Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
Homestyle Shanghainese havens like Chun are an endangered species in a city where the standard for Shanghai restaurants has become bloated palaces serving personality-less fare. Chun is all about personality. You see it in the four homey tables and the maitre-d Lan-Lan who’s equal parts nurturing grandmother and drill sarge: simultaneously pampering you and shooing you out the door because other guests are coming. It’s an attitude that tells you the food’s going to be great. There are too many tasty dishes to choose from, but we like the braised pomfret (红烧鲳鱼, hóngshāo chāng yú).
Most braised fish in Shanghai come shimmering in caramel-colored sugar water, Chun’s is buried in a brawny brown marinade. It looks like it was exhumed from a tar pit. And it’s freaking delicious. The braise resembles molasses but is surprisingly light on your stomach, and the sourness tempers the sweetness nicely. Penetrate that sweet vellum and ravage the moist, flaky flesh underneath. There are no menus, only fixed-priced meals, so you’ll have to specify that you want the braised pomfret at the beginning.
Now, anyone familiar with Chun knows the waits are notorious: you have to reserve one, sometimes two weeks ahead of time. Fortunately, there is a slight loophole. If you don’t mind eating at 5-5:30pm before guests arrive, you can book a day in advance or even on the day of. The catch is Lan-Lan will boot you once they do arrive, so your experience will be as fleeting as that of a fan showing up early to a sports match and occupying front-row seats not on their ticket. It’ll be enough time to polish off a braised pomfret and a few other dishes. Just don’t be late. Lan-Lan doesn’t tolerate tardiness.
Chun – 124 Jinxian Lu, near Maoming Lu (进贤路124号, 茂名南路口). Tel: (0)21-6256-0301. Hours: Lunch, 11:15am-1:30pm lunch, 5:15pm-8:30pm dinner.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Duck blood and glass noodle soup @ Zhouli Laoya Fensi
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
Have a recommendation for Dish of the Day? Let Shanghaiist’s Food Editor know at [email protected]!