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  • I love taking people down to Found 158 for the first time. Always the same reaction of a raised-eyebrow with a pouted lip followed by, ‘woah you’d never know this place exists!’. Its true. Strolling down Julu Lu you wouldn’t have a clue that this giant fish bowl houses a dynamic mix of quality restaurants and bars. Amongst these is Hooked, a seafront inspired restaurant and bar serving up classic British/Aussie/New Zealand (take your pick) style meals. You’re sure to find these breeds of expats gathering at this watering hole when they’re craving a taste of home.

    They’ve got daily deals throughout the week on food and drinks, my favourite being the 2 for 1 fish and chips on a Monday. Battered, crumbed or grilled. Or if you’re feeling like something a little more decadent I’d go for the lobster mac and cheese. Drinks menu has a good selection of cocktails and craft beers and if you feel like getting messy on a Wednesday night there’s 2 for 1 gin n tonics.

    Growing up down under I’ve had my fair share of everything from exceptional to horrendous fish and chips and everything in between. Hooked’s version is pretty darn good. I’ve tried both crumbed (nice) and battered (the best) versions (grilled fish n chips is not a thing). I was impressed with how well the fish was cooked and the mayo n mushy peas are a nice addition.

    Having tried many of the other restaurants at Found 158 I think Hooked deserves its spot. Although it may be the least ‘exotic’ of the bunch it does its thing well and delivers on a crowd favourite. I can see this being a popular spot even with the weather cooling down, those hearty comfort meals will go down a treat!

    Price for 2 (incl drinks): 260 (2 for 1 Mondays)

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  • Here’s the low-down on the latest action-

    The Beef: Yunnan cuisine is one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, so I never miss a chance to try a new spot that serves up the sour and spicy flavors. Yun Hai Yao has been around and has quickly expanded – with more than 20 stores in Shanghai alone and even more nationwide, and can be found in most malls and mid-range dining establishments.

    I’ve been to a few within Shanghai and the quality of food and service has always been consistently good. Sit down, scan your table qr code to order, and your dishes are served up rather promptly.

    Offerings include the typical open-faced grilled fish (one of my favorites, pictured), Yunnan style mashed potatoes, stir-fry pork belly, and the rice noodle soups (mi xian). They also have some interesting combo dishes like pu-er tea leaves stir fried with tofu, jasmine flower with eggs, you can’t really go wrong here. It pays to be adventurous here, especially if you have been in SH for awhile and are used to lot of the typical Chinese dishes.

    The Gang: Popular with local Chinese diners, in either smaller or larger groups.

    The Damage: Group of six came out to 120rmb/pax with a few beers each. Definitely good for groups if you’re looking to switch it up from the requisite Lotus Eatery.

    The Down n’ Dirty: In the mall…’nuff said.

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  • Here’s the low-down on the latest action-

    The Beef: Bird has a loyal flock of fans in Shanghai, and it’s not hard to see why. The creative, not to mention insta-worthy dishes seem to be updated to make use of seasonal ingredients. A girly brunch date was made, and off to Bird it was.

    The place itself is small and intimate – bar seating, window seating, and a single long table for groups, in total you can cram in around 25ppl. Upon entering on a 12:30 weekend day, the kitchen was already bustling and servers were busy scrambling behind the bar, and shuttling in and out of the door (sending food next door to sister café/bar Bitter next door).

    Without anyone to greet us, we sat ourselves by the only available seats along the window. It was a nice view of all the activities on Wuyuan Lu on a slightly drizzly day. Maybe it’s the old age, but instantly I felt the backless high stools were not doing it for me. No place for my bag either, where were the hooks under the table? This forced me to place my bag behind me, giving my ass even less comfort and space.

    The food menu looked great, however. Our appetizers. The kidney bean dish was carefully composed with dollop of smooth-as-butter hummus. The broccolini was roasted and charred perfectly, each bite so intense. I was not as much a fan of the two mains we had, however. The crab was rather too much flavor, too briny, too umami, too seafood-y (which I’m usually not put off by). It was also logistically challenging to eat as a benedict dish, so I ended up eating the crab on its own then dissecting the bottom part separately. The double sliders tasted bland and way less interesting than they looked, even with the two pretty green sauces. Squash fries were oily and soggy, could have been easily be mistaken for avocado fries without the nutty flavor. Portion sizes on the small side.

    The Motive: This place seems more of a girly date spot, although not really a brunch place where you can plop down and leisurely chat through the afternoon over drinks (a la seating situation). Suggest popping into Bitter after your meal.

