This post is long overdue, considering that I’ve now been gone from Shanghai for nearly six months. But while I’ve already written about many of the outstanding meals we enjoyed during our tenure in China’s largest city, there are still more worth sharing – and a few worth repeating!
Chuanxiang Sichuan Restaurant
Chuanxiang was our go-to restaurant in Shanghai, and not least because our fellow diners were sometimes wearing their pajamas. We developed an addiction to the fiery flavors of Sichuan and, now that we’re back in the States, this is the restaurant I miss most. Our meals always included 麻婆豆腐 or mápó dòufu – chunks of silky tofu swimming in a pool of liquid fire – and 担担面 or dàndàn miàn – noodles drenched in spicy peanutty goodness. We’d supplement our orders with 宫保鸡丁 or gōngbǎo jīdīng – otherwise known as “kung pow chicken” – and 煸四季豆 or gānbiān sìjìdòu – green beans stir-fried with garlic, ground pork and spring onions. My mouth waters just thinking about it!
Chuanxiang Sichuan Restaurant Address: 400 Xikang Lu, Jing'an District, Shanghai, China Pricing: Dinner for four including beer - 125 RMB (20 USD)
As improbable as it sounds, Shanghai was home to not one but two restaurants serving deliciously authentic Turkish food: Garlic and Pasha. Though owned by the same people, the latter was our favorite for its cozy, intimate atmosphere and cheaper prices. Pasha is located in a former French Concession lane house and boasts two small balconies where on warm evenings diners can enjoy views of the leafy expanse of Nanchang Lu.
We’d usually start with the perfectly fried zucchini pancakes and a plate of tangy goat’s cheese and tomatoes, paired with Turkish white wine. Our favorite entrees were the Ali Nazik, tender chunks of grilled lamb over creamy eggplant puree, and the Iskender, spicy grilled beef with tomato sauce and yogurt served atop wedges of grilled flatbread. Dining at Pasha was always a special treat.
Pasha Turkish Restaurant Address: 262 Nanchang Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China Pricing: Appetizers 38-68 RMB (6-11 USD); Mains 55-135 RMB (9-22 USD)
Din Tai Fung
Din Tai Fung was the first restaurant we visited in Shanghai and where I chose to enjoy my last supper before moving back to the States. Though this Michelin-starred chain hails from Taiwan, the food it serves is pure Shanghainese. Din Tai Fung specializes in a Shanghai treat called xiǎolóngbāo, which translates as “small steaming basket bun” and is more commonly known as soup dumplings. A veritable army of chefs press and fill delicate rice flour wrappers with a heady combination of seasoned ground pork and pork jelly, a gelatinous substance that melts into the dumplings’ soupy broth. Steamed in elegant bamboo baskets, Din Tai Fung’s dumplings are a work of art and the friendly service can’t be beat.
Din Tai Fung Address: Multiple locations around Shanghai Pricing: Dinner for four including beer - 200 RMB (32 USD)
Lynn Dim Sum Brunch
We liked to take guests to Lynn to partake of the all-you-can-eat Sunday dim sum brunch so they could try a little bit of everything without guilt. Crowd-pleasing dishes included the shredded chicken in a sweet lemon sauce, classic Hong Kong-style barbecue pork buns, savory spring onion pancakes and the “potpourri of 18 vegetables,” a fragrant stir fry of assorted julienned produce. We then finished with individual servings of a delectable mango pudding.
Lynn Address: 99 Xikang Lu, Jing'an District, Shanghai, China Pricing: 88 RMB (14 USD) for all-you-can-eat brunch; drinks extra
Despite its striking modern skyline, Shanghai – Chinese for “on the sea” – is a gritty, growing megalopolis with often smoggy skies and the ocean nowhere in sight. It seems an incongruous but welcome spot for the subtleties and relative healthfulness of California cuisine.
Goga’s West Coast Lobster Roll was a buttery revelation, with the decadent crustacean getting a zesty boost from sriracha cilantro aioli and fresh sprout salad. I couldn’t resist ordering the San Francisco Chinatown Chicken Salad, a glorious mix of greens, fresh and pickled veggies, walnuts and wonton crisps tossed with a ginger sesame soy dressing. Despite its clear Asian influences, it was reminiscent of potluck dinners enjoyed in backyards across America.
The Pan-Seared Red Snapper with charred pureed eggplant and baby spinach was incredibly vibrant thanks to a lemongrass tomato broth, and the Adobo Braised Beef Cheeks with horseradish whipped potatoes and caramelized bok choy was as hearty and unctuous as it sounds. The desserts were deceptively complex, with layers of hidden flavor and texture packed into the tiny cups. We enjoyed both the Valrhona Chocolate Mousse and the Lemon Curd, the only two available at the time.
Goga Address: 1 Yueyang Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China Pricing: Appetizers 50-165 RMB (8-27 USD); Mains 130-360 RMB (21-59); Desserts 60 RMB (10 USD) ** Goga was a cash-only establishment at the time of our visit
One of the greatest benefits of living in Shanghai was being able to sample the many regional cuisines from all across China. Lotus Eatery was our favorite place to enjoy Yunnanese food, an eclectic mix of Chinese and SE Asian ingredients and cooking styles. We usually ordered a Thai-inspired minced meat salad seasoned with cilantro, chilies and lemongrass, crispy fried lotus root and a plate of fried goat’s cheese. You can read more about Yunnanese cuisine here.
Lotus Eatery Address: 85 Yangzhai Lu, Changning District, Shanghai, China Pricing: Most dishes range from 18-38 RMB (3-6 USD)
Di Shui Dong
Di Shui Dong is a popular Hunanese establishment in the former French Concession that’s famous in the expat community for its 孜然排骨 or zīrán páigǔ, arguably the best dish from Hunan Province. It consists of pork ribs that have been slow roasted until the meat practically falls off the bone and heavily seasoned with cumin, fennel seeds and chilies. They are so addictive that one order is never enough! We went primarily for the ribs, but other dishes like sauteed lotus root and smoked tofu stir-fry are also quite tasty. You can read more about Hunanese cuisine here.
Di Shui Dong Address: 5 Dongping Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China Pricing: Most dishes range from 20-58 RMB (3-9 USD)
Whisk and HoF
And I can’t talk about the food I consumed in Shanghai and not mention my two favorite chocolatiers: Whisk and HoF. I was never able to decide which I liked better, as both have much to recommend them. Whisk’s chocolate souffle was lauded as one of the best desserts in the city by several expat resources and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s like eating a cup of half-baked brownie mix (trust me, that’s desirable).
HoF, on the other hand, offers a tantalizing selection of rich chocolate cakes and award-winning Bailey’s hot chocolate. Both restaurants also have a decent selection of pastas, pizzas and sandwiches to round out your meal, but dessert is the main event and you will want to order accordingly.
HoF Address: 30 Sinan Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China Pricing: Cakes 30-42 RMB (5-6 USD)
Whisk Address: 1250 Huaihai Zhong Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China Pricing: I don't remember the specifics, but pasta and dessert cost less than 100 RMB (16 USD) per person.
More Shanghai restaurant recommendations:
Lao Beijing – scrumptious Peking duck
Xibo – modern Xinjiang barbecue
Masala Art – the best Indian food in town
The Grumpy Pig – Vietnamese/Japanese fusion celebrating all things pork
Simply Thai – the most authentic Thai restaurant we found
Jean Georges – fine French dining on the Bund
Jimmy’s Kitchen – Shanghai’s oldest Western restaurant
Vegetarian Lifestyle – creative veggie versions of classic Chinese fare
Have you dined in Shanghai? What are some of your favorite restaurants?