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  • Out for an evening bike ride along Anting Lu we stumbled upon Cotton’s. The restaurant is set in a refurbished colonial style villa, with an outdoor dining area lined with lush bamboo trees and strings of fairy lights. It’s a charming space ideal for either a quiet dinner or casual drinks with a bigger group.

    The menu is pretty basic. Perhaps one step above the complexity of a pub menu. One menu is mix of largely Italian inspired dishes and the other is straight seafood. They seem to cover a lot, so you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy. If you feel like classic Italian? They’ve got a good selection of pizzas and pastas. Healthy? Nice selection of hearty, grainy salads. Wine n platter kind of night? Lots of options to create an antipasto spread.

    Dishes of mention:

    There weren’t any stand out dishes and yet I still walked out of there feeling satisfied . I guess you could say no dud dishes is a win?

    One of the things that did stand out though was the service. Staff were attentive without being overbearing and the meals were timed well.

    Overall the food wasn’t anything overly inspiring but hey there is always a time and place for these kind of restaurants. Like those weeks when you’ve maybe overdone the chilli oil and your stomach is begging you to chill the f out but you’ve still got to turn up to that dinner with friends? This is a good option with a nice atmosphere and great service.


    Price for 2 people: 350RMB


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  • This places, hands down, is a hidden gem on the basement floor of the glitzy Shanghai Centre, also home to the new high-rise bookstore that opened this month on the 52nd floor. On a visit to the new bookstore, I came down for a meal and was surprised to find the place fairly empty on a weekday night but the menu options looked enticing enough. This Singaporean restaurant has all the Singaporean delicacies, such as chili crab, bak kuh teh, and then some more.

    I was able to find a set meal coupon option on Dianping so I ordered off of that plus a desert of coconut sago. The set meal almost seemed too good to be true, we got their signature pork bun wrap, iron plate tofu with egg, Yangzhou fried rice, bak kuh teh soup, and curry chicken all for a mere 138 rmb. Let’s not forget that this is a restaurant located at the heart of the Pudong financial district.

    For starters, they offered us a small plate of mooncake samples for free, as they are promoting their mooncake sets at the store. I would hold off on eating those samples though, because mooncakes are super filling, and you probably won’t have enough stomach space left for the rest of the grand meal. The bak kuh teh arrived first in a large clay pot, and it is seriously the largest serving of bak kuh teh I ever had, not to mention very authentic. Next came the Yangzhou fried rice which is cooked with just the right amount of water, so that the rice are separated nicely. By the time the pork bun wraps came, I was already quite full but the pork buns simply screamed “eat me,” with their delicious texture and sauce. The iron plate tofu is also one of their signature dishes and comes highly recommended on Dianping, with good reason I would say. The tofu is placed on top of a flattened egg bottom, and is covered sauce. The outside has a bit of a crisp to it, but the insides are so soft that they almost melt in your mouth. When the last dish, curry chicken, came, my stomach completely shut down on me and I had to take it to-go.

    As they say though, there’s always room for desert, so I managed to fit the coconut sago in, and it was extremely creamy and just the right amount of sweet. All this amazing food for around 150 rmb, who could say no? (They had tea sets for 8rmb/ person and wet towels for 2rmb/each but you can also choose to opt out)

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  • 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

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  • Most of the time, if someone asks what I feel like eating for dinner, the answer is “vegetables, healthy stuff, greens”. It’s not that I don’t love a blow-out, deep-fried, Trimalchian feast. It’s that excess often seems the norm when I’m eating out in Shanghai. Eli Falafel came up the last time I asked for something that wouldn’t make me want to work out for the next 48 hours. I’m glad it did.

    I’ve been walking past the place every week or so for months, and making a (promptly forgotten) mental note to go in every time I’ve seen it. The interior is a little more stylish than the exterior, but – and this is really the only gripe I have about the place – the seating situation isn’t great. It’s better for take-out than eating in, but plates are the best way to avoid offending David Attenborough with excessive packaging. We sat at the high counter in the window. It was fine.

