Jeffo is originally from Chicago, and is now expat dad in Shanghai. Even after 12 years, he still loves exploring Shanghai and finding something new to experience.
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.
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
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.
Shintori was one of the first nice Japanese restaurants I visited when I came to Shanghai the first time around 15 years ago. Given how restaurants don’t seem to make it past the first year very much in this town, it’s amazing that this place has now been open for 20 years.
We were in the neighborhood so stopped by for an early dinner. The place was completely empty, and we were able to get a table with no reservation on a weekend.
The décor is the coolest part of this place. The kitchen is completely open air and you can see the chefs working clearly from almost any table in the restaurant. There are also private(ish) rooms upstairs. The place is super dark and basically decorated like the secret lair of a super villain.
I thought the food was overall very good. It is a higher end type place with higher end type prices, but everything was executed flawlessly and the presentation even on simple dishes was a nice touch. Even the fried chicken had a really nice garnish of a split pea with the peas still attached to the pod.
If you want unique Japanese, you should go to Hiya. If you want a place filled with Japanese people, you should go to Gubei. But if you want to stay close to the area and have a nice meal, you should go here.
About 400 RMB per person.
All Day Brunch Bistro is a nice addition to the corner of Zhenning Rd and Dongzhuanbang Rd. The name of the restaurant is pretty self-explanatory of the concept. I get that Shanghai has a thing for brunching, but personally, I think there’s a limit to brunches at about once a week, and definitely not more than once a day, so we’ll see how this goes.
The two benedicts we got were both well made and tasty. However they didn’t come with any sides so we were still hungry and ordered the roasted spring chicken. This was less good. While the mushroom gravy was tasty, the chicken itself was a bit too chewy.
They have a cool record player and a cassette tape player with a large selection of music, but they didn’t let us play around with it, probably because the place was packed with people or more likely because they could tell I was looking for a Sir Mix-a-lot cassette.
This is a trendy place for trendy looking people. By my estimate, maybe half the people, both customers and staff, were sporting some sort of arm tattoos.
So don’t come here if you are super hungry, but come here if you have an old mix tape you want to play or if you want to show off your ink.
280 RMB for two people
Sushi Sake used to be a verb in the Shanghai expat vernacular. All you can eat sushi and all you can drink sake at an affordable price. There was almost no better way to start or end an evening.
Over the years, almost everything in Shanghai has gotten better - whether it’s the traffic or the lessening pollution to the overall quality of restaurants. Seafood Wharf tries, and fails, to improve the all you can eat and drink concept.
The idea is to take the all you can eat proposition and extend it to higher quality food at a much higher price. They check all the boxes with the higher end offering by including things like raw lobster, sea urchin and all different kinds of shrimp along with requisite sashimi. There is even a foie gras covered steak that they dare you to order as much as you want.
There is nothing terrible about the food at Seafood Wharf, but it just doesn’t taste as good as you would think for this price. For example, the marbling on the beef looked really good, but after cooking tasted pretty chewy without a lot of the meat flavor that you’d expect. The sea urchin was also missing the fresh taste of the ocean. The foie gras just tasted like mush covered in sauce.
The reality is that if these things were all the premium quality that you expect from these high priced items, even the current high price would probably not be enough to keep this place in business.
Given that there are already multiple outlets across Shanghai, I’d say there is a market for people wanting to post about the expensive things they ate, without said expensive things tasting all that great or people who think they are getting a deal at the restaurant’s expense (this never happens, restaurants would just close). The last straw for me was that they don’t even include any sake on the free flow menu, so you are stuck with highballs and beer.
Or maybe I’m just the kind of guy who can’t appreciate nice things…
RMB 599 per person
Cages is hands down the best sports bar in Shanghai. In fact, I think it may be the best sports bar anywhere. This is not an exaggeration, I can’t think of anything this place is missing.
It is obvious that a lot was invested in the place. The TV’s alone are worth the trip as nowhere else has the sheer amount and the quality of the broadcasts definitely look HD. There are endless amount of activities from the eponymous batting cages to regulation sized quick shot basketball (tip: if you have never swung a baseball bat, start with the slow pitch softball lane). Our group particularly liked the ping pong and football games.
We went for a company event and there really was something for everyone to try despite the diversity of backgrounds in the group. The food offering was excellent. There were probably a dozen different type of wings and the burger is top notch.
The beers were super cold and you could order mini kegs to your table.
They also have an indoor field where people were playing soccer when we went. Apparently, they also host dodgeball and some Hunger Games style foam tipped archery shoot out. This is the ideal place for company events, group gatherings, families, and people who watch Dude Perfect videos. Basically, everyone.
About 250 rmb per person for food and virtual “tokens” for activities and games
In the first ten years I lived in Shanghai, I don’t think I ever said, “Let’s go eat in Xintiandi.” This is the area of throngs of flag following tour groups, and where you are likely to trip over the tourist in front of you who just had stop mid-stride to get a picture of a Starbucks in China.
