Update: Check out new additions for 2010
As the new year rolls around, I thought it’d be fun to throw together a list from my little black book of Shanghai favorites. Here’s to a great 2009, and to my personal hope that Yelp makes a splash in China sometime soon!
Lunch & Dinner
Food Fusion – Nice little place with tasty Malaysian and other Southeast Asian dishes. Amazing authentic roti bread with chicken curry. Very friendly and reasonably priced, catering to local folks as well as the usual flow of expats. Just a few blocks walk from Xintiandi.
El Willy – Great upscale tapas place in the French Concession. Treat yourself to a massage at the neighboring Dragonfly parlor before or after.
Yogafish – Both the best and cheapest sushi I’ve found in Shanghai. Lots of California-style creative roll concoctions priced between 35-45 RMB ($5-$7 US) each. Specializes in take-out and delivery, with only a few places to sit while dining in. Had them cater a party and turned out amazingly.
Trattoria Isabelle – Fantastic Italian food and wine at quite reasonable prices. Comfortable, relaxing atmosphere that makes for a great date place. Just off Huaihai Road a jump, skip, and a hop from Fuxing Park.
Thai Gallery – One of my two favorite Thai restaurants in Shanghai. Amazingly large menu full of authentic dishes and a beautiful setting full of art. A bit off the beaten path from where I usually hang out, but only a few blocks from the West Nanjing Road metro station and a short cab ride from People’s Square.
Coconut Paradise – My other favorite Thai restaurant in Shanghai, nestled in the French Concession along a row of other great restaurants near the corner of Fumin Road and Julu Road. Great outdoor patio.
En – A nice little Japanese restaurant with fantastic Japanese beef and noodle dishes and friendly owners and staff. Highly recommend the meatball skewers with the side of raw egg for dipping that accompanies them. Only problem is you’ll never find it in the maze of alleys that are Taikang Road, and with a name like En, you’ll probably never find it on the web either (I couldn’t!). If you do, take the private room on the second floor for a great meal for groups of 4-6.
Maya – Recently opened upscale, modern Mexican restaurant serving up some of the best high end Mexican flavors I’ve tasted. Highly recommend making a reservation on busy nights.
Lost Heaven – Perhaps my favorite Chinese restaurant to make the list, bringing together a diverse and flavorful cuisine from Yunnan province. Large space with a cozy-feeling ambience that works for small or large groups, and a decent bar for sipping on a cocktail while you wait for your table (though you probably won’t need to).
Nepali Kitchen – My favorite for authentic Nepalese/Indian cuisine. Run by friendly people who are all too happy to make recommendations tailored to your taste preferences. Choice of table or cushioned floor seating, but you may want to call ahead if you have a preference.
Din Tai Fung – Known for some of the most amazing dumplings in the world, including Shanghai’s own Xiaolongbao. If you’re out to sample great Chinese cuisine, I highly recommend making a stop at one of their Shanghai locations.
Shanghai 1931 – Another one of my favorite Chinese restaurants to make the list. Very small, cozy venue with fantastic food and service. Highly recommend the duck pancakes. Great for dates or very small groups.
Shintori – Fantastic Japanese food in a beautiful, modern atmosphere. Two floors of seating around a huge open space gives everyone a view of the open area kitchen. A bit pricey, but well worth the food and experience. The entrance is intentionally unmarked (though not as difficult to unlock as its sister joint Ren Jian in Taipei), but it’s well worth the adventure.
Xiao Nan Guo – A well-known Shanghainese restaurant with quite a few locations. Shanghainese food isn’t one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, but if you’re after it, this is the place I’d recommend. Caters mostly to an upwardly mobile local crowd. I recommend the French Concession location inset into a quite beautiful villa.
Marrakech – Cozy little Moroccan restaurant in the heart of the French Concession. If you’re a local looking for a cuisine not often found in Shanghai (or most cities for that matter), highly recommend stopping in.
Las Tapas – Quite tasty tapas joint with a helpful picture menu for inquiring minds. Decent amount of food and more reasonably priced (though admittedly not as unique as) El Willy. Specials are run a few nights each week. Recommend the location on Maoming Road where you’ll also find a few other interesting-looking restaurants I’ve yet to check out (and of course, a good ol’ Blue Frog outlet).
