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  • I’m going to come right out with a conclusion in the first paragraph: the pastas at Arch are so good that my Italian friend, to whom pasta is almost as sacred as his mother, went back two days in a row. He also, however, ordered two or three bowls each time because the portions are sized for Venetian dolls.

    The space is beautiful: there’s a geometric, Art Deco aesthetic and a cozy line of booths opposite the bar. They have their own distilling equipment on display, too, adding a Steam Punk frisson. The urbanity in the main space almost makes up for the external bathrooms. Drink more cocktails to make the memories fade more quickly (but opt for shorts so you don't have to go back as often).

    Speaking of cocktails – they’re as good as the pasta. There’s a Happy Hour menu of classics and house mixes, from an Aperol spritz to a strawberry and mint short, which go for 55rmb before 7pm. Then there’s the full menu, on which drinks range from 85-110rmb, and are centred around a key ingredient. Don’t expect mind-blowing presentation, but the flavours are often knock-outs. Mango and balsamic, light coconut, beetroot – try the lot if your balance allows.

    The only thing to criticise about the food menu, as mentioned, is the paltry portion size. It isn’t all that major a criticism, though, because the food is so fairly-priced that it’s defensible to order two dishes instead of one. The hand-made gnocchi and ravioli were particular stand-out dishes, along with the superfood salad. Appetizers, especially the calamari and the chicken with sweet potato fries, shouldn’t be flipped past either. We were there as a group of eight who ate and drank a lot, and our bill came to just over 3800rmb – fair game for the quality and quantity.

    Arch serves small but lovely plates and drinks. Most things are priced more than fairly considering the quality. It’s a great spot for a suave date or the start of a good night with a small group.

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  • Living in this city of constant change, we often opt for the novelty of convenience over preservation of the past. The grandeur of bigger & brighter is sometimes interpreted as better and Shanghai is no stranger to this notion. We have all seen how iconic mainstays here are not immune to a simple refresh or even complete closure. Thus as its noisy neighbors on Fumin Lu come and go, it is gratifying to see the doors of Guyi remain resolute.

    The ambiance of Guyi and your first impression of the place won’t be classic, “old-school” Chinese: there are no wooden or plastic stools and no shouting whatsoever. The white-tablecloths speak sophistication and the bright lights from the chandeliers will make your forehead glisten after indulging in one of Shanghai’s best tributes to Hunan cuisine. The space & the spice are elevated and so should be your expectations of the experience.  

    As for the food, Guyi will always be in the conservation for the best cumin rib in the city, but in terms of fish head in Shanghai, there is no debate. The green and red chili fish head is definitely one of the best I’ve had in China—almost reminiscent of the times when working in Iron Chef Morimoto and the sushi chefs would broil the bluefin tuna head for meal after closing. You have to be a fan of gelatinous goodness and would highly recommend taking the plunge if you haven’t already. Many chefs attest to the heads being the best part of the animal and fish is certainly no exception.

    Nonetheless, as the cumin-crusted ribs and the fish head are what you go for, the whole chili prawns on a skewer and frog steamed in bamboo are adequate compliments to the main event. I would probably skip the wok-served shortribs next time as there is better out there and you’ll need to order a vegetable for the table to add a break & balance to the fiery protein dishes.  

    Guyi does its part to remain relevant in the transient trends of the Shanghai scene. It will always be a great place for dining with out-of-town guests and provides an intimate, honest look into Hunan mainstays. Your friends and family will have to be appreciative & tolerant of the spicy nature of the cuisine— but if they are, they will be pleasantly rewarded. In this city, it is often difficult to find original places of the past. Sometimes, bigger & brighter is not synonymous with better as when a restaurant like Guyi is just simply this good.

     

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  • This place was usually jam-packed but I woke up early just to avoid the queue. Dim sum goes hand in hand with hot tea. Never have I ever had dim sum without tea in my life. Much to my surprise, one pot of tea here was RMB 80 and it tasted just like another pot of tea. I think it is the business model of the restaurant to sell really expensive tea in order to create a sense of classiness. A pot of tea here was more expensive than a lot of top notch dim sum restaurants in Hong Kong, including TianYi, Western Villa and Summer Palace. I do not mind paying for quality tea, such as when the tea is hand-picked and roasted in small batches in a family run local farm, but the price of the tea here is a bit too far from reality. Also, the selection of dim sum was the narrowest that I have seen, they only included the very premium and photogenic items.

