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Jesse vs xin jishi? Help with my foodie vacation plans

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  • mlin1 Nov 10, 2011 01:09 PM
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I will be in shanghai for three days and Beijing for five days. In shanghai my expat friends in xintiandi will be taking me to fook lam moon and Hyatt bund. I have one lunch and dinner free and trying to decide between Jesse, xinjishi (very convenient to where we will be staying), do shui song and din tai fung (wondering if it's any different from the taipei location)

In Beijing I will be staying near the forbidden city at the Hyatt and have six days worth of meals to plan. Any feedback on my list would be appreciated

Da dong
Made in china
Bao yuan or jiaoxi wu or xianr Lao man or din tai fung
Noodle loft or Beijing zhiajiang noodle king
Bei or my humble house
Yu xin or south beauty or chuan ban
Lei garden
Jia yi yuan
Dali
Ding ding Xiang
Na jia xiao guan

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  1. Hi Mlin1, Jesse, anglicized form of Jishi and Xinjishi (literally New Jesse) both serve traditional Shanghai food. I've been to both (Jesse a few years back).  Jesse is an older place and comes with all the trappings of nostalgia for older Shanghainese (think crowded space)  Xinjishi has a bit nicer ambiance and more pleasant presentation.  Food wise, I thought the two are quite similar with the typical Shanghai cuisine focus on soy sauce salty, sweet and greasy taste.   As for service, it depends on which outlet you are going to and who you are going with. Both could be a hit or miss as pretty much most Chinese restaurants are.  I personally detest the Xinjishi in Xintiandi - it's overrun by tourist and servers, in the heat of moment can get pretty rude. I believe some dishes have to be pre ordered at both places. Also Jesse needs a reservation. Otherwise the wait could be long.     If you want to venture into the true modern Shanghai cuisine, I would suggest Lynn's near the Portman hotel. The ingredients used are much better quality, food is clean, fresh tasting and service is consistently good. It also has a much better wine list than the other two and a full bar.  It has a higher price point than the other two.  

    As for Ding Tai Feng, I have never been to the ones in Taiwan but ate at almost all the branches in Shanghai and Beijing. If you've been to one, it's quite the same across the board - a testament to it's quality control. 

    I will refrain from commenting on the roast duck since I think your choices are all solid and it often comes down to personal preference.  Enough debates have been had on this board about the so called "best" one.   I may just add that the grand hyatt in Shanghai ( the one on puxi side not the super fancy one on Pudong called something hyatt, Park Hyatt??) does it too and you  need to call ahead to reserve an whole or half duck.  

    As for your Sichuan food choices -  Chuan Ban in Beijing is probably hands down the most authentic and traditional of them all.  If you can handle the heat, wait and crowd, go for it .  Yuxin is my go to place since food is excellent, price is fair and it's also very accessible with several outlets in Beijing and Shanghai.  South Beauty is the upper market version of Yuxin, more expensive and much nicer dining environment (or pretentious as some other would call it occasionally, the one in Beijing's world trade center or Guo Mao is probaly the prime suspect) Food is still very good and it has a better wine list.  I go there if I need to wine and dine business folks.  Ding Ding Xiang, in my opinion, is the least worthwhile place to go if you have Yu Xin and South Beauty available.  It's cheaper but food is really just so so - all it has is spiciness with little or no other flavor and substance. Some friends once joked whether the chain simply chemically infuses heat into food scraps.  

    I feel conflicted about saying anything about My Humble House.  Concierges at every five star hotel I and my colleagues stayed at in eastern Beijing from Westin to Ritz Carlton recommend this place - I've been there twice and found the place desolately cold and food bland. Once I went there around 8 pm on a Friday night we were the one of the only two tables at the restaurant.  For the price i paid, I could have much better food. I don't understand the reason for this persistent referral from concierges despite my experience.  Maybe I hit two bad nights there?  

    Enjoy your trip and chow away!

    1. Thanks for the detailed post; it was so helpful. This is why I love this board.
      From your post and others it seems even casual restaurants need reservations. Does this mean I need them weeks in advance? I dont speak Chinese so could I have my hotel concierge call a few hours prior and set it up?

      1 Reply
      1. re: mlin1

        Actually most casual restaurants don't require reservation. What you have on your list are popular spots so I would suggest reservation if you can. I am not sure Chuan Ban would even take reservation. Chaos is almost part of the fun there. Jesse is a small place with large and loyal following. So a reservation is highly recommended. last time I went there a few years ago, we made a reservation two days ago but had to settle for a 6 pm slot. As I mentioned before some of these restaurants have special dishes that require laborious preparation, if you want to try them, definitely call ahead and make reservation . The other side of the story is that not all restaurants consistently honor their reservation by keeping you wait any way - to which you can only say, c'est la vie! Another option quite unique to Chinese dining is that you can ask for a private room at some of these restaurants - this would often guarantee you a time but also comes with a stiff price tag. Some restaurants require minimum food order of anywhere from rmb 700 to 1500 yuan excluding alcholic beverages for those private rooms. If it's a place you really want to go but have a hard time securing a reservation, my suggestion is to go 10 or 15 minutes before it opens and try your luck.