    The Damage: 118rmb for brunch set (1 app + 1 main). Select mains require additional+20rmb.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Free (and clean) as a Bird splattering in the garden birdbath.

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  • There has been a lot of buzz around this place over the last few months, some even crowning it the best new restaurant in Shanghai. Helmed by a well-reputed chef and located in the swanky Bund Financial Centre, Heritage by Madison seems to tick all the boxes to attract the masses.

    The space is sophisticated, dimly lit with large inverted copper lampshades. Like many restaurants these days there is the option to sit overlooking the kitchen, which is always a treat to see the chefs work their magic. The menu consists of a range of Chinese-inspired small plates so be prepared to order a lot (sample a lot!).

    Still relatively new to Shanghai I’ve realized that my expectations are quite different to those who are more familiar with the ever-changing dynamics of Shanghai’s F&B industry. So this was a great opportunity to try something new with a range of people, to observe ultimately what determines if they’ll be back!

    Dishes of mention:

    General Hu’s cauliflower – One of the standout dishes. Sweet and crunchy with a nice hint of chilli

    Salted duck yolk lotus roots – a very polarizing dish. I myself loved it but it appeared to be one you either love or hate. The expression on my friends face can only be described as ‘an insult to her tastebuds’

    Fried mantou with edamame – a rye based version of these buns. Creative and delicious!

    Uni lobster – a decadent dish! Because of this its a ideal for sharing.

    Panna cotta – Unfortunately the fruit to panna cotta ratio was off. i.e. gimme more PC.

     

    On the spectrum of modern Chinese cuisine Heritage by Madison presents an innovative menu that pushes the boundaries. While some of the people I dined with weren’t so impressed with the stray from traditional flavours, I really enjoyed seeing a fresh spin on the dishes and am eager to see how the menu evolves.

     

    Price per person: 300 RMB

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  • Vietnamese restaurants aren’t as rare in Shanghai as they used to be just a few years ago.  More choices means more opportunity pho you to find a good Vietnamese spot (I do not send my apologies for that terrible pun).  Ha Tien joins the crowd in the Taikoo Hui mall off West Nanjing Road.   How does it compare?

    The pho sells itself.  It’s aromatic broth hits you even before the server sets it on the table.  The peaks of the pink, uncooked beef like icebergs piled in the beef broth.  The beef and star anise linger on your tongue after every sip.

    The grilled betel leaf wrapped beef is a treat.  An item that I’ve never seen on a Vietnamese menu outside of Ho Chi Minh.  Though it can’t compare to the real deal in Ho Chi Minh, it’s a dish worth ordering because it’s so different.

    The dry vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls is a hearty dish.  The spring rolls are the star, as they maintain their crispness no matter how much chilli sauce or hoisin you douse on the noodles.  The dish comes with a side of home-made chilli sauce that provides an unexpected tang.  Bottle that up and sell it please!

    Overall, it’s one of the better Vietnamese spots in town.  A menu that’s less than twenty items with a few good noodle choices and some items that aren’t so commonly found on other Vietnamese menus.  Meal for two, without drinks, runs about 170 RMB.

     

     

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  • F.Date is tucked away down a little lifestyle alley just out of exit 2 at Changping Lu station. It’s half flower shop, half coffee shop, but it didn’t seem to be selling much of either when I visited, despite its 5* Dianping rating. I’m not really surprised – everything, down to the bottle of soda water, tasted stale.

    It was disappointing because there was so much I wanted to like about this place. The slightly cluttered interior, with its nooks and background music, seemed like a great place to work or meet a friend. The service is great – friendly staff, everything on little wooden trays, a miniature flower display with my cake. The cake, by the way, was vegan. Brilliant! Love a vegan cake! Go F.Date!

    Unfortunately, it was a strange, almost musty-tasting vegan cake, and it cost me 38rmb. It was allegedly a vegan mango cheesecake but it tasted largely of nothing, with a faint tang and the slightest hint of something caramel-ish. The base was okay, but it had about the thickness of a metro card. If you’re going to charge 38rmb for a cake, it’s got to be bomb. This was not.

    F.Date is an aesthetically pleasing little place that, to its credit, offers vegan options. Coffees start at around 20rmb, but the cakes are pricier. It’d probably be cheaper to buy a bunch of their flowers instead, and they’d almost certainly bring you more happiness.

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  • Food is a great way to reduce homesickness, and JYJ Noodle bar sure has a great selection of noodles!