    The char siu (barbequed pork) was hard, fat and sticky at the same time. I told the waitress I wanted my char siu not too skinny, not too fat, preferably a bit of both. Half of my char siu turned out to be really fat, and the other half really skinny. Besides, I did not know how the sauce was stickier and thicker than manuka honey. I literally needed to wash the sauce off my front teeth with hot tea.

    The hargao (shrimp dumplings) and siumai (shrimp and pork dumplings) were very overpriced and over steamed. The skin of the dim sum was too soft that the entire thing just fell apart the moment I tried to lift it up with chopsticks. One reason for this was the size. One hargao here was two hargao-s elsewhere, it was almost as big as my tempo. Logically, the steaming time had to be longer than usual but the skin was not any thicker or dryer to withstand the steam. Although a customer would find it satisfying to see such a big hargao and the sheer amount of shrimps, people tend to forget the meaning and core values of dim sum. Dim sum is meant to be delicate. We are looking for delicacy and quality, instead of size and quantity.

    The cheung fun (steamed rice rolls) were very photo-genic because it was rare to be able to see the fillings through the rice sheets but it did not take me long to understand why. Usually, the filling is rolled into the cheung fun at the very beginning so the filling ends up in the middle of the cheung fun to provide a balanced texture. None of the sides should be too thick and the filling will not fall out easily during handling because it is wrapped by 2-3 rounds of rice sheet. However, this restaurant put the filling into the cheung fun at the end of the rolling process. Therefore, there was only one layer of rice sheet barely covering the filling and there were 5-6 layers of rice sheet below the filling. It tasted just fine but it was very annoying that the filling kept falling out.

    The best dish was actually off the dim sum menu. It was steamed razor clams with rice noodles and garlic. It was well cooked and fresh but, again, extremely overpriced. The tofu skin rolls were the most horrendous of all because I could only see and taste a thick layer of fry batter but not the tofu skin. It was so oily that I could not even finish one piece.

    In short, it was not a very satisfying experience. At this price level, there are a lot better options in Shanghai.

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  • Oh, Bird. You’ve been on my to do list since you opened. I was really looking forward to trying your stylish small plates in your trendy little space. You’re so near my apartment that I hoped you might become a regular treat venue.

    Bird – we need to talk.

    Flavours, Bird. You’re good at flavours! Our BBQ corn came with a lovely butter and the perfect smokiness. The mapo tofu, topped with mashed potato and melted cheese, was deliciously hearty. That honey, with the goat yoghurt cheese and spiced crackers, worked beautifully. I’m not picking at your flavours, Bird.

    It’s the other stuff we need to talk about. The fact that our BBQ corn arrived so cold that the butter on top wouldn’t melt. The fact that our little plate of cheese cost 98rmb, and that a tiny bottle of soda is 35rmb (we paid 304rmb in total for three small dishes and two sodas). The – and I’m sorry about this, but it’s true – absence of customers on a Sunday evening, when you were almost impossible to get a reservation at a few months ago.

    Bird – you’re not perfect. Neither am I, though. Let’s give it another chance.

    Bird is a cool, minimalist little place with the perfect roof terrace. It’s good for small plates, wines and spritzes. It would make a good date venue, especially if you wandered next door to Bitter after your meal.

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  • A Jiu is an all-you-can eat Japanese hot pot and sukiyaki restaurant, nestled in an alley just off of Wuyi Lu. For RMB 159 per person, you get a pot of one of eight or so flavors of hotpot OR either sweet or salty sukiyaki, a Japanese broth that arrives with a select few vegetables already stewing within. With that comes a full menu of meat, vegetables and appetizers that you can take your pick from. Drinks on top of that are cheap too, with Asahi going for RMB 19 and highballs for RMB 29. Would be good for a group dinner that you didn’t turning a little boozy.

    For that price, what you get is a pretty great deal. The meats are good quality – the fatty beef in particular, which we ordered a second plate of – and the broths are just right. The traditional sweet sukiyaki in particular is rich and soothing, the mild flavors of the broth coming through just the right amount. Feels authentic. Cook a slice of meat, dredge it through a bowl of raw egg, and sigh.

    The crowd is mostly local young couples and groups having an informal dinner and taking advantage of the deal. The friendly owner and staff, who you’re pretty likely to end up chatting to, says that the place has been open for 12 years and was the first of its kind of in Shanghai. Business has apparently gone a bit downhill since then, but it was still half full at dinner time on a recent Sunday. For a warming winter dinner when you’re trying to stuff yourself to satisfaction, it’s a pretty great spot.