      2. Do shui song, I think your actually thinking about Di Shui Dong (Hunan). Used to be better, years ago, but with rising food prices quality and quantity have decreased. People still flock to all of the locations though.

        Best duck I've had in shanghai, hands down, is Xindula in the Hyatt on the Bund hotel. Better than mass most I've had in Beijing as well

        Shanghai, 'Legend Taste' is great choice if you want to try some yunnan food

        If your a foodie and also enjoy great cocktails be sure to try one of the 3 'Constellation Bar', i'd suggest #2

        1. Thanks for the feedback on Di Shui Dong. I was typing on my iphone and the spelling was mixed up. I havent heard of a good Yunnan place in Beijing, where I will have more time to eat out so if anyone has suggestions Id love to hear them. Looks like in Shanghai we will try DTF and maybe Jesse or XinJishi. Are there specific dishes that I should request at Jesse or XinJishi? Do I need to order them in advance?

          1 Reply
          1. re: mlin1

            There are a few dishes that they will only make if you order it in advance, but it is highly recommended you do so. If you go to Jishi / Jesse, you need to make a reservation in advance. The space is really small and gets packed quickly.

          2. A lot of good responses here, so I won't duplicate them. I do have a couple other recommendations.

            If you're hankering for Hunan food (and I can understand why), instead of Di Shui Dong you should try Guyi. There are a couple different branches, the food is excellent, the atmosphere is clean and the service is... well, the service is no worse than anywhere else in China.

            I personally think both Jesse and xinjishi are somewhat overrated. For Shanghai food, I would recommend a restaurant called Xiao Nan Guo - it's English name is Shanghai Spring, and it has nothing to do with its Chinese name which translates roughly to "little south kingdom." They also have a couple different locations, I find the one on Donghu Lu to be the best of them.

            DinTai Fung here is as fantastic as it is everywhere. It's a real embarrassment to the Shanghainese that the best xiao long bao in the city are made by a restaurant from (gasp) Taiwan. However, if you want to try some local versions (which are about 90% cheaper), try Jia Jia Tang Bao right above People's Square, or Yang's Fried Dumplings which serves a different kind of dumpling called sheng jian bao (thicker skin, fried on the bottom, insanely delicious).

            Lastly, as for what to order, there are a few classic Shanghainese dished that you cannot pass up. Hong shao rou (red cooked pork), shi zi tou (lion's head, actually just a pork meatball), kou fu (braised wheat gluten), lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice (they also make it with dates instead of lotus root) and smoked fish. Can't go wrong.

            Enjoy!

            1. Shanghai:
              In summer we walked into Jesse at 41 Tianping Lu very early for lunch and were seated immediately before it filled up. On a 3-week trip in China the best thing I had was the wild herbs wrapped in tofu, but this could be a seasonal dish. Also the river shrimp were wonderfully delicate.
              The famous dates stuffed with glutinous rice are too sweet for me, but there was no denying that it was a well prepared dish, steaming hot.

              Hitting the two dumpling houses across the street from each other on Huanghe Lu, around the corner from the Park Hotel, is a standard Chowhound pilgrimmage. Yang's Fry dumplings and Jia Jia Tang Bao. At Jia Jia I adored the crab and pork bao. Both places are awesome.

              Huangshan Cafe is a good Cantonese place with roast goose and turbot cooked with hot chili. Also had the shallot root salad and freshly sauteed greens with garlic (many different greens to pick from).

              Who cares where you are staying? Get around, it's easy. Food is a great reason to visit another neighborhood.

              Beijing:

              3 Guizhou Men for Guizhou food. Nice place, the fried ribs are terrific.
              Pictured here are the ribs topped with corn, black beans, chili (no, you are not in Texas anymore):

              http://www.gudumami.cn/sn/cb31129/menu1/

              My advice would be to not leave Beijing without trying Xinjiang food. The place where I went was a hole-in-the-wall that I don't think I could find in a million years. But get suggestions or try another. Lamb and bread dry-fried 囊炒肉 is a great dish.

              Another piece of advice is to try zha jiang mian 炸酱面 (noodles in bean paste sauce) while you are in Beijing. I had a great version at Noodle Loft, but again there are probably many places to go.