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  • Atmosphere: The House of Lilies is situated at the top floor of a big shopping compound on Century Avenue. It is one of my two favorite Dim Sum restaurants in Shanghai. This restaurant has a really high ceiling and a panoramic window facing the east to offer broad day light to the entire venue.  The restaurant lives up to its name by placing a big and fresh white lily bouquet right at the center of the restaurant.  This is how every Sunday morning should be spent, dim sum with a cup of warm tea by the window and a nicely trimmed bouquet exuding refreshing flowery scents in the air.

    Food: Everything looked delicious in the menu and we ended up ordering a bit too much. First, I had my usual har gao (shrimp dumplings) and siu mai (pork dumplings). The har gao had mini bamboo shoots in it to give the perfectly steamed dumplings another layer of chewy texture. The siu mai had an excellent ratio of minced pork, shrimp paste and diced shrimps. Unlike so many other places, the siu mai here was not too loosely wrapped and would not fall apart even though you bite into it. It was amazing how it still managed to be juicy, tender and solid at the same time.

    After that, we ordered steamed pork ribs with chan chun fun (a kind of old style steamed rice roll which is hard to find even back in Hong Kong) and steamed peppery beef short ribs. The pork ribs were falling off the bones and had the right amount of fat and meat. The chan chun fun absorbed all the juices from the ribs and carried a few little flakes of garlic in between its folds. It tasted just like heaven. The steamed peppery beef short ribs had a lot of little flavor bombs (black peppercorns), which were large enough to avoid but grinded to small enough fragments to release all the flavors. I think the essence of the short ribs was the thin layer of tendons sticking to the bone as it gave the entire piece an almost crunchy feeling.

    As per usual, after four kinds of dim sum it was almost time for us to carb it up with char siu (barbeque pork) cheung fun (steamed rice rolls) and fish congee. The cheung fun here tasted just like home, it had a special oily gloss to it and it was transparent and just a little bit chewy. The gooey fish congee surprised me with a few slices of grouper hidden at the bottom of the bowl. At this price, I never expected to have actual pieces of flaky grouper with a line of bright red skin on top of it and I never thought the quality of the congee could be this good.

    As an attempt to finish the meal (you will know very soon that it was not the end), we ordered steamed milk pudding to share. It was basically milk in the form of a jiggly pudding. The only thing is the restaurant only offered cold pudding and the core of the pudding was freezing cold. It made me think maybe they made it the night before and froze the pudding overnight.

    Just before we left, my boyfriend decided to have a final look at the menu to see what kind of food options this restaurant got to offer for our next visit. We saw the beef stew with turnip and tendon in chu hau sauce and we gave each other a silent stare and nodded our head slowly. The next thing I knew, my boyfriend was flagging down a waitress to place the order. The beef stew was so hearty. It had chunky but melting beef brisket and beef tendons. The turnips were cooked to perfection in the sauce. It was more sweet than salty as the turnip itself was very juicy and it diluted the saltiness of the beef sauce in the cooking process. I almost ordered a bowl of rice if my boyfriend did not order fried dumplings secretly. I only had one bite of the dumpling as I was too full and I found it a little greasy; however, my boyfriend gobbled all of them at ease.

    Service: The service was really on point. There was a massive troop of waitors and waitresses ready to add hot water to your tea pot and take your orders. 

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

    The Beef: Raw to done in less than 20 seconds. I always order my pho with beef separately, so I can make sure my (very thinly sliced) beef doesn’t overcook in the broth.

    The rare beef pho is a must-have when I come here. The rice noodles are tender (and not overly chewy like some other establishments) and more importantly, the broth…which can make or break this dish. This version tastes like a homemade bone broth, rich and savory but not overpowering. Comes with a plate of fresh sprouts, mint, and shredded cabbage.

    Highly recommend the fried spring rolls here as well, different from the Chinese variety. The Vietnamese spring roll is wrapped with rice paper, and they don’t hold back on the filling. So perfect to dip into accompanying fish sauce.

    For a lighter refreshing dish, the chicken salad is a chopped salad with shredded chicken, carrots, cabbage, and a vinegar/fish sauce dressing (don’t let that put you off, you will want more of it after you try it).

    The Motive: The perfect hangover cure, makes my tummy feel so warm and happy. A casual eatery for a quick bite around the hood.