But times are changing, and there are more and more interesting restaurants in Xintiandi that make the tourist dodging gymnastics worth it. Xixi Bistro, relocated from Wuyuan lu, is one of them.
First, this is just a really cool looking space. When you walk into the first floor of the restaurant (on the second floor across from Polux), you feel transported back to the 1930’s Shanghai. I felt like I was in the very fancy house of someone who probably has a pencil mustache and wears white tuxedo jackets just because the sun went down.
Next, the food. There are a lot of Xixi Bistro haters on the interweb, but I think the food was great and everyone at our table enjoyed it. I think if anything, they may want to change the names, because the food tastes better than it sounds. For example, the foie gras terrine with spring onion pancakes. That sounds as “fusion-y” as anything could possibly be and actually in your mind it may be strange mix, but when it comes out, the spring onion pancakes are really just bread.
I think the fusion part was not a 50-50 split and is still mainly either solidly western or Chinese with just hints of the other culture in the flavoring. The roast chicken, ribs and mao po tofu were all really good without too much variation from what you would expect, but just enough to keep things interesting.
If you are early with kids, request a table in the 2ndfloor bar. It seemed to be where the families were strategically located to have an isolated run around space.
Go to Xintiandi more often, I think your stomach will thank you. And weaving through tour groups is good practice if you ever have to dodge zombies in the apocalypse.
About 250 rmb per person
Have you seen the movie A Quiet Place, it’s the one with Jim from The Office and his wife in real life and they have to escape monsters who hunt by sound. Basically, they have to tip toe through life or risk being eaten. If that movie were real, you would want to get away from Little Huia as much as possible during weekend brunches.
But if you have kids who love running around and screaming, this may just be one of the best brunch spots in the city. The main draw is the amount of kid related hardware on site. Outside within their own private beer garden, there is a full playground that is better than most in the public parks. It has swings and multiple slides. And inside, there is a full playroom with toys that connects to a covered trampoline room. Needless to say, this place draws the kids. It also draws the adults who want to sit back with a beer and let the kids flush out their energy in an enclosed environment.
This is a place I would go to even if the food sucked. Surprisingly, it doesn’t here. The regulars such as fish and chips and ribs were all on point and even more surprisingly, the seafood including the oysters tasted fresh and crisp.
We came in a group of almost 20 after soccer practice and felt welcome the whole time. If you come here with kids during brunch, you will love it. If you come here without kids, it will be your own horror movie, be warned.
about 200 rmb per person
When was the last time you played Rock, Paper, Scissors for something that mattered? When’s the last time you played for any stakes at all? If you can make it to Kanpai before 7 and order a draft beer, it’s your choice to challenge one of the waitstaff to RPS. Lose and you have to chug your beer (hence the name Kanpai). Win and you get a free beer. So really, it's pretty win-win.
Kanpai is in the newly opened North section of Grand Gateway (aka the lipstick towers) in Xujiahui. Even only partially opened, this is a pretty sweet mall. There is a Starbucks that serves alcohol and baked goods on the first floor across from a rad Jordan store. Twinkle, the super nice, but still overpriced, kid’s playground/café also opened an outlet here, and there’s a really nice movie theater.
Kanpai’s other location is in Xintiandi and there is almost always a line there. They are also in the same group as Kanpai Classic on the Bund which is a fine dining version (probably sans RPS). With this new location, it is still easy to walk in and get a table on a weekday.
The food is pretty standard Japanese style BBQ done well. The service is excellent and the waitstaff can do the actual cooking for you tableside which I think is the way things should be when you eat out. There weren’t any really amazing dishes, but there weren’t any bad dishes which is sometimes even better.
The main attraction is probably still the entertainment. One of the waiters is also the MC and works the crowd intermittently throughout the meal. About half an hour after the RPS ended, the kissing contest began. The rules are simple, hold a kiss for 10 seconds, and get a free dish of meat. In the traditionally anti-PDA, but pro-free stuff Chinese culture, hilarity ensues. There is a whole wall of photos by the entrance of past kissing contest winners.
After about another half hour, it was time for the 8 pm social cheers. The MC collects messages from each table about what they are celebrating or happy about leads the entire restaurant in a collective chug (Kanpai!). Some messages were standard birthdays or just getting a table, others reunited old friends or celebrated getting off long or tough days at work. The rules are that everyone who finishes their drinks gets free refills. The reality is that everyone’s a winner and they basically bring everyone a free beer of highball regardless of how much you chugged.
I’m sure there are some party poopers out there that find this type of restaurant annoyingly akin to the TGI Friday’s of the 90’s where waiters in flare belt out Happy Birthday (which they also do here). This is definitely not a place you want to come to all the time as I’m sure the schtick is the same every day and gets old quick. But despite the constant interruptions by the overly enthusiastic MC and the cheesiness of the whole thing, everyone I saw left smiling. What’s not to like about free beer?
About 250rmb per person with lots of food and beer/highballs.
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.