    The food was not fine. It was great. Wraps are filling and spiced to perfection, with enough garlic to make TanTan automatically uninstall. There seemed to be a couple on a first date there when we visited – a brave choice. The salads are colourful, well-seasoned and veg-heavy. The eponymous falafel were worth going in for alone, especially with their dreamy tahini sauce. I was impressed. For a wrap, salad, falafel and a couple of sodas, we paid 181rmb.

    Eli Falafel is a great choice for healthy lunches and dinners. There’s not a huge amount of competition in Shanghai for good Middle Eastern food, but these guys would hold their own anywhere. Veggie or carnivorous, eat-in or take-out, fresh or fried – it’s all good.

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  • I was worrying about AI and and the future so i wanted to eat some spicy wings and watch that sports channel with tree-chopping competitions and monster trucks and make my mind go blank so i went to hooters on huaihai lu not huaihai zhong lu they closed that one a while back now they went in where the carls jr was where people sing on the corner at night sometimes real loud over by mac doctor and anyway i like hooters because 1 if people tell you the food is bad they are a liar and 2 also the waitresses they will talk to you in that way americans ask you how you're doing but don't really mean it they just want a tip but it's still nice like the waitress asked about my anime shirt and said she saw the show on billi billi and i got the 911 wings which r the second spiciest and number one most delicious i will fully recommend this boneless wing

    this hooters is maybe half the price as before but they don't have buffalo sauce now they have chuanr and some wraps with rice and chicken of your choice which is odd and i definitely did not try but fair enough maybe they got new owners or changed their strategy but your waitress still write their name down on yr napkin and the owls are still there obviously you can't replace that owl that's like if disney replaced mickey mouse and there is also a late happy hour on draft beer and anyway everything is very excellent and i will fully recommend this hooters

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  • Yao Ji Da specializes in “big iron pot” cooking, a Dongbei specality that basically means what it sounds like - meat and vegetables of your choice, cooked in a huge pot built into your table.

    The atmosphere is back-alley restaurant meets local cook-out. On a recent Sunday the crowd was families and groups of friends young and old, generally acting as if they were about one bottle of baijiu deep. The staff were brusque but friendly, and uniformly decked out in outfits modelled on the flowery patterns that you usually see on Dongbei restaurant tablecloths. This kind of kitcsch extends to the décor, from the sheaths of corn and chili strewn over wooden beams to the vintage metal mugs they use to serve water.  

    Here’s how it works. You choose your “stew” (really what’s going on here is more of a broil) based on the base, from options like goose to fish to pork to chicken and mushroom. They throw it into a huge smoking crater in the middle of your table to cook for a while. Then, you can optionally select extra veggies or tofu products to add in when you’re part way done with that, kind of like hot pot – the waiter will add some water to the remaining sauce and throw them in for you. The staff take care of the whole cooking process.

    We went with goose, the priciest base at just under RMB 300 and also the place’s specialty. The wait is long – the staff told us that next time we should call ahead to get the ball rolling in advance, and other tables seemed to know this – but we were rewarded with some of the best goose I’ve ever eaten. From neck to feet to huge chunks of breast, it’s all in there and it’s often chopstick-tender. Very rich. So flavorsome. Way, way too much for two of us - each “stew” could probably feed 3-4 people.

    Some won’t find much to love about this place. It’s unrepentantly raucous, they serve big bits of animal rather than pristine cuts of meat, and the food cooking at your table is going to smoke and steam and smell. But if you’re a carnivore that’s up for a bit of adventure, it might be the place for you.  


    Price: RMB 100 – RMB 200 per person

    Summary: Rustic chain specializing in “big iron pots” of meat, a Dongbei favorite. Good for a loud atmosphere and stuffing yourself full of stewed meat and/or fish. Go with groups of four or more to make the most out of the huge portions.

