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My Top Five: Shanghainese Restaurants in Shanghai

These five restaurants exemplify Shanghai cuisine at its best – laid back, local, and hospitable. Now that you know all about Shanghai cuisine thanks to last week’s Shanghai Food Primer, here’s where to try it out for yourself.

Be sure to let me know your favourites too!

1. Qiao Family Gate Restaurant 乔家栅食府 QiaoJiaZhaShiFu

I have a soft spot for this little place on the corner of Xiangyang Lu and Yongjia Lu. It’s a very old-fashioned Shanghai restaurant, full of locals eating lunch after finishing their morning errands and elderly friends getting together once a week for a meal and a gossip.

It’s not a destination restaurant, and there’s no hype or advertising. What you see is what you get. The most expensive dish on the menu is less than $US10 and most are $US3-4.

Every time I eat there one of the chefs will come out to the dining room to ask what I thought of the meal – not in a western celebrity-chef-meets-lowly-diner moment, just in a curious, never-seen-many-foreigners-eat-here kind of way. They always seem pleased I enjoyed the food, and I love that they come and chat.

On Dianping (China’s behemoth restaurant review website), frequent mention is made of the waitstaff’s ‘bad’ and ‘indifferent’ attitudes – you’ll have to decide for yourself. I’ve always found them consistently surly, in a good-natured sort of way.

Downstairs is just for noodles and Shanghai snacks, upstairs is a la carte.
Stand Out Dish: 
Their Drunken Chicken is, in my books, the best in Shanghai. A whole young tender chicken is presented peacefully asleep in a broth of clear chicken stock and Shaoxing wine, its meat suffused with the clear, mellow flavour of the wine and garnished with finely chopped chives. RMB 32.

Details:
336 Xiangyang Lu, corner Yongjia Lu
Xuhui District
Shanghai
021-64374174

乔家栅食府

徐汇区 襄阳南路336号(近永嘉路)

English Menu: No

Picture Menu: Yes

2. Jian Guo 328 建国328
When Jian Guo 328 opened in 2012 there was a sudden realisation that this at last was the Shanghainese restaurant everyone had been looking for.

For a start, the emphasis was very firmly on the best and freshest produce sourced cleanly. Secondly (and most controversially), the restaurant enforced a strict no-smoking policy, unheard of in Shanghai and the source of much initial anger as the smokers huddled together outside, complaining and puffing, before going back inside to finish their meal. 
Shanghai’s restaurant anti-smoking laws were actually introduced two years before Jian Guo 328 opened but were rarely enforced and certainly never by a restaurant proprietor, who might lose business by pushing smokers outside. But non-smoking diners embraced the restaurant enthusiastically, enjoying the consistently well-cooked food without a cloud of dense smoke affecting the flavour. Lovely staff too – not a surly one amongst them.
Stand Out Dishes:
Jian Guo 328 has a very extensive menu, and I’ve yet to find a disappointing dish among it. Their food is terrific.
The ‘Yellow Fish with Scallion’ 竹网葱香小鱼 (zhuwang cong xiang xiao yu ) shown above, is a nest of five sweet-fleshed freshwater fish) wrapped in caramelised scallions and served in a woven bamboo ‘net’. The fish are crispy and salty, and the scallions are smoky and sweet. RMB 58.
‘Eight Treasures Duck’ 私房八宝全鸭 (sifang babao quan ya) is a whole boned duck, marinated and stuffed with rice and smoky ham, dried scallops, and black dates amongst other aromatic delicacies, then wrapped and cooked in dried lotus leaves, imparting a fragrant herb flavour. RMB298, feeds 4-6 people.
‘Braised Pork in Shanghai Grandma Recipe’ 恃色红烧肉 (shi se hong shao rou) is a traditional red-braised pork belly, succulent and sweet, served in a terracotta dish. RMB 58
‘Black Mushroom in Soy Sauce’ 卤水大花蘑菇 (lushui dahua mogu) is a cold dish, an entire giant mushroom head served in a small bowl, dressed with a vinegar and soy dressing. RMB 16.
Details:
Jian Guo 328
328 Jian Guo Lu, near south Xiangyang Lu
021-64713819
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner

建国328
徐汇区 建国西路328号(近襄阳南路)

English Menu: Yes
Picture Menu: No
3. Guang Ming Village 光明邨 Guang Ming Cun
This famous Shanghai restaurant is just around the corner from our first house on Nanchang Lu, but I was always way too intimidated to ever try it out because of the long queue and my lack of Chinese.
Now I understand how it works – the ground floor sells traditional Shanghai snacks and pastries, including famous savoury pork moon cakes, and upstairs is the a la carte restaurant.
There are no reservations except for the top floor private rooms, but don’t worry – you can just turn up and try your luck at table-hovering like everyone else. Walk around the restaurant until you find a group who have almost finished their meal, then hover patiently very close to their elbows. As soon as they stand up, sit down.
If your group doesn’t fill up all the seats on your table, expect to share it with strangers who will be absolutely delighted you like Shanghainese food.
Stand Out Dishes:
River Shrimp with Preserved Vegetables 梅菜干煸白米虾 (mei cai gan bian baimi xis)(above). A wonderful combination of tastes and textures exists together in this dish – crisp-skinned fried river shrimp, with soft, salty preserved vegetable. RMB32.
Scallion Oil Noodles 葱油拌面 (cong you ban mian) – fine wheat noodles topped with caramelised-to-a-crisp scallions. RMB22.
SilkenTofu with Crabmeat 蟹粉豆腐 (xiefen doufu) (below). Best in show. The best version of this classic Shanghai dish in the city – rich and luscious, thick with crabmeat and roe. RMB39.
Details:
588 Middle Huai Hai Lu, near Chengdu Nan Lu
Luwan District

021-53067878 
53061200
Restaurant open 11am-2pm and 5pm-9pm, seven days
Ground floor snacks open 8am to 9pm,seven days

光明邨
卢湾区
 淮海中路588号(近成都南路)
English Menu: No
Picture Menu: Partial
4. Old Zheng Xing 老正興 Lao Zheng Xing
This old Shanghainese restaurant on Fuzhou Lu is the place you would take your grandparents to eat – reliable and unpretentious, but always good. Excellent service.
Stand Out Dishes:
Braised Gluten 烤夫(kaofu) – spiced with star anise, cassia and ginger, this sweet, soft dish is Lao Zheng Xing’s version of gluten cooked together with black wood ear mushrooms and peanuts.


