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  • Coco curry is my go to Japanese place when I’m craving for Japanese curry and tonkatsu, aka Japanese pork chop.  They have tons of choice with very affordable price and fast service. From pork, beef vegetable, omelet and more, and if you can’t choose one, you can actually get it in one plate with their customizable menu. They also have options for the amount of rice and spice level, which I find really useful since I can never finish my rice.

    I like their omelet very much, it’s juicy, tender and very well cooked. I am not a fan for cheese with curry since it’s already so heavy and sweet itself, but I’ll definitely recommend if you are a cheese person, and definitely add the vegetables! Another thing about the food, I suggest you only get the curry but not others like pasta. Food other than curry there taste below average and you can probably (definitely) find better place.  

    I like going to the one in Jiu guang plaza in Jingan, it is clean and warming, perfect for a quick lunch or dinner. The price is around 40 to 50RMB and will definitely keep you full for a while.  The Japanese fast food chain gives you proper and quick comfort food. It’s not fancy but definitely tasty!

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  • There are a couple of little Japanese places on Guyang Lu: you can go to the informal, izakaya-style place to binge on takoyaki and beer, or you can gamble on the mystery option, like we did. It’s called “Kong-Hai”, and it promises “new Japanese style cooking”. Well then.

    Little warning for pre-HSK4 pals: they have neither an English menu, nor a picture menu. This is a good thing if you don’t read Chinese, mostly because you get to just gamble and point at things. The sections are labelled in English, so you can still get a variety of dishes; you just won’t know exactly what they are until they arrive. It’s also good because it will probably mean that the friendly laoban will come over to help you with the menu. He’s great, and he makes good recommendations!

    The food was all good, particularly the sashimi. We had tuna (probably) and some beautifully creamy shrimp. Prices range from 48rmb to 188rmb (presumably for gold-leaf-encrusted caviar). We also took a punt on the vegetable section; their spinach salad (topped with a poached egg and shaved cheese) was pretty good, but not particularly Japanese. Similarly European in flavour was a salmon and shellfish dish in a white wine sauce. This was highly recommended by our new restauranteur friend.

    We had some sake, too; in total we spent around 350rmb for two. A little pricey for what we were served, but the food was of a pretty good quality and the boss man was nice. If you’re in the area, it’s probably worth a look in.

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

    The Beef: There are plenty of Western/Japanese/Thai/Indian/non-Chinese food options in this area, which is probably why I have never gone here thinking, let’s go for Shanghainese food! Xin Zhen Jiang was introduced to us by my dad’s Shanghainese friend, who has a knack for seeking out the best old-school eats. They are never fancy or expensive places (in fact they look pretty unappealing and have only a decent star rating on Dianping), but have been around for decades as family-run businesses and cater well to local palates. When you think about when you travel, and "want to go where the locals eat" that's not listed on Tripadvisor, this might be one of those hidden Shanghai treasures.

    You can come here alone for a bowl of noodles and a side dish or order a bunch of dishes as a group. The food here is indeed fantastic – loaded with flavor and if anything a bit oily. But the flavors are spot on, and even include a few spicy Sichuan dishes. My biggest complaint is that they had two cats in cages in the main dining area, and they seemed miserable, poor things meowing their faces off.

    The Gang: Chinese, mostly Shanghainese, a lot of whom known the laoban and don’t even need to bother with the menu. All hope is not lost for the laowai though as the menu has also English translations (can’t vouch for the Chinglish but you’ll get the gist of it).

    The Damage: 50-100RMB/person

    The Down n’ Dirty: Not a fan of the squatters, but just gotta do your thing. Get in and get out.

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  • Does anyone dislike Xinjiang cuisine? More than any other regional Chinese food, it seems to be Xinjiang food that is the most accessible to newly-arrived China expats. The spices and cooking styles used are often familiar to anyone who likes Mediterranean North African, or Middle Eastern cuisine, it's spicy but not too spicy, it's flavorful but rarely oily - truly a great way to ease into Chinese cuisine. 

