Hunan chain Kou Xiang Tang has been said to combine the upscale ambience and deliciously vibrant fare of Guyi, with the affordable prices of Di Shui Dong. After eating at the one near Shanghai Stadium, we’d agree that it does have a nice ambience, but that’s all.
Small wood tables with paper placemats like at a diner, a TV playing shows about fish, and a chandelier designed to look like a school of silver fish to go with it. Aura is pleasant and inviting, as are the staff.
Hunan classics from double-pepper fish head to spicy pig’s feet, none which compare to the renditions at Guyi or Di Shui Dong.
Despite being cloaked in tender gelatin, our pig’s feet (59RMB) were buried in so many chilies we thought we’d need a rescue team with dogs to extract them, and the tofu with bacon juice (32RMB) was pretty forgettable. More memorable was the super-hyped tea-smoked duck (38RMB for a half, 68RMB whole), if only because getting the dry, chewy meat off the bone evoked separating fossils from rock. Kou Xiang Tang’s best dish is mapo tofu, a Sichuan eat, that actually is a bargain at only 7RMB.
As a whole, Kou Xiang Tang’s fare filled us up fast, but didn’t really satisfy. It was nothing like the classic Hunan experience of inhaling dishes so atomically spicy yet so impossible to stop eating, breaking periodically like a fighter between rounds to soothe the hurt with Tsing Tao and rice, and ending with spice-splattered lips and an endorphin high.
Kou Xiang Tang could be considered a bargain if it had Guyi-caliber fare, but unfortunately it does not. Not to mention that unlike Cantonese or French, there’s no shortage of both affordable and tasty Hunan options in Shanghai.
Kou Xiang Tang – Second Floor, Tongji Square, 1388 Siping Lu, near Tongsan Lu, Yangpu District (杨浦区四平路1388号同济联合广场2楼, 近同三路). Tel: (0)21-3362-6098. Hours: 10:30am-9:30pm daily.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].