    I usually go with the classic Taiwanese beef noodle soup. It’s savory and slightly spicy with long-simmered slices of tender beef and hearty broth. I also love that they add the brown egg, which is a nice touch. It’s surely a comfy food of mine. They also have the clear broth option, which is also a classic and tastes very close to the one back home. Since noodles soup exists in various forms throughout East and Southeast Asia, they also offers other flavors like Tom yum noddle soup, as well as desserts like shaved ice with bubble and black sugar. Both noodle soups are 79 RMB and the desserts are around 40 RMB.

    The restaurant sits at 6th floor of IAPM mall. The space is quite limited but clean and organized. The staffs are very attentive and friendly. Overall it’s a great experience and I would definitely go back.

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  • Have you seen the movie A Quiet Place, it’s the one with Jim from The Office and his wife in real life and they have to escape monsters who hunt by sound. Basically, they have to tip toe through life or risk being eaten. If that movie were real, you would want to get away from Little Huia as much as possible during weekend brunches.

    But if you have kids who love running around and screaming, this may just be one of the best brunch spots in the city. The main draw is the amount of kid related hardware on site. Outside within their own private beer garden, there is a full playground that is better than most in the public parks. It has swings and multiple slides.  And inside, there is a full playroom with toys that connects to a covered trampoline room. Needless to say, this place draws the kids. It also draws the adults who want to sit back with a beer and let the kids flush out their energy in an enclosed environment.

    This is a place I would go to even if the food sucked. Surprisingly, it doesn’t here. The regulars such as fish and chips and ribs were all on point and even more surprisingly, the seafood including the oysters tasted fresh and crisp.

    We came in a group of almost 20 after soccer practice and felt welcome the whole time. If you come here with kids during brunch, you will love it. If you come here without kids, it will be your own horror movie, be warned.

    about 200 rmb per person

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  • Are wontons Shanghai’s most underrated dumpling? I’m going to put it out there and say yes. Classy xiaolongbao get all the respect and dirty shengjianbao are the guilty pleasure, but none feel quite like classic comfort food as a good bowl of wontons.  

    A good bowl of wontons is something that Er Guang Wonton has perfected. It’s a chain with numerous outlets across town – this one is in the new market-style development on Yuyuan Lu, and is thus fresh, clean, and just across the road from The Cannery and Stone Brewing if you want a drink to wash them down.

    The wonton soup is fresh and light and perfect for winter, while those served with vinegar and peanut sauce are on just the right side of indulgent. At less than RMB 20 a bowl, these are some of the most reliable cheap eats in the area. Décor is standard – you get what you pay for – but the seating area outback, in the corridor of the market building, can be kind of fun for people watching.

    Is eating these going to change your life like your first xiaolongbao did? Nah. But will they insert themselves into your monthly dinner rotation? If you’re anything like me, then for sure.

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  • Recommended by a Mexican friend as the best place in town for tacos, I knew I had to see for myself what it was all about. Located in the fun Found 158 complex, El Santo has a large indoor and outdoor seating area. We came here around brunch time on the weekends, and the place was not too packed as most places in Found 158 don’t open nor get busy till night-time.

    The concrete walls inside El Santo were adorned with artworks of wrestlers with luche libre masks, and the TV streamed wrestling matches as well, giving the place a vibrant feel.

    There was a wide array of brunch menu options to choose from, and it was a hard choice as everything seemed like a feast. In the end we opted for the Al Pastor taco (marinated pork tacos served with grilled pineapple), Arrachera taco (beef steak taco with guacamole), nachos, and the short ribs & egg benedict open faced burrito. We waited quite a bit to be served but the food did not disappoint.

    The taco toppings were plentiful, and it took quite a few mouthfuls to finish. The pineapple added a special taste of contrasting flavours to the Al Pastor taco, but I enjoyed the Arrachera taco more as beef with guac can never go wrong. The nachos were a delicious mix of beans, chilli, guac, cheese and salsa. Having never eaten an open-faced burrito before, I was pleasantly surprised by the photogenic displace of the food. With a combination of rib meat, bacon, avocados, and egg benedict, it seemed like the perfect brunch combination. By the end of the meal, my stomach was stuffed to the max, but extremely satisfied.

    The place didn’t do too much damage to the wallet as tacos were 3 for 100 rmb, nachos 68 rmb, and the open-faced burrito for 98rmb. Overall verdict, I’m still not sure if the place can be claimed as the best taco place in town, but it certainly wasn’t bad for the buck.

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SMARTREVIEWS

SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.

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    Born and raised in America , Ajay is a food enthusiast who spends a lot of his spare time walking the streets of this ever changing city. He moved here in 2014 to experience an underrated city. A man of many dreams (opening a restaurant, screenwriter, remembering more than two Chinese words) he’s found its better to stop worrying and have a bowl of noodles instead.
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