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  • A perfect place to reminisce over the UK.

    My BBF was visiting last week. We both studied in the UK almost six years ago, and have known each other for almost 20 years. We get each other without having to explain, so the second I told her about a British pie place, she said yes.

    The trip to Pie Society was my first time to Xingfuli (幸福里). It's chill but vibrant at the same time, with bookstores, fashion boutiques, coffee shops, a bakery and Chinese and western restaurants all within a short walk. 

    The weather felt like the middle of October, even if it was the end of November. People were sitting outside talking and enjoying coffee, and even having ice cream. Next to the fountain along the main stretch of Xingfuli, Pie Society overlooks all the action from its identical red tables and chairs.

    The lunch set is great value at RMB68 for any pie plus a side and sauce, and tea or coffee. We went for the full English breakfast (typical) and their most recommended pie, the Seriously Beefy, with minty mushy peas. The full breakfast was as huge as expected, almost enough for two. The crust of pie was perfectly cooked, crumbly and tender, and the minty peas had real mint leaves in them.

    There weren't many customers on a Friday at noon, but we still had to wait 20 minutes. Must have been the take-out orders delaying the tickets. 

    I have another friend who studied in the UK coming this week. Think I'll be back at Pie Society.

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  • Cha canting food = Hong Kong diner food that mashes up Cantonese, British, Portuguese, and other cuisines and is exactly what you want to eat at 2am, 3am, and maybe 5:30am, and although only Bi Feng Tang is on Eleme that late, their cha shao fan and milk tea does the trick.

    Good cha cantings are the best.

    And for cha cantings in Shanghai, these are The Big Four: Cha's, whose subway tiles, carefully sourced decorations, and music capture the vibe perfectly; the 24/7 Bi Feng Tang, which is cheap and passable; Xinwang, which tastes better than Bi Feng Tang (next door) but closes earlier now; and Tsui Wah, which isn't as good as Cha's but works better for extended afternoon sessions. There are other minor players, but these are The Big Four. They all have their strengths.

    Less discussed is Molokai, which looks nothing like a classic cha canting and deserves mention for a few reasons. First, they have brownie sundaes with Oreos and whipped cream. Second, all the food – from the chicken curry and brisket noodles to the salmon & egg muffin – is solid, with better ingredients than any of The Big Four. Third, it's a way nicer environment than any of The Big Four, and that's perfect for meetings and people who think Cha's is too real.

    Molokai is kind of a gentrified cha canting (you can order Wagyu burgers and cocktails), and Shanghai has room for that. You can still get a legit pork chop rice, milk tea, and beef-ball soup. And they're all about good service. Just don't go after 11pm – they're closed.

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  • The high ceilings, giant windows, and chandeliers are the first sign that the Dongbei Countryside Jiaozi Village across from Shanghai Sculpture Park is not a typical Dongbei restaurant.

    Sure, they have the usuals: the smashed chicken; the jiaozi; the poetic menu translations ("burn all the meat", "to three fresh", "paste the spine"); and the aphrodisiac baijius infused with deer phalluses.

    But Dongbei Jiaozi Village just tastes better than Shanghai's go-to Dongbei restaurant, Dongbei Four Seasons Jiaozi King. Higher-quality ingredients, less oil, similar price. The dishes are fresher and less sweet than the Dongbei at Huaihai and Huashan, and tower levels above the one on Xikang Lu.

    Dongbei might be the most vegetarian-friendly Chinese cuisine, and Jiaozi Village's star dish involves no meat at all. Liang ban dongbei da dofu is just a mountain of cold tofu mixed with chili flakes, raw onion, and cilantro. Some say it looks like cottage cheese. You will crave it for weeks after your initiation, and it's only 16rmb.

    On a Friday night, a crew of young kuaidi drivers with backward baseball caps dug into  dry-pots of meats and vegetables, laughing and cheering with big bottles of Harbin beer. In a city where the price of a cocktail has leapt from 60rmb, to 80rmb, to 100rmb, to 130rmb in just a few years, Dongbei restaurants remain one of the few places where anyone can have a feast for well under 100rmb. Dongbei food: a rare constant in the city. 

    (They do lose one star for still using plastic-wrapped plates and cups, which everyone still washes with tea anyway. Next year, maybe.)

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  • Heatwolves on Lelecha
    30 Nov 2018

    If Yi Dian Dian is Milk tea V3.0, Coco is 2.0, and that sketchy shop down the alley from Giraffe English is V.1, then LELECHA and its imitators are the slick new V4.0.

    Milk Tea! Now with… Real Whole Milk! Stunning GIF design on WeChat! Slow-Cooked Pearls!

    LELECHA grew up fast in the culture of streetwear and wanghongs. They don't just do drinks. They also release limited edition snacks like crayfish hotdogs, then drop WeChat articles about them that look better than most new cartoons on TV. And at least one shop, they have furniture shaped like dogs.

    The catch? Their drinks are actually really good.