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  • Wei Xiang Zhai is one of those places that you can’t live in Shanghai and not try at least once. A small mom and pop type of shop that’s famous for their 10 rmb masa noodles pair with the golden combo of their 10 rmb beef soup and spicy meat toppings, this place remains a gem in the glitzy xintiandi area. The first time I came here was on a crowded weekend afternoon, where sharing table space was pretty common, and we happened to be seated across a well-known foodie youtuber, who was filming a scene at the restaurant on his noodle run across China video.

    To avoid the crowd, I came back on a weekday afternoon where most people were at work, and the only customers in the shop were a couple of elder folks, who seemed to live around the area. As usual, service doesn’t exist in places like this. I ordered at the counter and quickly found a seat. It didn’t take long for the food to arrive, and the portions were fairly large. The beef noodle soup had a rich flavor with a hint of curry, topped with scallions on top. The masa noodles had a rich sesame sauce on top, which on its own, wouldn’t make for much of a meal. That’s why most people order toppings on the side to blend with the noodles. The spicy meat toppings this afternoon was disappointing. It wasn’t even heated up properly and it was a bit too heavy for my taste.

    While eating, I came across what seems to be a food tour that made the joint a stop on their list. This place is popular among locals and tourists alike, however, it seems a bit overrated to me. It has become a must try in Shanghai, but I don’t think I will be coming back.

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  • 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.


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

    The Beef: Definitely come for the caipirinhas. These are probably some of the best in town, not the mention the variety – classic, pineapple, ginger & cloves, chili pepper, coffee…and more. Also the music – latin beats that will instantly make you feel sexy and uplift your spirits.

    We also ordered some bites to go with our drinks, as you can see from the photos, not the most photogenic plates.

    The good: Cheese bread (pao de queijo) – warm and chewy, almost the consistency of a mochi.  Fried tapioca cubes – very interesting texture, crunchy on the outside and a gummier consistency than the cheese bread. Paired well with a red spicy sauce.

    The not-so-recommended: Chicken empanada – too dry, the filling was almost like dried chicken floss. Also could have used a sauce to spice it up. Spinach and cheese croquettes – the crust was a bit too dry, even paired with the “Thousand Island” sauce, the flavor just felt unusual.

    I’ve heard great things about the beef dishes here, as that is what the Latin Americans are known for. Will have to come back for a full-on steak.

    The Gang: Locals and laowai alike enjoying the chill vibes. Until the floor is cleared for some sexy Latin music later in the evening (9pm on a Fri night).

    The Damage: 250rmb/person for drinks and a sampling of nibbles. ~60rmb for cocktails and caipirinhas.

    The Down n’ Dirty: Shared for all establishments in the Found158 complex. Can be clean or gross, depends on your luck – and the time of the night.

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  • We all know about the Chinese crepe, jianbing. While it’s tasty, sometimes I can’t help but doubt the sanitation of the traditional jianbing shops in the ally. Here’s a safe portion for your favorite Chinese breakfast food, serving all day at Grain.

    I brought my friends from Taiwan to try it out and they love it. We had the classic “signature sausage and beef” and the simple “Sausage crepe”. They put Taiwanese sausage on the menu and it tasted nothing like a Taiwanese sausage. But other than that, the jianbing is filling and tasty. It’s also very crunchy with sesame seeds.

    The price was 15 and 32 RMB, which are more expensive than the one on the street. But they do claim that the crepes are made with 5 grains and with quality ingredients. And the nice and clean environment justify the higher cost. They also have drinks like soybean milk. If you’re looking to get a nice jiangbing, Grain is the place to be.


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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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    Originally from the UK, first arrived in China in 1989, worked in Beijing for several years, returned to China in early 1997 to Shanghai, and back again in Shanghai since 2007 have worked on four continents and opened seven hotels in Asia for hotel groups in Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, the Maldives and Malaysia.
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