I was less than pleased to be going to a Japanese pancake spot for breakfast on a precious Sunday during prime brunch hours, but a lot of people were singing praises of this Japanese souffle pancake chain that made its way to Shanghai. I, however, didn’t understand why we had to ruin such a perfectly good bread product with extra egg. When we saw the servers bringing out the saccharine-looking plates to other tables, I was still skeptical but also pretty intrigued. It was a mountain of sugar. Whatever was gained in eggy nutritional value was surely lost in a mountain of diabetes and cream.
There was so much fluff. In a good way. In a very good way! The pancakes were insanely sweet, and I can see why a lot of the tables were splitting them. I’m glad I ordered this salmon and avocado tartare as an appetizer, but I also don’t understand how it really fit into the menu. There were several other things to try, but I’d recommend just sticking with whichever sweet pancake mountain suits your fancy. All dishes were reasonably priced in the RMB 70-150 range, and I’m now all about the hype. Let's just not call it breakfast and instead call it dessert.
Crossing a few things off my Shanghai tourism to-do list, Long Bar was priority number one. The Long Bar at the Waldorf Astoria is beautifully restored, and I could imagine right away what it was like 100+ years ago. The Jazz was on point, and the musician came over to chat about how he’s been performing for almost two decades. He’s seen some big changes! If you view the Long Bar for what it is—a hotel bar—and don’t expect too much, I think it’s worth grabbing a cocktail and listening to some jazz.
The cocktails are smooth and worth the bund prices. The clientele is mostly people who are staying at the hotel and the occasional group celebrating a special event. We loved that we could all hear each other for the entire evening.
Bar snacks included caviar aged for 10+ years and oysters from Ireland and France. Oysters will forever be the dumbest food known to rich people in my opinion. For RMB 78, you can enjoy one sea gulp of salt and flavor. Call me uncultured; it’s fine. I did enjoy the caviar, however. It arguably has flavor that isn’t just… arbitrary ocean? (Don’t take my word on this paragraph.)
The average price for cocktails ranged from RMB 100-200. It was a fun evening, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a drink in a bar that successfully re-creates the era with excellent music.
The only thing different about the menu at the Disney Town Cheesecake Factory compared to any Cheesecake Factory chain is the fact that the caloric content isn’t printed on the menu. If anything, this makes Shanghai’s Cheesecake Factory taste infinitely better because while I can taste the abhorrent coronary-bypass-inducing food that’s entering my body, I can’t quantify in numbers that reflect anything other than the price. It’s also a journey to get down there on line 11, but it was so worth it.
We arrived inside, and it was an exact replica of every Cheesecake Factory ever. I felt more American there than I ever have inside the US Consulate building. The portions were bigger than my face and the clientele was at least 50% the same kind of American you’d expect to travel halfway around the world for Mickey Mouse and then dine at the Cheesecake Factory. I’m not sure patriotism is what I’m going for here, but a delightful waitress brought me a milkshake before I had to overexert my brain.
I have never felt more disgusted with myself, but I think that was kind of the point given how we ordered. An assortment of very brown appetizers made for a sleepy metro ride home. Luckily, we got a seat. We also had to take out leftovers and the actual cheesecake to go because obviously I’m just not the proud American I used to be.
Urban Thai on Changle Road claims to be the only place in Shanghai where people can find authentic Thai food in Shanghai. I’ve been walking by it for two years thinking to myself, “I should go in there.” I finally tried it for the first time a few weeks ago, and I really wish I had gotten myself in there sooner! This tiny little place packs a solid menu of all your favorite Thai dishes from Poh Pia Sod (fresh spring rolls) to Tom Kha (coconut soup). They turn up the fish sauce on the classic Pad Thai and don’t mess around with the spice in the Gaeng Keow Wan (green curry). Mouth. On. Fire.
Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Thai food outside of my extensive experiences walking by street stalls in Thailand and greedily pointing at just about everything, but Urban Thai still provided foreigner-friendly photos on the menu, and they were happy to answer all questions about what we should order. The atmosphere was calm, and the place was incredibly cozy. I didn’t feel rushed at all, and it was a nice break from the Fumin/Changle bustle just outside.
This is also a great choice if you’re trying to please a combination of vegetarians and carnivores any night of the week. Also, don’t forget to order a Thai Iced Tea. It comes in a mason jar, and it’s the perfect level of sweet to balance out all the spicy flavors in the food.
Luccio’s has been on my regular roation for a while now. It’s a tiny little spot in Xintiandi that’s not on the main drag of tourists. The place is small and fills up fast. On the weeknight I was there for this review, however, it was really relaxed and quiet inside, which was an enjoyable way to spend an evening as well. Paul, the owner, is always trying out new dishes and when the restaurant is quiet, you might get the lucky chance to try the first round of new desserts. The portions are also no joke, so when your eyes are always bigger than your stomach, it’s probably going to hurt—in a good way.
I love that the gnocchi has a homemade taste—I’m not sure if it’s made in house, but it does taste amazing. I’m also a big fan of saying, “I don’t know, surprise me” at restaurants and knowing 100% that I’m going to get something great. Paul always has a wine pairing suggestion as well. Everything was perfect, but the carpaccio might have been frozen at some point. I also get that I’m the kind of person who writes restaurant reviews, but I also didn’t have a huge problem with the dish. I’ve had enough reliable good meals here, though, that I’d be down to order it again to see what happens… or maybe just stick to the burrata.