     

    Price: RMB 159 per person, plus drinks

    Summary: All-you-can-eat Japanese hot pot and sukiyaki in Changning with a warm, welcoming atmosphere, friendly staff, and good quality food for the price. RMB 159 gets you a pot and all the meat and veggies you can cook on it. Good for groups.

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  • Coming out from West Nangjing metro station and you’ll see people lining up in front of Royal Patat. I was intrigued by the crowd and I was constantly craving for fries after coming back from Amsterdam, so I gave it a try.

    It’s fascinating to see how they come up with all the varieties for fires.  They have 20 different sauces for you to choose from, and other innovative combo such as pulled chicken Thai fries, truffle parmesan, and sweet flavors like chocolate. I ordered a small fries with catchup and tartar sauce, and waited for 10 minutes to get it. Like in Amsterdam, they served in the paper cones, and it’s well designed so the sauces can be put separately in four corners. The fries were fried to perfection with thick slices and were very crispy. Tartar sauce was creamy and two of them were more than enough for me.

    They have three sizes, rang from 22 RMB, 27 RMB to 35 RMB, and 5 RMB for adding one extra sauce. The portion is huge, small one is a good portion for two people already in my opinion. The shop is nicely decorated with pair of wooden shoes in front. It’s small but they do have seats around (outdoor). It did fix my craving and I’ll come back for other dips!

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  • Here’s the low-down on the latest action-

    The Beef: Some intensely flavored Southeast Asian food at a great value. Spicy, sour, savory, and even a bubbling stone pot of durian tofu. Mix of Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai dishes ranging from the traditional to the more “creative” – snack/appetizer, curries, grilled meats, veggie stir-fry, soups (tom yum, bah-kut-teh). Every dish succeeded in making my palate go “wow!”

    Highly recommended: Black truffle longley fish (42rmb) was slightly battered and coated in a thicker sweet soy sauce with a hint of truffle, fish was super tender and boneless. Braised squid with lemon (49rmb) – the green sauce was unapologetically sour and tangy, felt more lime than lemon. I wanted to drink it all up! Stir-fry morning glory (32rmb), because we all need some greens, and this is a no-brainer.

    Durian tofu (39rmb) – definitely for the Durian-philes, a radical take on “stinky” tofu. I am always curious when it is integrated into a savory dish. The durian-ness isn’t as intense as I would have liked, but it got me through my fix. 

    Laksa (39rmb) – always love me a bowl of hearty laksa, this version is fantastic but super spicy even for me (I consider my spice tolerance to be quite high). If you can’t take the heat, ask them to tone it down a few notches.

    Mix appetizer platter (69rmb) came with a nice spread of satay, chicken wings, shrimp cakes, spring rolls, skewered shrimp. Some hits and misses there but overall good for a small group to sample.

    The Motive:  Situated in a small-scale office/mall complex. Which also houses a Hema supermarket store, although not a big fancy one with a full-on food court.

    The Damage: 300rmb for 2 hungry diners, and lots of leftovers for dabao. Fire up a feast!

    The Down n’ Dirty: Inside the mall a few stores down. Clean and new as well as mall bathrooms go.

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  • Located on South Shanxi road, Fu is a decent restaurant for when all you want is good old-fashioned Cantonese food. The menu is long but here’re some of my favorites.

    First enter you will find the poster of its signature pork cutlet on the wall, and it’s definitely a must! It’s massive and they put it in a plate that doesn’t even fit, which makes it very hard to cut, but it’s worth the fuss! It’s crunchy and one of the best I’ve tried in Shanghai. Greens are always good here with simple seasoning. I like broccoli and lettuce and it’s always fresh.

    Another must-eat is their clay pot rice and it usually takes some time for it to arrive as they make it by order. I had the classic sausage claypot rice last time when I visited the place, and it was delicious! With only few ingredients in the pot, Canton sausage, broccoli, and soy sauce, it’s amazing how it tasted so well. The rice was rightly caramelized underneath and blended perfectly with the sweet soy sauce.

    Classic drinks are all good here and I especially like their pearl barley water, it’s sweet and fresh with the taste of pandan leaves. Sweets like French toast and pineapple bun with butter are also on every tables.

    The place itself isn’t that fancy and comfortable if I’m being honest, but somehow makes it more authentic. The price are fair with a long menu and you’ll for sure be fulfilled after.


    *Around 80 RMB per person  

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  • Sproutworks has been my go-to whenever I ran out of idea for dinner since moving to West Nanjing road. It’s a fast food restaurant with tons of healthy food to choose from, and frankly speaking, I have a mix feeling about this place. 

    The ordering process is pretty simple, go to the counter and choose any cold and hot dishes you like, pay, and then find a seat in the dining area. It took me a while since they have at least ten different kinds of salads and another six hot dishes.