    The Damage: 45/55rmb combos for app/main dish/drink. A la carte prices also super reasonable for the quality and quantity of food.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Borrow the loo at a neighboring café.

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  • Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4

    on Tomatito Price per Person: 300 Rmb

    half_sushi on Tomatito
    05 Dec 2019

    Atmosphere: Tucked away on the third floor of the Infinitus Mall next to Gaden, Tomatito definitely lives up to the self-proclaimed notion of a "sexy tapas bar." With locations in Manila & Saigon as well, it is easy to see how the El Willy Group concept would fit in with the Xintiandi crowd. The decor is bright, colorful, and has flair. The ambience of Tomatito is simple, yet sophisticated for the mall location and it certainly shows in their food & drinks. 

    Food: Since it was around early evening, we decided on a few tapas to pair with our drinks and we were quite lucky as each dish was on point & would recommend a try. The Croquetas de Ibercios were savory and the balance of textures is what you would expect from a deep-fried delicacy. The tartar de arun in crispy wonton skin was simple and a fresh contrast to the richer tapas. Lastly and without a doubt, the consensus favorite at the table was the cuttlefish. Even our out-of-town guest from San Francisco agreed that the cuttlefish with the citrus and savory components rivaled the seafood of the Bay Area. All in all, the food certainly shines at Tomatito and it is evident why patrons find their way to an obscure corner location on the third floor of a mall. 

    Service: This is where I was reluctant to give the full 5-stars. The food and drink were great, the atmosphere was lively enough to entertain, yet something was missing in the service. As mentioned in other reviews and in previously working in the industry, there is something to be said about the fundamental points of service. Timing & flow have a lot to do with the experience and just hoped for a quality of service that matched the food. Nonetheless, will be back for a complete dinner as the paella looked good when it passed us when we were on our way out the door. 

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  • Atmosphere: Twinkle Premium Kids Club is a restaurant slash play pen for kids. If you have children under the age of 6, you have to try it out.
     
    The play area is best in class for kids. There is a huge ball pit with a high-end interactive video game projects on the wall. The ball pit is connected to slides and filled with giant stuffed animals. The play kitchen is probably ten times bigger than my real kitchen. There are also luxury “cars” to ride and charge at the electric charging station. Your kids will not get bored here.
     
    There are tons of staff to keep the place spotless despite being overrun with kids and they also actually seem genuinely interested in interacting and playing with the children, leading them to explore the toys and features of different areas.
     
    But then we get to the food. I can only say the food is squarely in the “not good” category. For a place that does everything else so nicely, it’s a shame that the food is gross. Don’t get me wrong, it looks pretty decent, but it just tastes terrible. The pizza was half cooked, limp, and also had no flavor. It tasted like eating a wet piece of cardboard. Quesadillas went downhill from there. I understand that some parents don’t want to expose their children to too much seasoning, but the total lack of flavor should be illegal.
     
    However, there is one thing that they totally nailed on the menu – cold beers. Very cold and very delicious. You order by scanning the QR code at your table and it shows up almost instantly. I wish I could take the QR code with me.
     
    If mom needs a break, this is a great place for dad bring the kids.They also have free wifi.
     
    It’s about 200 rmb admission per kid (parents are free) and the food is about 150 per person. Beers are 48 rmb.
     

    Food: Service:

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  • Rating 3 Rating 3 Rating 3 Rating 3 Rating 3

    on Khan Chacha Price per Person: 100 Rmb

    Atmosphere: Though the restaurant is in another one of those stale malls on Nanjing Xi Lu, the restaurant itself has a pleasant ambience.  It's smaller than your typical Indian restaurant, but also boasts a see-through window that shows the chefs in action.

    Food: King Khan (Bollywood star Amir Khan) has ruled the Chinese cinemas for several years.  Can Khan Chacha, a new Indian restaurant with a touch of Persian fare, be the next King of Khans?

    Recently opened on the fifth floor of Westgate Mall, I went during lunch to take advantage of their lunch specials available through DianPing.  58 RMB for a choice of curry or wrap, rice or naan, and nimbu paan or coke.   I opted for the Achari Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan and nimbu paani, a refreshing drink made with freshly squeezed lemon. The first sip of the paani took me back to the scorching summers spent in New Delhi when there was no way to cool down than chugging ice cold, freshly squeezed nimbu paani.

