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.
When El Willy opened way back when, it was almost universally praised by the expat community as one of the best western options in the city. I think it was one of the first western restaurants that was just plain good without the qualifier “good for Shanghai.”
The new Tomatito is like the grandchild of this tradition. It’s that rare restaurant that has such a unique character down to the details that you could probably guess where you were just by looking at the plates.
There aren’t many traditional dishes here. It seemed like everything on the menu is “Sexy!” and all the flavors are described “Explosions!” While I still don’t really understand what makes a tapa sexy, everything we ordered tasted really good and nothing went unfinished.
I really liked the air baguettes which is basically cheese inside a mini crunchy baguette that’s then wrapped in beef. The other favorite was the beef cheek and mushroom cannelloni with truffle. It was super rich and flavorful. I’m not sure if having to loosen your belt a notch is considered sexy, but that’s what happens when you stuff your face with these delicious tapas.
The decoration is fun and quirky and they have a huge sweet terrace that overlooks the park in Xintiandi. They also said they have a rooftop that they will renovate soon. We went at dinner, but I imagine this would be a great place for brunch.
The staff is mainly from the previous location so everything was on point. It’s located in the Hubindao mall which some people frown upon, but I think it makes it super convenient. This is also one of the best malls for families with the NBA Playzone and twinkle. This restaurant is also super kid friendly and one of the kids in our group said it was her favorite restaurant in all of Shanghai.
It was about 300 rmb per person
When I was a kid, taco night was my favorite where my mom would lay out all the ingredients for me and my cousins to build our own tacos. We’d challenge each other to build the biggest one or try to eat an entire taco in a single bite.
To be clear, Peking Inn is not a Mexican or taco joint, but it reminded me a lot of taco night. The main highlight is their bing, which is basically a steamed flour tortilla which you wrap taco or burrito style with various dishes as the filling.
There are a lot of different fillings to choose from stir fried vegetables to shredded pork. These range from 28-48 rmb and were all delicious. I really liked the bean sprouts with chilies and the fried eggs with chives.
They also have different starters and regular Beijing style dishes. All tasted great, but the bing were the highlight. The food alone makes this place worth a visit, but we were also surprised by the quality of the drinks. They looked good, tasted good, and still had a decent amount of booze in them. I think most of Shanghai settles for two out of three of these.
I’m sure there are people who want to argue if China invented the tortilla first, but I think that’s beside the point. The point is that Peking Inn brings a great new experience to Shanghai without being too gimmicky.
Peking Inn is in the underrated Jiashan Market which does not get a lot of love in Shanghai. As far as I know the sentence “Let’s meet at Jiashan market” has been said never. But Peking Inn is a great addition and will go a long way toward changing this.
The food was only a little over 100 RMB per person and the drinks were reasonable.
Parlour was made for Instagram and Wechat. Everything from the disco ball pizza oven to the brass bar and cool light fixtures and a giant origami giraffe screams take a photo of me and post to social media!
This is in the newish Columbia Circle complex which seems to exist solely for social media posting. The big draw here is the refurbished country club including a very old, but awesome-looking swimming pool which was apparently used by the Americans in the 20’s. People come just to take photos of it. Last time I was there, people were actually waiting in line just to get the perfect photo of the swimming pool.
Overall, they have done a good job with the whole complex and I really wanted to recommend this place, the only small problem is I just did not like the food.
The presentation of the food is great and will surely make a worthy addition to your wechat moments. But the portions are tiny, maybe all that empty plate is to show how high end it is.
The salmon was dry and completely unseasoned. The bottom of the pizza was soggy (the disco ball pizza oven really is just for photos). The seafood on top of the seafood rice tasted good, but the rice itself was super mushy like oatmeal and also didn’t really taste like anything.
On Saturday night, the place was mainly empty.
The night we went, the swimming pool was closed for a fashion show by the Chinese athletic brand Qiaodan. You may have heard of them, they are the ones that took the Chinese translation of Michael Jordan’s name and trademarked it in China before he could. The words couldn’t mean anything else in Chinese, but hey, they got to it first, right?
Parlour is the same way, it has a lot of the things of a place you would like, but it’s just not all there. Fire up the pizza oven and I’d give it another try.
We paid about 300 RMB per person with some drinks.
Tentekomai is a hidden gem in the middle of Huai Hai Lu’s shopping district. It’s a bit hard to find as it is located between the 2ndand 3rdfloors of an old building on Sinan Lu. Even if you take the elevator, you still have to take half a flight of stairs. But this is the type of restaurant that I wished I lived above and could eat at more than once a week.
Tentekomai focuses on making casual Japanese food taste great. There is little in the way of presentation, but even the spinach salad was delicious with a perfect ratio of leaves to dressing. The beef tongue is one of their specialties and does not disappoint. The beers are big, cold and come fast when you order them. What’s not to like?
