The kitchen table
Sonia Wong on salads | Issue 13 | 2018
—Restaurant critics Cai Xiaohui and Johnny Liu on where to eat in Shanghai—
Breakfast at the hole-in-the-wall
Shanghai has more than forty Michelin-starred restaurants, but even here, you must try an authentic breakfast of baozi, youtiao and doujiang. Authentic means a steam-filled, noise-filled, busy, busy, busy hole-in-the-wall café, where the queue is long (but moves rapidly) and a mug of hot doujiang (soya milk) warms the insides like nothing else. Dip the crispy youtiao (deep-fried stick of dough) into your doujiang to recall childhood breakfasts. But the best is the baozi, a steamed meat-filled doughy bun, fresh from the bamboo steamer, sharpened, if you can, with red chilli oil. All for a few dollars. But don’t bring cash! Come prepared with money in your WeChat wallet. CAI XIAOHUI My favourite hole-in-the-wall is across from exit 4 of the Xintiandi metro, on Madang Road. But you’ll find them outside most metro stations.
Early morning coffee or a late brunch at The Press
It is hard to miss such a history-laden building when you take a stroll along the Bund. The Press inherited its elegance from the legendary former owner of the premises: the newspaper Shen Bao, founded in 1872. Merely taking a seat for a brief while inside the café will enable you to relive the old Shanghai glamour. Try their Hankou Rd Benedict (spinach Egg Benedict with Hollandaise sauce), the signature Press Omelet, and the French toast: no better combination for a weekend brunch. The Osmanthus latte will warm your taste buds with its aroma of golden autumn, despite the chill of winter outside. JOHNNY LIU A1-03, 1/F, Shun Pao Plaza, 309 Hankou Road, Huangpu
Eclectic SE Asian and Chinese at Putien, near the China Art Museum
Putien is tucked under a bridge that spans two of five complexes that formed part of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. It’s full of families and a canteen vibe. Nothing fancy here, except the food. This one-star Michelin restaurant uses wonderfully fresh ingredients, cooked and presented simply, and modestly priced. Surround your main dish with sides like black seaweed with shrimp, sigua, and crispy duck. And let your main be one of Putien’s specialties: stewed yellow croaker with chilli or Singapore black pepper crab. This is melt-in-your mouth food. If you’re adventurous, the deep-fried pork trotters will have you sucking your fingers for hours afterwards (unless you use the gloves provided). You may need to wait for a table, but it’s worth it. As you step outside, look up to admire the impossibly floating China Art Museum. CAI XIAOHUI Metro line 8 to China Art Museum, exit 3, cross the road to your left.
Sichuanese food at its best at The Peacock
Sichuan cuisine is on fire in Shanghai (literally) and a Sichuanese restaurant is always around the corner. The Peacock Room is an ambitious one, with a particular design and décor. Do not assume that Sichuan cuisine is always sweat-inducing. Recipes here accommodate mellower tastes. You can explore the many flavours of Sichuan by ordering the signature Sichuan 24 set menu, accompanied by the Sichuan flower green tea and special rice wine. Sichuan 24 includes the famous suan ni (garlic & chilli) pork and jiao ma (numbing and burned spice) chicken. A good choice for foodies seeking a combination of high-quality food and a cool environment. JOHNNY LIU Taikoo Hui, South Garden Tower, 288 Shimen Yi Road, Jingan
Fish in pickled sauce at Tai Er, in the Crystal Plaza at Pudong
In this crystalline part of the new Shanghai, tucked into the top floor of a shopping mall, is the best fish restaurant I have yet to find in this amazing city. The one dish you must try is the translucent, jade-like freshwater fish Lu (perch), sliced into a soup base of pickled mustard greens with options of tofu, needle mushrooms, bamboo shoots, a bushel of red chilli peppers and young Sichuan peppercorns. It’s tender, fresh, sharp but not overpowering, and makes you want to fish out every delectable piece in the bowl. While you’re waiting, cast an eye over the busy wok-filled kitchen, watch out for the pronouncements by the young staff (Eat fish, save the world!) and enjoy your mug of hibiscus tea, on the house. CAI XIAOHUI Metro line 6, 8, or 11 to the Oriental Sports Center, exit 4, follow signs to the Crystal Plaza Mall on the New Bund
Delicious, warming noodles at Hefu-Noodle
Noodle soup is a culinary staple in Chinese culture. The noodle bar chain Hefu-Noodle with its bright, clean atmosphere is everywhere in Shanghai. It offers busy individuals cheap, mouth-watering noodle dishes—including its signature beef noodle soups—and dry noodles, rice combos, cold dishes and healthy drinks. And they deliver. JOHNNY LIU All major malls: hefumian.com
Night-time drinks at the House of Jazz and Blues
You’re in Shanghai. You go to a jazz club. It’s only right. This cosy wall-panelled bar holds no more than fifty people so it’s best to reserve a table (but you don’t need to). The food from the bar is fresh and tasty, the cocktails are just what you want (try the Ruby Manhattan) if a little expensive; and on Sunday nights the house band jams with guests. CAI XIAOHUI On Fuzhou Road, a block or so from the Bund, a short walk south from East Nanjing Road metro.
© Norton Rose Fulbright LLP 2021