    Their signature cup is the Dirty Brown Sugar. Basically just a big cup of whole milk, soft, slow-cooked pearls, cream, and real brown sugar – not syrup. And a bit of cream on top. (There's no actual tea). The warm brown sugar oozes slowly into the cold milk. Everyone is doing brown-sugar milk drinks this fall, and LELECHA is queen.

    And like Supreme, the drops continue, many of them looking like 6ix 9ine's hair. Cherry Cheese. Dirty Matcha. Strawberry Lulu. Will some disappoint? Probably. Do they already have 17 shops around town, seemingly overnight? Yes.

    What does milk tea 5.0 look like?

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  • Kao Jiu Noodle Shop is the kind of local resturant in Shanghai that absolutely deserves more attention, but a combination of sub-optimal location and no attention from foreign food aggregation apps means it will fly under the radar for its whole life. Fortunately for you, I am here to fix that for you. 

    Kao Jiu is located wayy up Wanhangdu Road, in the part of Jing'an that you seems to consist entirely of office buildings and residential complexes, just south of Changshou Road. The shop is small and unfancy, with a menu that seems much too large for its 5 seats (as Chinese noodle shops usually do).

    I've been here several times and tried a few different things each time, generally enjoying everything I've had. The standout is the scallion oil noodles - freshly made, fragant, and topped with chewy fried scallion greens as well. This incredibly simple dish is just so excellent when it's done right, and Kao Jiu knows how to do it right. Aside from the scallion oil noodles, the la rou noodles are also great. La rou (辣肉)is a kind of Shanghai-style marinated spicy/sweet pork preparation that's usually tossed onto a bowl of fresh ramen for quick and easy noodle soup seasoning. They go a great job with their la rou at Kao Jiu, and I can also highly recommend. 

    On a recent trip, I also ordered a side of kao fu (烤麸), i.e. the brown spongy soy product that usually is served in Shanghai restaurants as a sweet appetizer. The kao fu at Kao Jiu was not as sweet as Shanghai restaurants usually serve it, which I appreciate, since the sugar sauce can sometimes be a little overwhelming. 

    Overally, Kao Jiu is a clean little Shanghai noddle shop that excels at being itself. It's always busy when I've been on both weekends and weekdays, and I imagine it's very popular with the lunch crowd in the neighborhood. Give it a try if you're swinging through and find yourself a bit peckish, and you'll leave with a full stomach and only about 30 CNY of damage to your wallet.  

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  • I'll keep this review short and to the point, since I'm only reviewing the bagels here, and I didn't try any savory breakfast sandwiches. 

    I'm not reviewing the guy who sat next to me eating his bagel with a knife and fork (!), but I'd give him 1 star if I could. Or zero stars. Eating a bagel with a fork deserves no stars. 

    Plain bagel w/ scallion cream cheese and smoked salmon - just...ok The portion of cream cheese portion was laughably small, which is consistently a problem of bagels in Shanghai (among the few bagel places we have). The thick serving of smoked salmon was appreciated, but it made it more like a smoked salmon sandwich with a bit of cheese. Not bad value for money, but poor ratio of salmon to cheese. Plain bagel itself was alright - I would have liked it a bit chewier. 7/10. 

    Cinnamon bagel with walnut cream cheese - was not good. The bagel tasted old - wasn't chewy at all, just kind of dry and pulpy in my mouth. Maybe the dough was overworked? The serving of cream cheese was also very skimpy, but it didn't have any other fillings to balance things out, so it was mostly a mouthful of dry, pulpy bagel. Not a pleasant experience. 3/10. 

    The final verdict: it's ok if you're craving a bagel in this part of town, but prices are high-ish and the bagels appear to be hit or miss. Considering Spread the Bagel seems to have found a new temporary home inside of Al's Diner on Xiangyang, that would be a far better choice for a bagel fix, as long as you don't mind making a trip over to that part of town. 3 stars of 5. 

     

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  • The full name of this Malaysian restaurant is "Roadhouse by Awana", indicating that it is a rebrand of of Awana which used to stand at the same location. The restaurant is an uncommon (for China) mix of bar and dining, reminiscient of the "bar and grill" style restaurant so common in North America. The big challenge for these places always seems to be whether they adjust their lighting to be more like a bar or a grill, but Roadhouse struck the right balance there - not too dark but not overly bright either. Unfortunately it wasn't ideal for this reviewer to take well-lit foodie pics, but oh well...

    We came here craving Malaysian, so we ignored the first 3-4 pages of Western food and skipped right to the Malaysian specialities. Here, we ordered the curry sampler, housemade fried tofu, and the char kway toew, along with a side of coconut rice. The curry also came with roti. The food came out at a very good pace and we had everything on the table within 10-15 minutes. 

    The char kway teow was the first dish we tried, and unfortunately it was the low point of the meal. We found it a big soggy and mushy, seemingly having either too much oil or overcooked noodles or both. Flavor was good, but it was a poor comparison to the char kway teow we had enjoyed before in Malaysia. Final score 4/10. 

    Fortunately the other two dishes were absolutely excellent, meaning that Roadhouse still gets a 5/5 from me. That should tell you how good the curry and tofu were! 

