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  • On the perennially popular stretch of Wulumuqi Lu that hosts Eli Falafel, La Vite and the Avocado Lady, there’s a good amount of decent Chinese restaurants that a lot of people seem to pass by. Sichuan spot Yi Zhang Hong is one of them.

    For fans of spiciness, Sichuan cooking, or just Chinese food in general it’s more than worth dipping in to. That’s especially true since, despite its reasonable prices and unassuming demeanor – it’s a relaxed, cozy space – it manages to answer a few of the criticisms that this famous cuisine most commonly faces. Its Sichuan food with a fresh pair of kicks, cleaned up just a little bit with a focused menu, a smidgen less oil and apparently no MSG. And it's all that while remaining unadulterated and plenty hot.

    A good place to start is by splitting one of their “Griddle” dishes, a big dry-fried pot of chili, lotus root, celery and other goodies along with your choice of protein. These range from chicken to bullfrog to eel to pork intestine at RMB 78 to RMB 88. The diced, bone-in chicken is great, crispy and tender in all the right places, but the intestine might be even better. The generous sprinklings of chili and Sichuan pepper cover up the more offal-y notes of the organ, leaving behind just crisp skin and rich fat. It’s a real treat.

    The mapo tofu (RMB 38) is one of the best I’ve had this side of Chengdu. It’s a standard rendition but it packs so much heat, pungency and flavor, flavor that seems to come from confident and well-executed seasoning rather than a simple barrage of oil and chili. Though there is of course a decent amount of those too.

    Beyond that there are a number of classic Sichuan staples – cold chicken served in chili oil (RMB 38), pork wontons in a variety of spicy sauces (RMB 18), dry-fried green beans (RMB 28) – prepared as you’d recognize them with maybe just a touch more finesse. There are some more singular small plates too, of which soy sauce marinated and braised pork (RMB 38), though a bit pricy for a small plate, is worth a shout. It has those great earthy undertones that meat gets when its spent just the right amount of time sitting around getting funkier. Think of it like Sichuan prosciutto. Kind of.  

    On my last visit, four dishes between two came to just under RMB 100 a piece (admittedly with no drinks). Outside of chains like Spicy Joint that’s a good price for a Sichuan meal like this, with better cooking and a much nicer atmosphere. 

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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.

  • British

    Michael Russam, from Leeds, England, first arrived in China to live in Wuhan, before coming to Shanghai to work in copywriting and marketing. He is particularly interested in regional Asian cuisines, and when he can, travelling to find them. Other hobbies include debating the merits of Shanghai dive bars and burger deals.
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