    The star of the show is usually the lamb. Western expats love eating lamb in China (for a combination of reasons I believe, not the least of which is that cumin and oil make everything taste good, but also certainly partially due to the relatively higher cost of mutton in many Western countries, meaning we don't get to enjoy it very often). Whenever I find myself at a Xinjiang restaurant, you can be sure that lamb chops, lamb skewers, or a rack of lamb ribs are on my mind. Herein lies my disappointment with Miss Ali.

    We ordered 5 dishes: beef and potato braised in a tomato sauce, green beans with crunchy fried peppers, Xinjiang-style yogurt, a cold noodle dish with veggies, and the lamb chop over Xinjiang-style rice pilaf. My evaluations are as follows: 

    Beef and potato braised in tomatoes: ehhh...3/5? Flavor was mostly of tomato, and the beef with a little tough.

    Green beans with crunchy fried peppers: one of the best dishes of the meal, and one that you should be sure to order if you go. Just get it. 5/5

    Xinjiang yogurt: I only got one bite of this, because my girlfriend just destroyed it by herself. I thought it was pretty good, but again, I only got one bite. I'll assume she'd give it a 5/5. 

    Cold noodles: Were boring. Cold noodles with sliced veggies need a really nice sauce poured over them to be good, and this sauce was lacking some pizzazz.  Nothing bad about them, but nothing great. 3/5

    Lamb chops over rice pilaf: 5/5 for the rice pilaf (because it was really delicious, although perhaps a bit too sweet for some) but 1/5 for the lamb, because it wasn't roasted! Look at the pictures! Look at those big chunks of lamb fat that haven't been toasted or melted down at all! Do you think those will be tasty?! I'm not sure how this lamb was cooked, but it almost seemed like it was steamed on top of the rice. If so, I do not approve, because steaming is not the way to release the wonderful fatty flavors of the meat! 

    I've been to Miss Ali several times, and had wildly varying experiences each time, so it's tough to give it a final verdict. Their other roasted lamb dishes are good, and many of the things there are 5/5. My experience this time was disappointing, however, and I wouldn't recommend steamed lamb to anyone. Final score: 3/5, but I'll probably go back in the future and order other things. 

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  • Shanghai is full of Thai restaurants, and it can be very difficult to find any that stand out in the sea of green curries, mango salads, and BBQ pork neck. It's not to say any of them are necessarily very bad, per se, (although they usually can't hold a candle to Thai cuisine in Thailand) it's just that they're all so...samey...little clone restaurants all serving the same basic dishes with the same flavors. 

    Thai Gallery, hidden in Jing'an Park, provides an opportunity to break out of that that mold, but you have to know what to order. We were a party of two on a weeknight evening, eating out for a special occasion (my dining companion's birthday). We arrived and were shown to a downstairs seat, which isn't quite as nice as the upstairs seating (that would have views of the small pond), but the upstairs seating was full and we didn't have a reservation. I imagine that on the weekend, a reservation would be advisable. Decor was warm and charming, without crossing the line into kitschy, which can sometimes happen with so-called authentically decorated restaurants. 

    Immediately after the meal, we had tickets for a show, so we let the server know that speedy service and food preparation were key. Right away, the server gained some points for himself and the establishment, helpfully steering us away from dishes that he felt would take too long with our time limitations. We ended up selecting the specialty curry prawns, tom yum soup, fried crab salad, and stir-fried pork with holy basil. 

    The food came out very quickly, with the longest dish (the prawns) only taking 15 minutes. The prawns were undoubtedly the highlight of the meal, with the uinque sweet and savory flavors of the curry providing a nice break from the standard green/red/yellow curry options at Thai restaurants. It seemed to be based on a massaman curry, but brought in many additional flavors that I wouldn't normally expect in massaman curry - very delicious and well worth the higher price tag (128 CNY). The prawns themselves were fat, juicy, and tasted fresh. 