    I usually go with kale salad with pine seeds and cinoa, pumpkin with apple and raspberry, and a side of chicken breast or a soup. Salad is good here as it’s quite balanced with all the ingredients and flavors. Grill chicken is more on the dry side and the tomato soup is warm and savory. Aside from salad, they also have sandwiches, pasta, and smoothies and other drinks. 

    I do appreciate the healthy concept and all the options, which is why I revisit the place, but all and all it’s like a worse version of Huntergatherer, yet with the same price range. (It’s around 65 RMB with two salads and a hot dish.) The place is clean with fast wifi, and like Huntergatherer, you’ll have to put your plate back when you finish your meal.

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  • Who doesn’t like hot pot in this chilly weather, but would you pay RMB 5,000 for it? I did and I am going to tell you all about it. Faigo Seafood Hot Pot is situated at a heritage building in the Rock Bund, the moment I stepped into the building I felt like I travelled back in time and I almost regretted not wearing a qipao.

    The service was beyond excellent. We had our own private room and a personal butler. This was the most sweat-less hot pot experience I have ever had because the butler was cooking for us the entire night. For once, the steam from the hot pot was not ruining my makeup and my hair and clothes did not smell like grease and spice after. When we didn’t need the butler, he did not run away and serve other people. He stayed right at the door so we did not need to scream and wave like a maniac for his service. Aside from the butler, I had another waitress greeting me right when I stepped off my car and running for anything that I needed, ranging from charging batteries, iPhone cables to cushions. There was even a bathroom attendant turning on the water faucet and pouring soap on your hands. If you want to feel like a king, this is the place that you should go to.

    The soup base is extravagant. Faigo is known for its golden chicken and fish maw soup, which is an absolute collagen boost. There were a lot of molten fish maws in the soup and a plate of 10 big fish maws on the side. My skin felt softer than a tofu after this meal. The chicken flavor was bold but far from overpowering. Besides, we also got a spicy soup base. Note that this is not the kind of place for ultra-spicy and tongue numbing experience simply because the meat and the seafood is just too fresh to be covered by too much spice.

    We mainly came for the geoduck, marbled beef and hand beaten beef balls. Fresh geoduck is quite uncommon in Shanghai and a lot of people don’t know how to cook and appreciate it. As a matter of fact, a lot of people don’t even know what it is. Thin geoduck slices like this should only be cooked for 2-3 seconds and cooked geoduck should not swim in bowls of condiments because geoduck has a very slight hint of umami that it is like a subtle breeze of sweet air coming out of a candy shop. If you prefer an explosion of umami or if you are a heavy sauce dipper, I think other shells or fish is more suitable for you.

    The marbled beef was not wagyu grade but it tasted just like it. It had the perfect balance of fat and meat. It was very tender but I did not find it greasy at all. One thing I did not like was that the beef curled up too much when it was cooked so it secretly caught a chili in it that set my taste buds on fire. Besides, the curled up beef just looked very over-cooked although it was not.

    A lot of self-proclaimed hand beaten beef balls in the market are actually machine beaten and there is only one test to it. If you bite the beef ball and the beef ball bites back at you, it is hand beaten. The beef balls were very bouncy and juicy and I believed they were genuinely hand beaten.

    On the side, we also got iberico pork slices, shrimp paste balls, goose intestines, fried tofu skin rolls, bamboo mushrooms, tofu and winter melon. I found the iberico pork slices a bit over-marinated and too thick for hot pot. I don’t eat organs so I couldn’t give a personal remark on the goose intestines but my friend said it was one of the best that she has had. Other side dishes were pretty standard.

    For drinks, the selection was pretty narrow and extremely overpriced. We ordered the cheapest red wine which was RMB 888 and I did not think it was worth it at all. We also ordered a jug of papaya juice which was not sweet enough and was too thick. It was almost a puree than a juice.

    All in all, is it worth it? If you like fish maw and seafood like I do, absolutely yes. If you are a red meat lover, maybe you would like to go to other places at a fraction of the price. After all, you can bring down the price by at least a thousand by not ordering the red wine and too many side dishes like I did.

     

     

     

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SMARTREVIEWS

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.

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  • 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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    Born and raised in America , Ajay is a food enthusiast who spends a lot of his spare time walking the streets of this ever changing city. He moved here in 2014 to experience an underrated city. A man of many dreams (opening a restaurant, screenwriter, remembering more than two Chinese words) he’s found its better to stop worrying and have a bowl of noodles instead.
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