    The curry sampler included chicken, beef, and seafood. None of the three curries were spicy, and all flavors were unique from each other and well-crafted. The chicken was an assam curry with mellow and balanced tamarind flavor - delicious. The beef was a richer curry that I couldn't quite identify (I should have asked!) but was definitely different from the chicken and also full of flavor. It seemed a little closer in flavor to one of the more mellow Thai curries. The seafood curry was a dark brown color that I've never seen in a curry before, and the flavor was strangely somehow reminiscent of some kind of Western cuisine. It may have been my imagination, but it reminded me of what you'd taste in a savory steak suace - lots of onions and mushrooms. All three were great though, and the accompanying roti was light and flaky. 9/10. 

    The house-made tofu was also a winner. Big chunks of delicately fried soft tofu, with what appeared to be an egg-based fried crust and a light, sweet sauce. Other diners have raved about this tofu on other review apps and I think it's well deserved. Also 9/10. 

    I ordered a mojito as well, just to try out the bar portion of their establishment, and that was ok. Nothing special, but not bad either. 6/10. 

    Final damage was 219 CNY for two - good value for this part of town. All things considered, we'll definitely be back.

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  • emmgant on Barbarian
    29 Nov 2018

    I’m a big fan of Barbarian for evening drinks. I go there regularly as I like that I don’t actually have to make decisions. You can simply tell the bartender what you’re in the mood for, and he or she will whip something up for you on the spot. Herbal-sweet-vodka-something? Sure. Sour-whiskey-floral-something? Done. The bar staff is great, and the price usually hovers around RMB 60 for uniquely crafted cocktails.

    Barbarian is great for those of us who are trying to cut down on carbs. (Not me, but I’m happy for you keto-fiends.) The menu is really meat heavy, and you can’t really go wrong with meat on a stick. I ordered some BBQ Pork Ribs (RMB 98) as well as the Primitive Steak Salad (RMB 68). I’m really getting behind the salad, as a steak salad usually doesn’t have pumpkin or maple bacon dressing. It was a twist on the usual. Ribs were grilled to perfection.

    I’d recommend Barbarian for the meat lover in the best of us. The prices are fair, and the food hits the spot. The downstairs has a distinctly cozy ambiance, but the upstairs terrace is a more open option before the weather gets too cool for even a heat lamp to override.  

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  • The best ketchup ever! (I know.) But I had never tasted any ketchup like this, which feels like true tomato, perfectly mashed and flavoured if a bit salty, but still the best. 

    Waited forever for the Scottish fried egg sandwich, at least 15 minutes. Had seen some photos of it online, the bread looked just like normal white toast. To my surprise, it was ciabatta, well-toasted and crispy. The yolk was perfect, but the meat part was nothing special. Would give some credit to the Japanese style sesame sauce.

    Couldn't help to have the lemon pound cake, as they looked so adorable on the counter. Very good on photos and went well with flat white. 

    It was about 11:30a.m. on a rainy Sunday morning when I got there. Two people before me at the counter and the first floor was not so busy at all. They have some groceries in the shop, mainly stationary and canvas bags with their logo on it. Couple of tables were available upstairs but definitely not the ones with the best views.

    By the time I left an hour later, it was full of people on the first floor, taking pictures and ordering.

     

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  • Flavour: I popped in here for a quick lunch not expecting anything too great but as decently pleased by the food here. I ordered a lunch set of bak kuh teh with a side of veggies, youtiao, and rice. The bak kuh the is almost on par with the ones I’ve had in the hawker centres in Singapore; definitely left me feeling warm and satisfied on the inside. The veggies are also abundant and the set made for a wholesome lunchtime meal. The restaurant is officially labelled as a Malaysian restaurant and you can also find notable Southeast Asian treats on the menu such as beef rendang, chicken rice, and tom yum soup. Definitely pop in during lunchtime to try out their abundant lunchtime deals. 

    Location: Located on Changping Road in between many local restaurants.

    Vibe: The storefront is not too noticeable and once you step in, you are directed to the second floor to sit. Nothing worth noting much except that there is a big TV in front with food channels of Southeast Asian cuisine broadcasted as you eat.

    Crowd: Very local and not too busy.  

    Service: Pretty minimal though the waiter was very helpful in explaining the menu items and there is always a waiter on stand-by if you need anything.

    The $$: Super affordable with lunch sets like the one I got coming around to be 38 RMB.

     

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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.

  • OUR TEAM
  • British

    Originally from the UK, with 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Globaltraveller has worked on four continents and opened seven hotels in Asia for hotel groups in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, the Maldives and Malaysia.
    21 Reviews > Read Now
  • American

    A China expat since 2011, David moved to Shanghai for work in 2014. So far, his quest for memorable food has taken him to 22 different Chinese provinces and territories. When not actively hunting for delicious morsels around town, he is a director at a clean energy strategy consulting firm in Shanghai.
    13 Reviews > Read Now
  • American

    Emily Gant has lived around the world in Ecuador, Chile, Indonesia and Tonga. She enjoys rooftop cocktails and showing up to events on time. Emily also does amateur stand-up comedy in Shanghai where she's funny 30% of the time.
    12 Reviews > Read Now