It's impossible to imagine Shanghai's cultural, social, and dining landscape without the welcome influence of Australian transplant, Michelle Garnaut. As the key figure behind this city's most successful and iconic F&B Bund venues -- M on the Bund, the Glamour Bar, and Glam, (not to mention M on the Fringe and Capital M in Hong Kong and Beijing, respectively) -- Garnaut has translated a more focused background in cooking and restaurant stewardship into her current vaunted position in the community as a benefactor of literature and the arts (re: founding the Shanghai International Literary Festival), a leading cultural pioneer of the current manifestation of Shanghai's illustrious Bund district, and, of course, someone who probably has some pretty good dining recommendations in Shanghai.
Presenting, a few places to get a drink or a bite to eat in the city from Michelle Garnaut.
1. Non-Descript Dumpling Shop on Sichuan Lu
The Dish: Shepherd's Purse Dumplings
"This neighbourhood dumpling place looks like all the rest of them: steaming pots, tiled ceilings, fluorescent lighting, and locals in their pyjamas… but it’s by far my favorite. You can watch them make the dumplings in front of you, they always taste fresh and they’ll skip the MSG if you ask.
You can choose from about 6 different varieties and you won’t go wrong no matter which you choose. I always go for the pork & capsella (a.k.a. "shepherd’s purse") with a good dollop of chili and lots of vinegar. (Oh, the vinegar!)
...Whatever you end up choosing, go hungry. They mean business when they set out to feed you."
The Dish: Hong Shao Carnitas
"BAOism is in that new and trendy underground food court in Xintiandi. They serve super high-quality baos with a variety of original fillings at unbelievably reasonable prices. These guys do a great job in putting a modern and fun twist on a classic street food while being fully transparent on the sourcing of their ingredients. All of the meats, fish and vegetables are locally and responsibly sourced and their baos are filled with things like ‘Korean Fried Chicken’ or ‘Hong Shao Carnitas’.
It’s a tall order to serve consistently delicious, good, clean food at low prices, and the team behind Baoism manages both with ease and enthusiasm. It’s great to see young people doing things that they love in a new and creative way. My hat goes off to them!"
The Dish: Everything
"Whenever I feel like going somewhere sophisticated and urbane, I go to the Puli. It’s a boutique hotel in every sense of the word. The new bar on the second floor is beautifully done -- you can sit comfortably, and the drinks are simple and delicious. Also, last time I went, they had three Alsatian wines by the glass… and being predominantly a wine drinker and loving Alsatian wines, they won me over in an instant. And that beautifully designed entrance and long bar downstairs is still an oasis in the middle of the concrete jungle."
Editor's Note: The Puli's garden is currently closed and undergoing renovations.
The Dish: The Tonkatsu
"I’ve become a Tonkatsu nut (the capital T… show respect) …and so am always on the search for the perfect crispy fried pork cutlet. If by some miracle you're early for a Hongqiao flight, then head to Katsukura at Takashimaya -- this is as close to the great Japanese Tonkatsu as you’ll get. This is the Kyoto-style Tonkatsu where you grind your own sesame seeds and personalize your sauce. It’s so good it’s almost sinful.
If you’re not out in Hongqiao by chance, it’s worth the trip anyway... and certainly closer than Tokyo."
5. DR Bar
The Drink: The Martini
"My old friend, Ben Wood, old in the 'lao peng you' sense, was the architect behind Xintiandi. He took a tiny corner in that enormous complex that somehow manages to still seem like a hidden gem after all these years. Find it.
And be ready for the perfect martini -- big and lethal -- just like Ben --but Alice rules the bar."