Highline is still my favorite fair-weather brunch spot. It’s good for family members or friends from out of town or a regular Sunday get-together. It’s casual but usually without too many children running around unattended. I need to get this out of the way so that I can forget about it forever: arctic shrimp and deviled egg dip: something I’d never like to eat ever again. It was like they blended some egg yolk with a jar of Hellman’s mayonnaise and then decided to put some frozen fruits of the sea on top. Ugh.
It’s okay, I’m over it. And fries and mussels made us all forget what happened. And then the burrata came out and make sure we would never speak of it again. Not even a jar of eggy mayo can keep me away from this rooftop brunch. The benedicts will never let us down. Drinks range from a very fair RMB 48-88 unless you’re the kind of person who orders a drink called, “Better sex on the beach.” Then you pay 128 because that’s what you deserve.
Overall, make sure you reserve a spot outside if it’s a nice day, but I’ve also been when it’s chilly outside and still enjoyed myself immensely!
Hopping on the cheese train, Banco wasn’t the best in town, but it might be the best for the Asian palette that often foregoes the stinkiest of stinky cheeses. With so many Italian eateries around Shanghai, I feel like you really need to bring it to the table. I almost managed to forget that I was in a mall, which is always a plus point for restaurants in a mall, but the food tasted only okay. The cheeses were bland, the bread was too chewy, and the desserts were just okay. The burrata had little pizzaz or flavor. I’m still rooting for this place, though.
The food tasted how I imagine a restaurant would taste if I went back to the United States and opened a Chinese bistro. The restaurant would have the best of delicious intentions, but it would probably end up falling short. The location itself is very convenient and comfortable, and the staff were incredibly friendly. It’s another, “I was already in the area” restaurant.
If you’re a cheese lover looking for something a bit blander as you indoctrinate your Chinese friends into the world of in-house mozzarella? Banco. Go there.
When I got this assignment, I was a little annoyed. RMB80 for a wheat beer at a notoriously touristy establishment that’s known for serving overpriced mediocre German food? Why, SmSh, why? Think of the microbreweries!
I take it all back. I had the best time ever. The hostess sat me upstairs and away from the band so I could, “Hear my friend.” The Tuesday night playlist of all those songs you don’t know what they are but know all the words anyway.
Kind of all in the same song.
In a strange nostalgic way, it reminded me of Shanghai the way I imagine the Shanghai of 2007. An international chain, but just slightly off from the German tradition it’s supposed to be emulating. Like, if you’re a fresh face to Shanghai, I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re the kind of person who likes collecting Hard Rock t-shirts and American flag bikinis, but you also want some German flavor? Yes. You too belong here.
Pretzels were A+. The pate that came with it was slightly weirder.
Price for two people in the twilight zone: RMB 570
Azul Tapas and Lounge is one of my favorite places to go for a reliable international meal in Shanghai. The location is beautiful, and Eduardo Vargas has never disappointed me with his menu here. Azul is one of those places where you can go for any occasion, and it feels welcoming and comfortable in a way that many restaurants in Shanghai do not. I’ve had completely different and wonderful nights here for group birthday parties, restaurant week special menus, or just a pisco sour on the terrace. I’ve also been here many times for dinner, and the scallops are not to be missed.
Last week was my first brunch at Azul, and I was not disappointed. For RMB198, you get a three-course brunch, a cocktail, and a coffee. They also have fantastic happy hour deals throughout the week and an adorable terrace to enjoy them on. Azul offers more options for the international palate drawing inspiration from South America, Spain and Mediterranean flavors and dishes. I’d recommend the flan, but I really don’t think there’s a wrong way to go here.
When the weather starts to get a bit warmer, the terrace will start to fill up quickly. I’m definitely looking forward to a many more brunches, lunches, and evenings at Azul.
Alright, let's be honest here. I'm not from Canada. I have no right whatsoever to critique another country's Rueben. I never wanted to go into this place, but the buzz started when my parents came to visit. My Jewish mother from New York had to know if a pastrami sandwich in Shanghai was going to be any good. I pointed out, that if it was bad, it's 100% Canada's fault, not Shanghai’s in this situation. We went for Chinese food upstairs.
My mother bonds with my friend from New York instantly. But I know that this friend in particular also likes to eat bagels in Shanghai and cannot truly be trusted. They agree to go to Tock’s without me. I plan to keep them away from each other for the rest of the trip. We have too much Chinese food to eat, and stomach space can not be wasted on this nonsense. My friend sends my mother a photo of Tock’s delivery on Wechat as we board a plane to Western China for sightseeing. When did they exchange Wechat information? I don’t know. But my mother is amazed that corned beef sandwiches can be delivered by a Canadian restaurant in China.
Did we go to Tock’s when we got back to Shanghai? Yup.
Was the sandwich any good? No. It was really dry and not from New York. But the service was really friendly, and the decor looked alright. It’s also worth noting that the poutine does not contain cheese curds. I don’t even know who to blame about that, but I’d assume that even the Canadians would be upset. I did enjoy the hype we created for ourselves, though.
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.