    The rest of the dishes were good enough - the tom yum and the stir fried pork with basil were perfectly acceptable, if not especially noteworthy. They scratched the itch. The fried crab salad we were not a fan of. The breading on the crab was very thick and quite oily - basically impossible to taste anything except fried batter. In general, I should know better about getting deep-fried things at Thai restaurants, since they are often very oily, and this confirmed my past experiences. Aside from that though, the rest of the meal was very good, and the excellent prawn curry really carried the meal. This is a good option for a smart casual meal (like a date), without pricing itself into silly ranges (our meal for 2 came out to just about 300 CNY). We were in and out in just about an hour, with time to spare for our show. 

    4 stars, which is about as good as it gets for Thai food in Shanghai.  

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  • It's not like Fem's is the best Korean food in town. But it's comforting, the staff are friendly and quick, the cold dishes and cold water always come out right away, and you can drop 30-50rmb and have a nice bibimbap or kimchi fried rice while looking out the big windows at bus 71 floating by in the rain. It's just a few steps east of Donghua University's front gate on Yan'an, so you're just as likely to hear Thai or Spanish as Korean in there.

    By night, this is the perfect dinner jump off if you're headed out on the west side, especially if you dip into their soju or makgeolli supply. Even with two or three friends digging into fried chicken, beers, tender BBQ pork neck, stew, and more pancakes, it's unlikely you'll drop over 100rmb per head.

    FEMS has been here for like a decade, as thousands of students have graduated and dozens of neighbors have moved in and out (or gotten rid of their doors). That's probably because it's way better than student food needs to be. The only bummer? They close at 10pm.

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  • Level 5 of that futuristic new mall on Nanjing Dong Lu has a fresh concept: each restaurant is dedicated to a different cuisine or geography, and they're all trying to outdo each other with design. There's a Hangzhou restaurant where everyone eats in boats. Smokey fountains with LED lights appear all over. And you won't find any of the typical restaurant chains here.


    Instead of boats, the lively Gui Xiao Chu, a.k.a. GX Cuisine, opts for huge blue landscape paintings, loud, classical ethnic-minority music, and fake birds perched on little mountains. Their open kitchen turns out Guangxi food, which melts influences like Cantonese and local styles into a spicy, sweet, and sour blend rarely found in Shanghai.


    The signature fish, first fried then cooked in a stew of sour bamboo and crunchy huang dou, is a must order. Other dishes wear strong flavors as well, like the tofu topped with clams and peppers, a mashed eggplant with green eggplant and pi dan, and roasted pork ribs with honey and osmanthus. They also serve bowls of Guangxi's famous (and polarising) Guangxi rice noodles, Luosifen, cooked in river snails broth and filled with pickled vegetables. Not everything is a hit, as proved by a gubao rou omelette drowning in sweet red sauce.


    If you're a fan of Sichuan or Hunan and wanna try something different, this place is a decent adventure. Extra points for the music and making a vibe without screens. And even if this isn't your vibe, you'll probably still find something to love in this food court.

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  • By 6:45pm on a Wednesday, every seat was full, mostly with Japanese businesspeople in suits. One solo diner picked at a giant mackerel and a salad, just vibing out to her headphones. Everyone had an ice-cold draft beer or highball in hand. If there was music, the conversations crowded it out. One TV showed an educational video about how to order yakitori in Japan (really meta). The other screen flashed scenes from Japanese action news with a giant octopus and pink fonts.

    Shanghai has so many izakayas and yakitori spots, so what makes this one on Maoming Lu special? Incredible gyoza, warm hospitality that comes with personal coat hangers at each seat, classic manga to read, and those desserts where they scoop out a fruit and fill it with sorbet. And it's right downtown, downstairs from the Maoming Di Shui Dong, in the same mall as Southern Barbarian. Lush green plants and wood make this place look like a computer render of a yakitori restaurant.