Fried Eel 油爆鳝丝 (you bao shansi) – a predictably good dish. 


Details:
Lao Zheng Xing

556 Fuzhou Lu
Huangpu  District
+86 21 63222624

Open seven days for lunch and dinner

老正興菜馆
上海市黄浦区福州路556号


English Menu: No
Picture Menu: Yes

5. Dianshi Zhai Small Feast 点石斋小宴 Dianshi Zhai Xiao Yan
Housed in a beautiful old restored 1930s mansion on Yongjia Lu, the winding wooden staircase takes you upstairs to several different but equally charming dining rooms looking over the street. Consistently well-executed Shanghai classics with great service.
Stand Out Dishes:
Dong Po Pork 东坡肉 (dong po rou) This single piece of slow-cooked pork belly glistens like a jewel in its tiny dish, sitting in a tarry black sweet soy sauce. Perfection in pork.

Poached Whole Fish with Shaoxing Wine 酒香鰣魚 (jiu xiang shiyu) – a whole poached shad with Shaoxing wine – the wine’s delicate flavour complements the light taste of the fish.

Details:

Dianshi Zhai Small Feast
320 Yongjia Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai

Open for lunch 11am-2pm
Dinner 5.30pm -9.30pm, seven days

021-54650270 54650271


English Menu: No
Picture Menu: Yes


点石斋小宴 
徐汇区
 永嘉路320号(近襄阳南路)


And Five Honourable Mentions:
Five more places to get your fix of Shanghai cuisine. Are they on your top five list?

Shanghai Club 上海会馆 (shanghai huiguan)
5th Floor, 489 Henan Nan Lu, Huangpu District (near Fuxing Lu)
021-63357779 
Same delicious Shanghai classics, but with modern presentation.

Yuan Yuan 圆苑酒家 (yuan yuan jiu jia)
108 Xiangyang Lu, near Huai Hai Zhong Lu, Xuhui District
021 51083377
A more upmarket dining experience, Yuan Yuan has some beautiful private rooms ideal for large groups, and an extensive and thoughtful menu. 


New Jesse 新吉士(xin jishi)
28 Taojiang Lu, Xuhui District
021-6445 0068
It’s great, but relatively expensive. A nice space on Taojiang Lu, there are another five locations including Xintiandi, and the new IAPM mall on Huai Hai Lu.


Old Jesse 老吉士上海菜 (lao jishi shanghai cai)
41 Tianping Lu, near Huai Hai Zhong Lu, Xuhui District
021-62829260
The original but sadly no longer the best. It’s on a lot of ‘best of’ lists, which means tables are hard to nab and they make you wait outside until yours is ready.


Lu Bo Lang 绿波廊
Yu Gardens, near Bridge of Nine Turnings
021-63280602
Bill Clinton ate there, along with every dignitary in the world. This doesn’t necessarily mean the food is good, but if you spend the whole day taking visitors around Yu Gardens, it’s a great place to put your feet up for an hour.

  • Liz M.

    Yup, you nailed them! Although I see two on the list I have not eaten at……something to look forward, although sadly I don’t see a trip to Shanghai in my near future. Glad ‘daddy’ Tobin is on the mend.

    • nanchanglu

      Liz I’m utterly impressed, as always, with your culinary CV. You only missed two? Extraordinary. We better make a future lunch date. And thanks for your good wishes xxx

  • http://www.ferretingoutthefun.com/ Heather

    An excellent resource. If only you’d written it before I left! 🙂

    • nanchanglu

      I’m still catching up Heather – so many restaurants. There are something like five thousand Shanghainese restaurants in Shanghai, so clearly these ten are just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Ben Cost

    Great list! “Consistently surly in a good-natured sort of way.” The Shanghai attitude in a nutshell.

    • nanchanglu

      We love it really. I’d feel like something was missing if the waitstaff weren’t indifferently…indifferent. I’m sure there’s a better word for that….

  • Sue Anne

    Fiona, an excellent round up, I’m always looking to expand my list of go-to restaurants in Shanghai for visiting guests. One restaurant for visiting guests on my list is Nanling (南伶酒家)168 Yueyang Lu, near Yongjia Lu (岳阳路168号, 近永嘉路). You can make reservations (as opposed to the hectic waiting at the very popular ones), reasonably priced and relatively calm environs. They do the staples very well, including their version of a Peiking duck.

    • nanchanglu

      Sounds good Sue Anne – always good to add to the repertoire and so nice to walk in and have your table straight away. Thanks for the tip-off!

  • 萨夫 侯赛因

    In your experience what’s the best Halal restaurant that you’ve come across around there?

  • Terence

    Have you been to 海金滋 on Jinxian and Shaanxi? Super long lines, but the steamed egg and crab roe is my favorite thing to eat in the entirety of Shanghai. The other stuff is really good too, but the egg/crab dish is amazing.

  • Victoria Milner

    Fiona, thanks so much for the great tips. We got to Jian Guo 328 and loved the 8 treasures duck and the sardines on crispy scallion. Plus everything else we had there. I look forward to trying a few more next time.