The atmosphere can feel a bit cramped as the tables are all really close together and the place is always packed. But if you have a few more beers, this soon feels like a positive and adds to the vibe.
Lastly, the other house specialties are not necessarily within the traditional western stereotypes of meat you’d order at a restaurant. But I’d challenge you to try it first before you judge.
Great meal for about 200 RMB per person with drinks.
Tang Palace is my go-to place for dim sum. It is pure chaos. The dining hall is huge and always packed, the waitresses are always in a hurry to go somewhere else, the food never comes out in the order you expect, and they charge you extra for the napkins. But this is exactly how dim sum should be, and the food is way better than you expect for a chain at this price point.
As a testament to its popularity, even on weekdays in the middle of the day, the place is packed with local families, many rolling in three generations or more. The highlight for me is the steamed shrimp dumplings. These are the biggest I have seen anywhere and each one is bursting with what must be an entire family of shrimp. The crispy skinned roast pigeon is also really good. Almost every table I saw ordered it. The panda shaped durian dessert is great for kids.
This chain can be found all over Shanghai, but I like the one on Dongzhuanbang lu in the same building as Da Marco. I’ve never been there for dinner, but judging by the number of fish, lobsters and king crabs in the tanks out front, they must do a brisk business at night as well.
As with most Chinese restaurants, this place is better enjoyed in groups and perfect for your out of town guests. You all can be full for under 100 RMB per person.
Ochobo used to be located in the El Willy building on Donghu Road. It has now reopened in a small renovated building on Tai Yuan Rd. This is a high-end Japanese set menu joint where most of the seats are at the bar and you won’t be disappointed. You will leave with a full belly of delicious food but a significantly lighter wallet.
Ochobo is only one floor of this tiny building. The ground floor is a sister restaurant specializing in grilled meats. This is not a heavily trafficked area, but just around the corner is the severely underrated tequila bar Pocho. Pocho makes some of the best drinks in Shanghai without squeezing your wallet dry.
While the space is small, the menu seemed to cover the main spectrum of Japanese cuisine from sashimi to shabu shabu to grilled meats and tempura. The stand outs were the sea urchin tempura and melt in your mouth beef in a small shabu shabu hotpot.
Two in our party aren’t keen beef eaters, and the staff happily switched the beef dish to lobster. The lobsters were pretty plain, but that’s expected when you order off menu at a place with only one set menu.
Everything else was really, really good. But the damage is heavy at 880 rmb per person without drinks. Side note, they only charged 100 rmb for corkage which helps in this type of place.
Bang is the iapm mall iteration of the Mr. Willis restaurant empire and it does not disappoint.
The roast chicken is still the best in Shanghai. It is the exact same as the dish at Mr. Willis and every bite was juicy and flavorful. The roasted pumpkin that comes with it is also awesome. It’s roasted to a really nice crisp on the outside with a soft and sweet inside.
The pizza on a sourdough crust would also give any place in Shanghai a run for its money. The crust is just the right balance of chewy and crispy. The patio has a nice view over Xiangyang park, and was packed when we went on a recent weekend. The service is good and the place is very family friendly.
You get the feeling that they’ve found a good formula and are sticking with it. It’s the kind of place where you know exactly what you are going to get, and every time it’s still a little better than it needs to be. I can imagine one day you might find one of these in every mall in China. They have found a good lane and are sticking with it.
The damage was about 150 RMB per person.
I am giving this place 5 stars, but if you don’t know what you’re getting into, I can see how you may give it a big zero. Basically, this Beijing restaurant is re-importing into Shanghai the lost art of roadside skewers right next to Xintiandi.
Not long ago, you could go to almost any corner in Shanghai and get barbequed skewers along the side of the road. Usually you would squat on small plastic stools, get some beers from the local Lawson’s or Family Mart, and make a night of it. Unfortunately for those who loved it (and fortunately for people who care about general sanitation), almost all of them are gone.
Kitty Kidney Wang brings back the street vibe but in a more controlled and ostensibly cleaner and licensed version. For the beers, it seems like they went to raided every convenience store across China. They have beers from Lhasa to Henan along with your standard Budweiser.
The food is all of your traditional skewer fare, but the namesake specialty is small pieces of kidney wrapped in fat. You need to be a bit adventurous to try it, but I think it goes well with canned beer. With the amount of seasoning they put on the skewers, they all pretty much taste the same. And they all go great with canned beer.
The crowd is mainly moneyed Chinese youth. Many were stepping out of luxury cars to sit on little plastic and folding stools to recreate the feeling of eating off a street-side vendor.
You have to order via wechat by scanning a code by the table. The interface is pretty simple, and if you still can’t figure it out, a waiter will help you.
It will run about 100 rmb per person.
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.