The Best Meals We Ate in Shanghai

Pin It

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


This was my last meal in Shanghai. I should have ordered double that amount of dumplings!


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.

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.

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


Lotus Eatery

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


Chocolate and Caramel Mousse Cake, my favorite offering at HoF.


Whisk’s creamy chocolate mousse parfait.


The “Upside-Down” – Whisk’s outrageously good chocolate souffle.

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.

Address: 30 Sinan Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Pricing: Cakes 30-42 RMB (5-6 USD)
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?


31 thoughts on “The Best Meals We Ate in Shanghai

    • I snacked pretty much the entire time I worked on this post. I think that’s why it took me so long to write it – I knew it would make me hungry for foods I can’t get anymore!

    • I can see how Shanghai might rub you the wrong way coming from Tokyo. Those two cities couldn’t be more different! We usually hopped over to Japan when we needed a break from the chaos. But for all of Shanghai’s faults, it did have some truly fabulous food!

    • I loved the variety of restaurants in Shanghai and miss the cheap and delicious Chinese food! Enjoy it while you can Agness 🙂

  1. Ugh. I so wish we had known each other when Tony & I were visiting Shanghai—we could have totally used your help because I want to eat all of these things at all of these places. I mean, we did ok while we were in Shanghai, but we were still pretty new to traveling and were so frazzled by China we didn’t really know what we were doing… I mean, we didn’t even go to Din Tai Fung and we LOVE Din Tai Fung (our first experience with the chain was in Hong Kong, and it was magical). One of my biggest regrets is that we didn’t get to visit Szechuan and Yunnan provinces… I really wanted to try the food, and it pains me to know I could have done so in Shanghai. I mean, those ribs! That crispy lotus root! That spicy ma po tofu! Such an opportunity wasted…
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…On Being Cut ShortMy Profile

    • I’ve realized that I was a terrible expat in Shanghai for not sharing this wealth of new knowledge with the world! I also missed an opportunity to run food tours and make some money! Of course, it took us about a year of living there before we actually started to make sense of the crazy place. That will definitely not be the case in our new home, should you ever find yourself in Northeastern Europe.

  2. I lived in Shanghai nearly two years and I thought this was a great list! I particularly enjoyed the brunch at Lynn and you are spot on that Masala Art is the best Indian in town! I could also add a little ma la tang shop on Fengyang Lu/Huanghe Lu and Dolar Shop for hot pot! Thanks for bringing me down memory lane this morning 🙂

    • Thanks Anna! I’m sure there are more favorite spots I’m forgetting, but these are generally the ones we returned to. What I wouldn’t give for a bowl of dan dan mian right about now! When were you in Shanghai? I wonder how much overlap we had.

    • We actually didn’t go to Goga until the week we were leaving – and it’s a very good thing because otherwise we would have totally blown our budget there!

    • Thanks, Jenny! The chocolate was certainly a pleasant surprise. What most amused me about those two cafes was that the Chinese had no idea how to properly enjoy dessert. We’d watch curiously as they would take a bite of cake, followed by a few bites of Caesar salad and a sip passion fruit juice, or some equally odd combination. The idea of enjoying chocolate separately, at the end of the meal, was completely foreign.

  3. We were in China for vacation (as opposed to living there), and Shanghai was at the end of our trip. I preface with that since both those may have influenced the fact that my favorite restaurant there was El Willy — awesome tapas on the Bund with a spectacular view of Pudong. Did you get to go there?
    Carina recently posted…Impending IllnessMy Profile

    • I did go to el Willy and it was very good, though too expensive for regular visits. But having traveled around China, I can certainly understand why el Willy would have been your favorite restaurant in Shanghai 🙂

    • I was absolutely stunned by the variety of foods in China, nothing like the Chinese food we’re used to here in the States. I could eat lotus root at every meal!

  4. Mapo Toufu is my favorite! It’s always ordered when we have Chinese food! The Malaysian one can be more spicy which I love as the local Malaysian Chinese love spicy food! Now this has sealed the deal, I’m having Mapo Toufu tonight! P.S.- I’m trying to find your post on Delphi but I can’t seem to locate it. Would love to read it. Maybe you could tweet it to me.
    Rosemarie recently posted…Not Just Another Ruin – The Basilica of St. John in Selçuk, TurkeyMy Profile

    • Lucky you, I bet the Malaysian version is really good! The American version, not so much.

      We went to Delphi in 2009, which was several years before I started this blog, and I haven’t written about the experience yet. I probably should, it’s one of my favorite places in the world! The oracle lived there and it’s one of the most spiritual places I’ve been. It helps that it’s a little off the tourist trail and nestled onto the side of a mountain 🙂

  5. Everybody always say to me how incredibly good the food is in Shanghai, I guess I have to go and try myself then. The all-you-can-eat Sunday dim sum brunch sounds delicious, I love dim sum and I’m pretty sure they have plenty of vegetarians options, don’t they?

    • There were quite a few tasty vegetarian options at this particular dim sum brunch, but I don’t know if that’s true across the board. Chinese really like pork! Din Tai Fung has vegetarian dumplings – mushroom, spinach – without the porky soup broth, and some of the regional cuisines like Hunanese and Yunanese have lots of tasty veggie dishes. Shanghai also has a very good vegetarian restaurant whose dishes are playfully made to look like meat. I’d keep a list of the characters for the various meats hand so you’ll know what dishes to avoid. This character means flesh: 肉 and makes of part of the words for beef, pork and chicken, among others.

  6. Ooh, I want those dumplings. And the Baileys Hot Chocolate! Actually, everything from those chocolate places. I’m feeling a sudden urge to visit Shanghai.
    Jess recently posted…New England SpringMy Profile

    • And I’m feeling a sudden urge to go back! Just remember to pack elastic waist pants. I learned that lesson the hard way 🙂

Comments are closed.