    The chicken is not your standard tikka masala.  No creamy tomato sauce here.  It’s served in a thicker, onion-tomato based gravy topped with sliced red peppers. A good rendition of the classic masala dish.  The naan is standard issue, isn’t slathered in butter as in most places, and holds up well as a ladle to shovel the gravy into your salivating mouth.  Though I came in for the lunch special, I had to tack on an order of daal.  Here, the Daal Bukara, a rich and creamy lentil stew, is served with a dollop of butter.   Simply satisfying. 

    No Indian meal is complete without a cup of masala chai.  The chai here doesn’t disappoint, though I wish it was served in a bigger glass.  The fennel and cardamom are the stars of the milky beverage as their aroma lingers throughout each sip.

    I was intrigued by a few of the other dishes that the neighbouring diners were having:  a beautifully presented Hyderbadi Briyani, steamed rice topped with dough, and a Persian fried phyllo dough stuffed with ricotta.  This restaurant begs for a return. 

    Overall, it’s a pleasant addition, even if in a mall, to the ever growing Indian culinary scene.  Dishes are presented with thought and well executed.  Watch out Amir, cause a new Khan is threatening to take over the hearts of the Chinese.

    Service: The service is as it should be:  fast, friendly, quick on the refills.  

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  • Atmosphere: If vegan, you’ve probably already heard of If Vegan. If not vegan, consider this your introduction. It’s a friendly, upstairs restaurant with a sort of scuffed IKEA vibe and a whole load of lovely, mostly healthy plates. To get in, find the little door on North Shaanxi, ten paces north of West Beijing, and head up to the very top floor. When we visited for a weeknight dinner, it was almost full of smiling, healthy older vegans and younger, v-curious hipsters. There's a bakery / patisserie counter by the entrance full of impossibly dairy-looking things, which you can presumably get to go. Also, it’s one of the only places I’ve found that does a good vegan version of meat floss, which is a selling point in itself.

    Food: You can get the abovementioned meat floss in the summer rolls, which also contain dragonfruit and come with a sauce the colour of grasshoppers. (It doesn’t contain grasshoppers. They’re not vegan.) We also ordered a lovely braised aubergine dish with a chilli kick, some not-too-slimy okra with a thin, soy-based sauce, a perfectly nice quinoa salad with fresh, steamed and roasted vegetables, and – regrettably – some purple whirls that reminded me of the food fight in Hook. The menu alleges that they’re made from purple sweet potato and coconut. They were the last thing left on the table, and were only really good for the novelty factor.

    Everything else was great, though. the food is fresh, well-considered and often imaginative. I'd go back to try more of the menu, not only because it's well-made but also out of curiosity. What do they top their vegan pizza with? I haven't yet found a good vegan cheese substitue in Shanghai, but I'd be game for trying whatever they've chosen.

    Service: The staff are sweet as hell, and very attentive to refilling your bai kai shui glass. Orders are placed through iPads, which have pictures and English translations for each dish. It's all very convenient.

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  • Yong Ping lane is a cool little space. A maze-like courtyard where you’ll find a number of eateries around every corner. One of these being Styx; a play on words to highlight the main style of cooking. The menu is a relatively novel concept where a large focus is on skewer-style cooking seen in many different countries rather than a single cuisine. In saying that it would be inaccurate to describe it as a fusion restaurant. There are no crossovers in flavours but rather a smorgasbord of skewers prepared in a variety of ways that stay true to their authentic form.

    Step inside and one can only assume interior designer was given a fairly simple brief. Tropical foliage and lots of it. You’ve got banana plants holding banana plants standing against a banana plant wallpaper. Throw in a chandelier or two and voila!


    Dishes of mention:

    Sichuan tofu skewers with the Asian slaw – Sichuan pepper marinade garnished with peanuts was excellent! Unfortunately prepared with a premarinated/ smoked tofu that was a little overpowering

    Chicken satay wrap – juicy chicken pieces laced with a flavourful Balinese satay sauce


    I still remember as a child my favourite food at a market being the satay skewers. The best ones had a nice charring on the outside and juicy meat that had soaked up all the marinade. I think Styx have delivered well on that front. An enjoyable experience where staff were attentive and helpful without being overbearing.