Xin Da Lu – Decent Chinese restaurant at the Hyatt on the Bund. Mainly included in the list as it happens to be the only place I’ve had an authentic Peking Duck sliced at the table in Shanghai, and it was quite good. Highly recommend checking out the Vue bar on the hotel roof afterwards.
Haiku – Shanghai’s generally not known for its quality of sushi, but this is one of the better joints I’ve found. It’s also down the road from where I live, so I may be biased.
Yin – One of the first Chinese restaurants I was taken to in Shanghai, and I just kept returning over and over. There’s a Japanese teppanyaki section as well, but I haven’t had occasion to try it. Yin is great for small or large groups, and has a selection of Chinese dishes that are more similar to Western Chinese restaurants than most other establishments. Caters mainly to expats. Entrance can be a bit hard to find.
Jade On 36 – Perhaps the highest end restaurant I’ve been to in the city, with many many course set meals priced at around 800 RMB ($115 US), but well worth it for special occasions. The restaurant, located at the top of the Shangri La hotel, has an absolutely amazing view of Shanghai’s Bund skyline. Highly recommend calling ahead and reserving a table by the window.
Whisk – Small, trendy Italian restaurant good for a quick bite. Just a block from the Changshu Road metro. Slightly inset from the street so look closely or it might pass you by. Quite possibly the best selection of chocolate desserts in Shanghai.
Istanbul – Great Turkish restaurant with a beautiful dining room on Huaihai Road around the corner from the South Shaanxi Road metro station. I’ve only been once, and it was a nice dining experience. Anadolu also gets rave reviews from my local Turkish friends (ok, friend singular), and though only located a block from my home, I’ve yet to drop by.
Barbarossa – A beautiful restaurant serving up Mediterranean influenced dishes right in the heart of People’s Park. The beautiful setting makes this one of my top recommendations if just visiting Shanghai for a short time. The bar upstairs is also fantastic, and draws a diverse crowd for the drinks and view from the roof.
Yang’s Fry-Dumpling – A staple along Shanghai’s Wujiang Road food street famous for Mr. Yang’s cheap and famous friend dumplings. If you’ve never been to a food street in Asia (or if you have and want to see what Shanghai’s has to offer), I highly recommend spending an evening strolling through Wujiang Road and sampling the offerings. While the government cracked down on illegal vendors, causing some controversy among Wujiang Road fans, there’s still plenty of cuisine to be tried.
Kommune – An expat landmark nestled in the center of renowned Taikang Road, Kommune is a restaurant/coffee shop worth checking out any time of the day. The Aussie-run establishment is known for its famous Wednesday night Great Ozzie BBQ, and features specials on other nights of the week as well, but my favorite is breakfast/brunch, as it’s one of the few locations in Shanghai in a cool location open for meals as early as 8am.
Le Meridien – One of Shanghai’s amazing Sunday morning hotel brunch experiences – highly suggest checking it out. Huge selection and seriously entertaining atmosphere that borders on hilarious. Prices are around 400-500 RMB ($60-$70 US) per person, and there is an unlimited champagne option. Its sister hotel, The Westin, is known for an original brunch as well that may rival Le Meridien – I’ve yet to try.
Kabb – Owned and operated by the same company as Blue Frog (another favorite of many expats), Kabb offers a decent Western brunch with Southwest American comfort foods such as the breakfast burrito. Good for Americans missing local flavors of home. Only complaint about Blue Frog and Kabb is that my laptop can’t connect to the WiFi in any locations.
Azul Viva – Spanish restaurant close to my home with a lively atmosphere and tasty, reasonably priced Sunday brunch. Trying out meals other than brunch is also high on my list, but I’ve yet to stop in.
Nova – A decent French restaurant in the Dagu Road area largely frequented by expats for the famous DVD shops (e.g. the notable “Movie World” and “Even Better Than Movie World” outlets). Offers a quite good 88 RMB ($13 US) brunch Monday-Saturday with a slightly higher price on Sunday.
Hengshan Cafe – A Chinese restaurant with several locations featuring a wide selection of Cantonese favorites, and a fantastic reasonably priced dim sum. The location on Yan’an Road is much larger and a bit nicer than the smaller cafe on Hengshan Road.
