Industry Nights is a semi-regular column featuring the haunts of chefs, restaurant owners, F&B managers, and other marginally sane people with good eating recommendations.
Sean Jorgensen came to Shanghai as chef of the long-gone Finestre, dropped in on The Mansion's roof terrace, was the chief whipcracker at The Factory, and stood out as the tall white guy in Maya's open kitchen. He's currently working on the dressed up comfort food at The Apartment. I asked him for his top five recommendations, and then decided to call this new column something different. Whoops! So, here's six, in his words:
"A Top Five. It’s so rare nowadays that I stop to think what I like about Shanghai. It's amazing how difficult it is to form a list, but the sad truth is that I don’t spend half as much time as I want exploring this city. I've lived here for five years and this is what I have to show for it. Let's get down to it."
The coldest draft Asahi beer in town, possibly the world, is at Yakitori Aska. The only sign is five lanterns out front. There's an unending parade of skewered and grilled delights, from the glazed chicken hearts to the quail eggs. The grilled chicken skin isn't to be missed either. And the owner drinks with you.
There's also private back rooms where you and your miscreant friends can get into food fights. Not that I've ever done that. I'm just sayin'.
2. Gokohai's "Steak and Eggs"
Got beef? Forget the steak houses. Gokohai Japanese hotpot on Huaihai Xi Lu gives me the best meat fix. The food is clean, and you control the flavors. It's generally packed. Definitely call ahead or you'll be shit out of luck. The servers use the expats to learn English as they deliver copious amounts of thinly sliced beef for dipping. Go with the spicy.
I once watched a friend devour six plates of meat on his own. My favorite version of steak and eggs is at Gokohai, as well: eggs poached in the meat broth, alongside the beef, fresh ginger, white radish, and soy. To quote Ron Burgundy, "delightful."
3. Pasha's Manti
The Manti at Pasha. Having a Turkish girlfriend has its perks. Among the mentionables is my newfound love for Turkish cuisine. Manti is the Turkish version of xiaolongbao, but smaller. It’s comfort food. The dumplings are filled with minced lamb, steamed and tossed with yogurt and garlic. I like how something so small can have such flavor; reminds me of my girlfriend. We usually sit on the terrace, drinking raki, Turkish tea, coffee -- or all three. The Turkish pizzas are very good as well, and the two-seater terrace on a sunny Shanghai day is quite romantic.
4. Garden Books' Orange Sherbet
5. Fangbang Lu, in general
My favorite late night street... Fangbang Lu. I’m a big street food fan. One of the biggest travesties the Shanghai government has committed was the removal of the Wujiang Lu food street. Simply a tragedy. Having said that, the frog legs, crayfish, and snails at Fangbang Lu cannot be missed. They're fried and tossed in soy, Sichuan pepper, and chili sauce. The crayfish come two ways: spicy, and burn-the-hair-off-your-feet spicy. Regular spicy works fine. It has been consistently good for the three years I've been going there. More than that even, it's street food you can trust.
[Ed. note: It's around the Yuyuan Garden area in the old town. Our current map has it as "Fangbin Lu." Yea, yea...]
6. Cha's Sunday Dinner
Sunday dinner at Cha’s. I love a busy restaurant. Any Sunday at 6pm, Cha’s on Sinan Lu will be packed. If you don't mind sharing a table, you can usually skip a wait. The braised pork belly melts in your mouth. The soy roasted chicken sells out fast. Better be early. The food is consistently good, and cheap -- the key word being consistent. That's why I like it. I also like the 7-UP in the old green bottles, not cans, with the salted lemon. Classic.