    Overall a simple but unique concept that brings together a number of street foods from around the work into one place. A great place for big groups including plenty of options for vegans and vegos.

     

     

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  • salad-days on H2 Cafe
    02 Dec 2019

    H2 is a cute, cosy 'Western style' cafe/restaurant located on the tree-lined Yongjia Lu, very close to the intersection of Wulumuqi Nan Lu. It's been here since 2010, a valiant effort in Shanghai years.

    The place is small, seating perhaps 12 people maximum downstairs, upstairs has a few more tables. For this reason, it can get very busy, with large groups gathering outside to wait during peak hours.

    The fare being served here is focussd on pizzas, pastas and sandwiches. I've been frequenting here for three years now, and would have to say the Lasagna is absolutely top-notch for the price. At 36 RMB, it's an absolute steal. As good as any I've had on various trips to Italy, it's worth trying this arugula heavy version. Lasagna is listed as one of their 'specialities', as is 'Curry Chicken Rice' as is 'Hungarian Beef Filet Goulash', which I've yet to sample.

    That's about as it good as it gets though, the other pasta dishes are nothing really to write home about. As for the sandwiches and wraps, same story, nothing special. I have seen a lot of people eating salads here, they could be worth a pop, but not by me.

    The pizzas aren't really pizzas, the bases being wafer thin, but they do have some merit. Priced between 28-38 RMB for a pizza for one, you can't really go wrong. There's 9 to choose from, the usual suspects, plus some left-field entries such as blue cheese and durian. Pepperoni does the job for me.

    Drinks-wise, they have a few bottled beers available, as well as Carlsberg on draught. Simple mixed drinks can be got, in addition to soft drinks and juices. Red and white wine are also on offer.

    This chilled spot is great for a cheap lunch or dinner, it has a loyal following and plays some laid-back tunes through the speakers during the day.

    Go for: Lasagna

    Avoid: Tuna Ciabattas/ Any of the wraps

    Good for: Casual meetups, quick lunch, cheap dinner.

    Cost: 61 RMB for person (1 Lasagna, 1 glass of red wine)

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  • Takashimaya has had a rough year in Shanghai. First, the high-end Japanese department store announced they were closing. I believe they actually closed for some time, and now all of a sudden, it’s open again.

    The only noticeable difference after the resurrection is that there seems to be much less people now. The whole department store was pretty much empty and there are many more workers than customers.

    The reasons to come here are its proximity to many international schools and there are good facilities geared towards kids. There is a free playground in the children’s section and there is also a Haba activity center that you can pay to enter. This is a great place to set up a play date and stay for dinner.

    Wan Liang is our favorite Japanese style barbeque at Takashimaya. The decoration is all a bit dated and simple, the tables are all really close together, but the quality of the food and service is really top quality. Basically, it’s just like you are in Japan.

    We had a pregnant friend in our group and the waitstaff offered to cook our food for us at another table so that the smoke wouldn’t bother her. I think that’s great service.

    The food was simple, but really high quality. We will be back.

    250 per person

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  • A lot of people don’t like restaurant in malls. But technically, Frasca is a restaurant in a hotel that happens to be in a mall. And it also happens to be one of the best new restaurants in Shanghai.\

    While you can access the hotel through Taikoo Hui Mall, once you get into the Middle House hotel, you will feel like you are a whole world away. Even though you are just a few feet from the largest Starbucks in the world, the well-designed landscaping has a resort feel as you walk through the lobby and outside to the restaurant.

    We booked a large party for 20 people in their private room. From start to finish the planning and service were top notch. Special thanks to Mark, the manager who helped us plan the event.

    We ordered a variety of courses from the menu. The pastas were really outstanding, and I also really liked the pisca. It’s like a pizza but super crunchy and loaded with toppings.

    Perhaps the branzino or sea bass baked in a salt crust was the only dish that we didn’t finish. This looked really cool when it came out and was served tableside. Nothing about it was bad, but it also wasn’t very special or unique like the other dishes above. The T bone steak was fantastic and was devoured before the plate had even cooled. The tiramisu for sharing was also worked great as a birthday cake and was the perfect end to the meal.

    Frasca should be everyone’s go-to for Italian food in Shanghai.

     

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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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