Old Shanghai hands probably know of and have been to all of these places before, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth mentioning for the newbies! While there are now more and more fancy hot pot/shabu shabu destinations popping up in Shanghai, these three chains offer great prices (usually around 50~70RMB per person) and good, hearty meals to fight the remnants of the winter blues away.
1. Little Sheep (小肥羊)
Ah Little Sheep. As one of the most famous hot pot places in Shanghai, it’s a surprise if you’ve lasted a winter without going here at least once. Originally started in Inner Mongolia, it’s now got 300 stores all over China and has even made it into North America!
Its original soup base is now legend (recently voted as the best soup base out of any in Shanghai by Time Out!), but you’re more than likely to try their yin yang hot pot formation – a combo of the original on one side and some Sichuan mala on the other. Besides the pot, Little Sheep tends to be pretty no frills. Service is usually efficient, but not always “friendly.”
It’s hard to determine which location is the nicest to go to (all the ones we’ve tried have been roughly the same in terms of cleanliness/service/quality), so you’re better off just picking the one closest to you.
Photo by songxy0910
I’m not sure who copied who (I’m betting Dolar Shop was the original), but both are so similar in what they do and how they do it as to be grouped into one. Seriously, nothing – not their menus,n or their service, nor the plates they use are different enough to make me know if I’m in a Macao Dolar or Dolar Shop without looking at the sign. So I’m counting them as one.
“Dolar” strays from the regular hot pot formula by giving everyone their own individual little pot. You can choose from spicy Sichuan mala pots to “vegetarian” mushroom pots to pots with Chinese herbs to “promote health.” Each pot is in the 20~30RMB range and anything else you order is shared at the table. It’s a surprise if your individual bill breaks 60RMB.
There’s also a sauce station where you can mix your own sauces – throwing in a heady concoction of vinegar, fermented tofu and peanut butter if that’s what your heart desires (don’t desire that though, really… it’s gross). How good the sauce selection really depends on the place. So does the extras – while some restaurants offer a free drink, others are more stingy.
There’s so many “Dolars” around Shanghai that you’re usually just best off going to the one closest to you. Unless that one is the Zhongshan Park “Dolar Shop” store, which has never required less than a 30 minute wait. Here’s a list of all the Dolar Shops and Macao Dolars.
Photo from 唯贻独尊
3. Three Travellers (三人行骨头王火锅)
We’ve sung of the praises of Three Travellers before and it’s about time we sung them again. Three Travellers may not have the friendliest service, or the cleanest restaurants, but that pork bone soup of theirs is to die for.
And it’s not just the pork bone flavoring their broth that makes it so good – while other hot pots usually just have a skimpy veg or two in there to add flavor, Three Travellers’ pots are so filled with stuff at the very beginning that it makes you wonder if you need to order any extras at all.
The nicest one we went to was on Nanjing Dong Lu (inside the Brilliance Shimao plaza), but the nicest rated in terms of environment is in Putuo. There is also an option on Julu Lu for those unwilling to stray far from downtown Shanghai. A full list of Three Travellers here.