Grano is a small bar and restaurant serving up pizzas and other simple Italian comfort food in Changning. Run by locals with experience in a few Italian restaurants around town, it’s a chill spot with welcoming, friendly staff. The kind that might throw you a free glass of wine just for stopping by. It’s equally suited to a quick bite and a glass of wine outside on a sunny afternoon as it is to pizza and a bottle huddled away inside on a cold evening. It’s small, but you can usually find a seat.
The pizzas are the things that keep me coming back. They’re Italian-style with great dough and good ingredients, cooked in a proper pizza oven. It’s not the only option for good pizza in this neighborhood – Just Cool is around the corner slinging a full menu of craft beer bottles and killer pizzas – but it’s the cutest and coziest. Cheap, too, with most of the pizzas coming in at less than RMB 100.
The rest of the menu is a bit less of a bullseye, but is worth exploring. The salads in particular are generously seasoned and feel homey and unfussy. Lots of olive oil. Good for sharing.
In general, it’s a great little neighborhood Italian with a lot of heart. You can tell it’s a labor of love, one that rewards dates or solo diners looking for a bite and somewhere to relax.
Price: RMB 60 – RMB 200 per person
Summary: A homey neighborhood Italian with friendly owners, serving up great pizza and welcoming vibes. Small and cozy, good for a streetside or hunkering down for an intimate meal by the bar.
The Breakfast Company, as its name suggests, serves all-day breakfasts fulfilling your cravings of brunch, brinner, etc. because let’s be real, bacon and eggs tastes amazing no matter what time of the day it is.
The storefront isn’t too big, with around 9 tables (most of them two seaters) and a couple of bar stools. Opening at 10:30a.m., this place starts to fill up at 11 a.m. on a weekday, and by lunch, there’s a small group of people waiting to be seated. Because of how high demand this place is, I wouldn’t say this is the best place to sit down and chat, because you will feel pressured to eat fast and go by the presence the line.
When ordering, I went straight for their signature Full Arashiyama Breakfast Set which contains a healthy serving of bacon, beans, eggs, sausage, bash, and tomatoes. The Set can be bought by itself, or alongside a lunch set (ordered from 10:30-16:00), which gives you a starter of salad or soup, with an additional drink (free refills for coffee). Food came fairly swift, and everything was cooked to just the right amount- the bacon was not too hard, the fried egg had just the right amount of yolk, and the beans tasted amazing with toast. My avocado banana smoothie also tasted creamy and amazing, but left me feeling quite bloated after the meal.
Overall it was a very solid brunch, with the lunch sets (confusingly named I know) coming out to be 98rmb/ person.
It’s a bit sad about Egg, because apparently they used to have a really good vegan bowl on the menu. They’ve rehashed it now, so it’s hard to order anything without their eponymous ji dan as a feature. You can get the avo toast without parmesan, and it’s pretty good, but it still feels like a lazy vegan option.
They are really good at eggs, though. We tried them in a dense and flaky shaobing with homemade sour plum ketchup, cheese and an undetectable (but advertised) tofu scallion mayo. We had one in a muffin with a slow-braised pork chop. Presumably, there was an eggy presence in the divine milk cereal and white chocolate cookie I ordered. You can even get a Vietnamese-style egg coffee, if the mood takes you, and order anything (possibly even the coffee) with an extra egg on top, cooked any way you flipping like, for 8rmb.
Honestly, there are some egg-free options. The avocado toast (minty!) isn’t egg-topped, and neither are the slow-braised “cloud beans” (hearty!). The coconut iced coffee doesn’t contain egg either, in case you were wondering. In total, for six people, we paid 490rmb – not-at-all-bad pricing for a not-at-all-bad brunch.
Egg is a bright but cozy neighbourhood brunch spot with a mix of classic and more interesting menu options. Prices are on point, and waiting times are fairly average. It’s worth a visit just for the cookies, but you should probably try at least one egg dish too.
I don’t know why Elijah Holland didn’t call Botanik ‘Persephone’ instead. It’s only around during the summer months (May – October), its food seems to come from the heart of Mother Earth herself, and it’s about as difficult to find as a kidnapped goddess.
On that last point, there aren’t any signs to Botanik. In Tianzifang, follow the arrows for The Plump Oyster instead. When you get there, look around for the verdant vertical garden growing out of the staircase wall, and climb up to the rooftop. When your surroundings feel like a particularly charming scene in a bucolic fairytale, you’ve arrived.
We started with some cocktails, which showcase the focus of the restaurant. Everything is based around foraged ingredients, and the flavours are bold: from truffley and mushroom-infused to sharp coconut. They also have a great wine selection, including some natural and orange wines, and bar staff so friendly I almost expected hand-woven bracelets and hugs with the bill.
At the table, there was a folded menu for the evening with its own little Botanik wax seal. It was long. Seventeen courses long. The menu changes every week or so, and I’m not going to spoil the surprises, but there was some beautiful cooking. The mushroom and jujube charcuterie made us both laugh out loud because it was just so good. The sprouted coconut heart with black garlic was unreal – smokey, soft and comforting. And the ice cream. My goodness. It involved bay leaf, bee pollen and buffalo milk, and it was one of the best moments of my year.
