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.
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.