Lynn – Chinese restaurant featuring an unlimited dim sum for about 70-80 RMB ($10-$12 US). The dim sum is good, as are dinner meals, but the service two of the three times I’ve been was horrible, and they begin to run out of most dim sum items around 1pm so start early if you decide to check it out.
Crystal Jade – Quite tasty and reasonably priced dim sum with a convenient Xintiandi location. A word of warning that the restaurant opens around 11-11:30am, so don’t go too early.
Vue Bar – An awesome bar atop the Hyatt on the Bund. Not walking distance to much other action, but still well worth checking out. The bar is two levels and beautifully decorated, the crowd is good, and the second level has an outdoor area on the roof complete with a hot tub – something you’re not likely to find in a bar elsewhere!
Jin Mao Bar – A bar at the top of Jin Mao tower, the tallest building in Shanghai until recently taken over by the new neighboring world financial center. Stopping in for a drink here is a much more fun option than paying to visit the tower’s observation deck, and gives you an awesome view of the Puxi side of Shanghai from the Pudong skyscraper. Suggest stopping in for a drink while it’s still light in the late afternoon. When you reach the bar level and step out of the elevator, try to turn left first to sneak a downward peek at the awe-inspiring inside of the Hyatt hotel.
People 7 – One of my new favorite little bars near a bunch of great restaurants along Julu Road. Opening the door at the entrance is a bit of an experience the first time, but worth the effort. ;-)
Just Grapes – Decent wine bar in a few locations with some decent food plates, but also happens to be my favorite wine shop with incredibly reasonable prices and a broad selection, categorized interestingly for those looking to learn about wines in ways other than “old world” “new world”.
JZ Club – Best jazz bar in Shanghai with a great atmosphere and nightly live shows.
Enoteca – My favorite wine bar in Shanghai. I prefer the Anfu Road location, though admittedly I’ve never been to the other.
Glamour Bar – Chic, famous venue in one of the Bund’s pre-WW2 architectural wonders. Quite the yuppy scene, but always fun. M On The Bund, a restaurant in the same building and owned by the same company, is reported to be one of Shanghai’s best restaurants and brunches. For some odd reason I’ve yet to try.
Bar Rouge – Another chic bar not too far from Glamour on the Bund. Quite famous, usually packed with a good crowd of people from all over. Nice outdoor space overlooking the water. Last time I was here the bar was lit up on fire.
Blarney Stone – If you came to Shanghai looking for an Irish pub, this is the place to be. While there are 2-3 other Irish pubs within a 5 block radius, the Blarney Stone is the smallest, coziest, and reminds me the most of the real pubs that line the alleys of Dublin. Clearly, tasty Guinness runs on tap.
Bovo Mondo – A new coffee shop with chic interior and friendly staff that just recently opened along Dagu Road. In addition to coffee, the place is filled with a great selection of art, architecture, and other books and recent magazines that can be read while you relax and drink.
Coffee Tree – My current favorite in Shanghai, coffee tree is a great space in the renovated expat delight, Ferguson Lane. The drop coffee’s quite bad in my opinion, but the espresso is decent, and the breakfast sets are quite well put together. WiFi is reliable and reasonable fast. There are a few locations – I’d suggest the one in Ferguson Lane on Wukang Road.
Ginger Cafe – A great little restaurant and coffee shop on a peaceful stretch of Fuxing Road that also serves fantastic tasting Southeast Asian food dishes. The WiFi is also good here, and I enjoy strolling around this beautiful part of the French Concession.
Figaro – My first favorite coffee shop in Shanghai. The first few times I didn’t know about the great upstairs area decorated a bit like a professor’s library. The coffee is great, and the food is decent. WiFi is fast and reliable. Just a block away from Xintiandi.
Coffee Bean at Xintiandi – The city is littered with Starbucks and Coffee Bean locations and their knock-offs, but when I’m craving a taste of home I find myself stopping by this bustling Coffee Bean location right along the main Xintiandi strip.
Listings are in no particular order, and I’ve left out photos in-part because I’m lazy and in-part to make it easier to load on mobile phones. Most locations have contact info, maps, and photos if you click through the links.
Please feel free to comment with your own reviews or suggestions! I’ve got a list twice as long waiting to be tried out in 2009, so stay tuned for more to come!