A few weeks ago, SH Magazine’s resident food authority Christopher St. Cavish asked some big names in the Shanghai restaurant scene to give up their favorite, secret dining destinations. We loved reading the piece, and wanted the unearthing to continue. Since we at Shanghaiist are complete narcissists, we couldn’t think of anyone better to ask than ourselves. In honor of St. Cavish’s feature, we compiled the following collection of a few of our contributors’ more unknown loves. Some are in malls, some are chain restaurants, and some are even in Pudong; but all of them share one characteristic: they don’t accept Enjoy Shanghai cards.
Contributor: James Creegan
Where: Pizza Italia, basement of Japanese shopping centre at Jing An metro station
Why: It’s in a good spot, fast, and they do takeout (the restaurant itself is pretty crap).
What to order: One thing and one thing only: Beef Lasagne. Rich, beefy, and sweet comforting noodles. Yes it has slices of boiled egg in there, yes it’s only 30 RMB and yes it’s from a chain restaurant in a shopping centre. But don’t knock it till you try it.
Address: 1618 Nanjing Lu, basement of City Plaza/Sogo (上海静安区南京西路1618号久光百货SB02), Tel: 6288-2477
Contributor: Derek Sandhaus
Where: Asian Deli in Metro City,
Why: This is a really weird restaurant, but I kind of love it. It’s got the ambiance of a Wendy’s circa the 1980s, think salad bars and stained glass lighting fixtures with fruit designs. The food is supposedly pan-Asian (a little bit of Thai, Malaysian, Filipino, etc.), but it’s all done with the use of primarily Chinese ingredients and methods of preparation. I know in America we do our own rendition of Chinese food and so it only makes sense that China would do their own take on other standard Asian fare, this is that place.
What to order: I really like the BBQ tofu with Thai sauce, but the Adobo chicken and Vietnamese lemongrass pork chops are also pretty awesome.
Address: Metro City, shopping complex on Changning Road between Cloud 9 and Zhongshan Park
Contributor: Pete Chorba
Where: The Northeast Four Seasons Dumpling King (东北四季饺子王) on Huaihai Lu. I believe they have several restaurants in Shanghai.
Why: I love this restaurant for many reasons. For one thing, the owner of the restaurant is this tough Northeast Chinese woman who is a typical, sassy Dongbei lady. Another important reason would be the portion size. When I want to eat, I want to eat and when I eat here, I know I’m going to get a satisfying meal. It’s also great for a large group of patrons. It definitely won’t be a burden on your budget either. Finally, it’s only a two minute walk from Shanghai Studio, which is so convenient.
What to order: All of the typical Dongbei dishes are done really well here. Of course, the dumplings are great and a great choice if you’re not sure what to order dish-wise. Speaking of which, you can’t go wrong with starch noodles with sesame sauce; fried pork in sweet and sour sauce; peppers, potatoes, and eggplant mixed together; and stir-fried potato strips.
Address: 1791 Huai Hai Lu, close to Bao Qing Lu (淮海中路1791号, 近宝庆路), Tel: 6433-0349
Contributor: Jake Newby
Where: Spicy-Joint (辛香汇). Basically in the south-east corner of People’s Square, opposite the Opera House, although I think there’s a few of them around town.
Why: This is definitely one of my favourite places to eat at the moment. It’s probably not too “secret” judging by how busy it gets and you usually have to sit for a while in the waiting room outside, but it is certainly worth the wait. This branch occupies a whole floor of the building and, despite it being really popular, you don’t feel like you’ve been crammed in. The decor is modern and unpretentious, the atmosphere lively but private, and the service is always pretty good. It’s all reasonably priced (Dianping.com puts the cost per head at 57 RMB, although i usually spend more due to beer consumption) and the portions are generous too.
What to order: Most dishes are proper Sichuan food and I don’t think i’ve had a bad thing from the menu so far (although the mashed potato is a little disappointing). My top recommendation is probably the 钵钵鸡 (I think they just call it BoBo Chicken in English), which is cold chicken in chili oil with a peanut sate at the bottom of the dish – the flavours balance perfectly. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now.
Address: 500 Jin Ling Lu near Xizang Lu, 4/F (金陵东路500号, 亚龙国际广场4楼,近西藏中路), Tel: 6470-2777
Contributor: Micah Sittig
Where: Longsheng Japanese Sumo Hotpot
Why: The friendly Shanghainese owner who spent 13 years in Japan training to be a sumo wrestler will come out to chat with you, slipping occasionally into Japanese, when he’s not manning the kitchen. The room with the hotpot tables is white and sterile, but the low, faux wood bar-nook with the wizened old Japanese dude behind it and walls plastered with sumo tournament posters will transport you somewhere that might just be Japan. Too small for large groups and too low to be comfortable, the bar is usually the last place to fill up which suits us just fine.
What to order: Highlights are the miso hotpot, anything displayed on the bar, and various battered skewers which the old guy will fry up for you on the spot.
Address: 855 South Pudong Avenue, Dongchang Lu subway exit 3 turn right, look for the sumo wrestler on the wall in the basement. (浦东新区浦东南路855号世界广场B1)
Contributor: Wee Ling Soh
Where: Maharaj, in Pudong
Why: Best Indian (Gujarati, to be precise) food in Shanghai can be found in this unpretentious non-restaurant that is actually the apartment of an Indian chef and his wife flown in from India to cook for Jain diamond traders working in Shanghai. Everyone eats sitting on the floor in the tiny bedroom, with strangers or friends regardless and Bollywood movies playing on the TV. One of my best dining experiences in Shanghai so far. It’s not exactly legit (there’s already been complaints from neighbors about the constant stream of Indians and ‘noise’) so I’m not at liberty to disclose the location unfortunately.
What to order: There is no menu – you eat whatever the chef cooks that day, all-you-can-eat for RMB 25.
Address: (editor’s note: evidently, Wee Ling is intent on keeping this one very much a secret)
Photo taken by 2 dogs via the Shanghaiist Contribute page
Eric Hu is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news and gossip about Shanghai’s food scene to food at shanghaiist.com.