As Shanghai’s punishing winter falls upon us, few things counter the chill as effectively as a steaming, bubbling hotpot. While Shanghaiist has had a long-lasting love affair with spicy Sichuan hotpot, with its communal cauldron of numbing stock and gobs of pig innards, we realize that many of our loyal readers actually shy away from rubbery entrails and multiple chopstick dipping. It is to these dear readers, and to anyone else looking for a surprisingly addictive meal, that we introduce Yu Xiang Hai (御香海), a fantastic shabu-shabu restaurant perfect for the cold and hungry evenings.
At Yu Xiang Hai, each diner is presented with his or her own personal pot, so germ swapping between diners is not mandatory. We typically choose the spiciest stock that they have, which in all honesty is not very spicy at all, and proceed to dig into the all-you-can-eat menu (yes that’s right, this is another post about an all-you-can-eat place, and it won’t be the last). While pork and mutton are also on the menu, we prefer the plates of thinly sliced rib-eye, particularly the beer-marinated beef. The plate of beef sashimi is also tender and delicious. For those tired of swishing meat in their pots, add some gyoza dumplings and prawns for some flavor variety. Vegetarians, don’t despair; heaping plates of fresh cabbage, tofu, and mushrooms are available as well. All of this is dipped in the tangy and savory ponzu (sesame) sauce that we like to augment with green onions and spicy daikon (fantastic!).
Because the meat is so quick to cook, the wait staff does a great job of moving at a furious pace to replenish a multitude of orders at this always packed restaurant. And why wouldn’t it be packed? At 88 RMB for all-you-can-eat, this place is a bargain, with a boisterous atmosphere and great service enhancing the experience. While drinks are not included in the price, the 5 RMB beers and 30 RMB bottles of sake don’t do much to put a dent into everyone’s good mood. Dinner reservations are highly recommended, and even then be prepared to wait even if you arrive on time. For larger parties, call ahead and reserve one of the four back rooms. Regardless of where you sit, you’ll be bound to warm up immediately once the first of many bites goes right into your mouth.
Yu Xiang Hai – 1720 Huaihai Zhong Lu, close to Wu Xing Lu (御香海 – 淮海中路1720号, 近吴兴路), Tel: 6471-7657, Hours: 10am-midnight
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.