Shanghai is one contrasting city. A dazzling neon lit skyline by night and smog so dense by day the sun rarely peeks through. Heat and humidity which engulfs you like a big wet hug and the most epic downpours of rain which literally stop you in your tracks. The glamour of The Bund, then the dirty poverty of the slums. And through this dynamism an emerging food scene is building.
Super cheap and tasty street eats, dumplings to die for, Asian tapas and contemporary fine dining. Shanghai really has all a hungry foodie could ask for. And so I stuffed my belly full of all of the above, even then I didn’t get to all of the places on my hit list.
I created a tasty Google Map of places I had read about and recommendations I received to guide me through my stay in Shangas, I hope you find it handy too.
I have already written about the awesomeness which is La Societe, and so here are the other restaurants I visited. Starting with cheap eats through to the more extravagant.
Din Tai Fung
Now an international chain, this Taiwanese legend is the place to get your dumpling fix. There are several branches in Shanghai (check out my map), find your closest one and go large. The Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai soup dumplings) are exceptionally awesome. Order the truffle ones and prepare to be transported to dumpling heaven. My other favourite dish is the spicy cucumber, so simple yet so damn delicious.
Shudi Sichuan Hotpot
One side note is that taxi drivers in Shanghai are notoriously bad. As in they actually do not fulfill their one job spec of getting you from A to B. Every time they will drop you at C. Now this could be just down the road from your desired destination or could be a block away, there is no science, but be assured you will rarely be dropped at the door. In locating this particular restaurant I just had to follow my nose. The smell of the roasting sichuan peppers was so powerful even from the street, I knew I was close.
This is a very authentic Chinese hotpot experience and comes with a warning. Prepare to sweat! There is no English menu and don’t expect to be able to identify everything that is brought to the table. But give everything a try and wait for the euphoric sichuan hit. Use your best sign language to order the deep-fried pork strips sprinkled with sichuan, Chinese KFC right there. Wash it all down with plenty of local beer, it’s safer than drinking the water!
The Grumpy Pig
This place is awesome and perfect for a casual dinner and some super charged cocktails. The steamed buns, pork and vegetarian, are a must. Also on offer, fresh Asian salads and tasty noodles and I would give the dessert menu a look too. They also do brunch with an egg menu worth coming back for.
You can start and finish your night at Lost Heaven. Just a few doors off The Bund it is a four story building housing a wine bar, restaurant and roof-top bar. The cuisine is labelled as “Mountain Mekong”, which features the recipes and ingredients of Yunnan, Burma, and Lao. It’s a rather extensive menu and you will struggle to refine your choice. The steamed cod with salt black beans is particularly delicious. Also try the silken tofu and aubergine. After stuffing your face head up to the rooftop bar and settle into one of the lounge beds for some cocktails and people watching.
Mr & Mrs Bund
No.7 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and the highest ranking from Shanghai, I was expecting big things from Mr & Mrs Bund. Instead I was left thinking, I don’t think this really works. Set in a massive dining room six floors up on The Bund, it doesn’t take advantage of its prime location and rather seats diners in a very dark and over the top faux luxe plastic, glass, suede, red, black mash up of cheapness.
The food is high end French bistro, and although it can’t be faulted, it didn’t blow me away. Very safe and predictable. The service, very casual. What kind of fine dining restaurant brings the plates out on a tray? There was a hens do to our left, all sporting red glitter top hats. Then on two occasions throughout the night the lights went down, a ‘special’ song request came on and the waiters paraded around a sparkler lit champagne bucket before delivering it to a lucky table.
Hmmm Mr & Mrs Bund you didn’t quite deliver for me.
Table No. 1
Just one of the establishments in Jason Atherton’s ever growing restaurant empire, Table No. 1 is sleek, sexy and delicious. Located in the uber boutique design hotel The Waterhouse at South Bund, it’s a bit of a destination restaurant, unless of course you are staying at the hotel, which we were! Winning. The restaurant aside this hotel is fucking cool.
Housed in a 1930’s warehouse in Shanghai’s old docklands it retains its industrial rawness but softened with ultra cool Danish furniture. Long communal tables are in line with the sharing concept of the menu; snack plates, small plates and meat and fish plates. Or as we did, the option of The Chef’s Choice Sharing Menu, which at under £80 for eight courses with wine pairing, it’s the best way to experience what’s on offer.
Highlights were the oysters with chorizo and toasted sesame. Caramelised carrot soup with pickled apple was divine, as too pan roasted scallops on a white risotto with coffee and capers. The dessert was to die for, cold dark chocolate fondant oozing with mango syrup and encasing lime and lemongrass icecream. Ommmphh!