food and total experience), though perhaps it ventures too much into "nouvelle".

          3. re: makanhounds

            I don't know anything about Shanghainese cuisine, but the 'wild herbs wrapped in tofu' is my own description of the dish. I forget how it's listed on the menu.

            People throughout the world have been stuffing Item A into Item B for a long time now, and using tofu as a skin for wrapping is somewhat traditional in China. So I am not sure if it qualifies as nouvelle cuisine. But the dish indeed has a refined taste and look, which I associate with city cooking as opposed to rural. Perhaps that is part of the equation when most people think of Shanghainese cusine.

            Anyway, give it a try if you are in that neck of the woods. It's mighty fine and is probably as good as dishes created by famous chefs at ten times the price.

          4. Jishi on Tianping Lu -- hands down the best Shanghainese spot in the city. Order the TiPang (fatty pig thigh) and the YuTou (fish head) . . . deliciousness.