    Some yakitori spots have quirky decor and soundtracks. Others have small doors and big vibes. Food and service is Da Ji Ge Peng's strength. Gyoza is a must. It's like they're trying to be xiao long bao with that thin skin. The ultra light tempura breading deserves mention too, as do the 18rmb draft beers, the chicken balls with a perfect dry texture, and green peppers so fresh and crispy it's like they came from a 3D cartoon about vegetables who work in a yakitori restaurant.

    And they stay open until 1am. Last order at 12.30am. Win.

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  • Monkey is back on Julu Road newest hub with a new plan: fancy and artisanal cocktails, smaller venue and burgers. I like the deco, the music and the lighting but it is really small and the seating floor plan is a little packed. Good music but very loud if you want to go on a date, wouldn't recommend it.

    Ambitious drink menu with signature cocktails that are interesting -in concept- but, to be honest, a little pricey. The food menu is basic; they serve hamburgers with cheese and chili -or just chili- and fries also with same options.

    Went there on a Friday night for a relaxed dinner and I don’t know if they are still in soft opening or not, but the overall experience was messy. Got the wrong order for the drinks and for the food. The burger patty was almost like minced beef, it tasted okay but it was also messy. The house chili is regular and is all over the food menu. Even though we ordered cheese fries they came with chili also. The drinks are between okay and mediocre, nothing out of this world for paying 100 kuai or more.

    I think this place has potential only if they organize themselves and the service, otherwise, I wouldn't suggest a good experience there. I guess the music is pretty good but that is not enough.

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  • Generally, I have always found Mexican food to be the same the world over, an offering of Nacho’s smothered in something or other, the usual fare of Tacos, Empanadas and Quesadilla filled with this or that, and a splodge of Chimichurri here or with the ubiquitous guacamole or other forms of mole on the side, and in all honesty never been a convert to Mexican food, as it never seems to have the finesse of other cuisines. 

    Shanghai has its fair share of Mexican style restaurants, even a Taco Bell, however, one that stands out somewhat over the other Mexican establishments in Shanghai is Maya, which is tucked away in an odd location off Julu Lu, in a clubhouse of all places. I recall going just after it first opened, have been several times since, the restaurant has gone through a number of chefs and managers over the years, and heard that the place had a new team manager the restaurant and thought I should give Maya one last try at redeeming itself, in an attempt at converting me to a mole or two.

    So, for a Friday night out with the lads, we dined on the following dishes:

    Fresh Seabass Caribbean Ceviche, that included a coconut passionfruit salsa, with a smattering of cashew nuts - must say a delightful dish that was paired with a Spanish Albarino wine.

    Slow Roasted Pork Belly which came with a fruity house made Mole Poblano, sweet potato and corn, along with a truffle infused succotash – this dish had a considerable amount of fat on and had to leave most of the dish, paired with a Ribera del Duero.

    Australian Beef Short Rib, that had been slow cooked for 48 hours, mopped up with a creamy mash and chimichurri, with black pepper & pasilla rich demi-glace type sauce paired with a Spanish Priorat Vinyes Velles.

    And finished off with a Passion Fruit Crème brûlée, which was more like a flan in consistency than a traditional Crème brûlée I felt, nevertheless tasty enough, accompanied by a wonderful dessert wine simply called No.2 Victoria, again from Spain.

    The service was a little slow at times, the venue is noisy with the background music, the toilets are a little rank in odour, and this is in the winter, they obviously have an issue with drainage or their noses perhaps.

    Overall not a bad night out with a group of lads, damages overall 950RMB per person, I would not rush back to go down Mexico way again, mole or no mole, and we all know mole comes from.

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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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  • 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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    Sally Hsiao is a female millenial from Taiwan. She is a creative strategist, obsessed with social, trends, fashion and all emerging things in the world. She is in a deep relationship with matcha.
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