There are so many lovely little touches at Botanik. Until you speak to the chefs, it’s hard to imagine how this tiny, rustic open kitchen is turning out things like delicate, cheesey cracker “shells” for its razor clam course, or the lightest little peach jelly with Thai basil seeds. It makes sense when they come over to introduce the food, though. The whole team is committed to Holland’s magical vision, and they’re delivering it to their twenty guests each evening with finesse. The tasting menu is 688rmb per head; with drinks, we paid around 2600rmb for two.
Botanik is a magical little rooftop garden serving gorgeous, pretty, clever food. If you can’t get a dinner reservation this summer, go along for some of their idiosyncratic cocktails anyway, and set a reminder to book early when they (hopefully) reopen next May. It’s more than worth the effort.
Colca serves really great Peruvian food in a fantastic location. It is located in the newish large restaurant/bar compound between Hengshan Rd. and Yongjia Rd in the heart of the old Xuhui district.
The whole compound is done very nicely and there are probably a dozen different restaurants, bars and cafés that all look inviting. The decorations are modern and trendy.
What surprised me most was the proportions are really large. I had a two course lunch and I think it could have been split between two people. The Papa Rellena was great as a starter. It was basically a tasty beef filling wrapped in a mashed potato ball and then fried to a golden perfection. It was the starter, but could have been satisfying in itself for lunch.
For the second dish I ordered the Cod Fish on Josper. It looked really nice on a triangular plate and you could taste the smokiness from the Josper. The dishwashers here probably don’t need to work too hard as we left our plates completely clean.
At 110 RMB for the two courses with a coffee or tea which is a pretty good deal for this level of quality.
The only downside is that it’s not stroller friendly as it’s on the second floor with no elevator
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.
Polux is a great addition to Xintiandi in the location where Kabb used to be. For those who have been in Shanghai for a long time, Kabb was a local favorite not for standing out particularly in any one area, but rather for being so comfortable and consistently better than the average for service, food and price for many years. Polux takes the formula and ups all three, especially the last one.
The food is way, way better than Kabb. It is basically French bistro food done exceptionally well. We had the charcuterie, beef tartar, salad, pork and steak fries. We finished every dish completely. The service was not just Shanghai good, but great by any standard anywhere. Both the Chinese and foreign wait staff seemed knowledgeable about the menu and well-coordinated despite a very busy night.
The patio is great for sitting outside and people watching. If you’re in the mood, get a jar of negroni to share. It’s basically a giant serving of the cocktail with ice on the side. By the time you finish the second one, your table should be all smiles and ready to go for the night.
The place was packed, so make sure you make a reservation.
It will run about 300 rmb per person.
Ding Te Le is a cozy little noodle shop that serves up a range of mostly local Shanghainese favorites. Simple dishes that you can get all over town, but elevated. You get a jump in quality but no jump in price. It’s also open 24 hours.
The shop itself is clean and cozy, tucked just inside the entrance of a residential compound on Huaihai. Nothing fancy, but nice enough that you could take someone that’s a bit squeamish about holes in the wall.
Their cong you ban mian, dry noodles livened up with scallion oil, is the best version I’ve had. These noodles can be boring; here they’re a huge umami hit. Their majiang mian is crazy rich and decadent, basically just noodles in a peanut butter sauce that’s seasoned to perfection with just the right amount of salt. Each bowl comes with a small bowl of complimentary fish soup that has real depth, presumably the same ones that they serve their famous yellow croaker noodles in.
Get the fried pork cutlet too. Again, one of the best of the form that I’ve tried. Great hongshao rou also.
If you’re looking for a new favorite noodle house, this might be it. Anyone that's into exploring Shanghai's culinary nooks and crannies should swing by.
Price: RMB 15 – RMB 50 per person
Summary: A neat little noodle house that slings some of the finest Shanghainese noodles around. Cozy, chill, and open 24 hours.
Despite the odd entrance and winding metallic stairwell that brings you up two levels, there you enter BOR’s large open space with high ceilings, with which one is greeted by a slightly industrial look and feel, a sort of cross between Muji and an Ikea show kitchen, that one would perhaps expect from a Nordic kitchen.
This was our second outing to BOR, as we were impressed on the first night, and wanted to see what additional dishes were being served and must confess overall were not disappointed, more of that later, the menu is laid out in the traditional sense and listed so, with snacks, starters, mains, sides and desserts, unlike some of the newer Shanghai establishments that recently opened with their menus which are just a listing of dishes, and no indication of the portion size or frankly what to expect, here at BOR with their excellent and knowledgeable service, the wait staff guide you and suggest dishes.
As usual, we started off with a couple of glasses of wine.
Franz Etz Grüner Veltliner from Austria, along with Delaunay rosé from the Loire, both served at the correct temperature, and a decent 150ml pour.
Mini Danish Hot Dog topped with mustard, ketchup: these were offered as we sat down, as a sort amuse bouche, whilst deciding over the menu.
Beef tartare with mustard, tomato, fresh herbs and sourdough bread: When I see this on any menu I have to give this a go, and it certainly passed the Globaltraveller acid test, as did the sourdough bread which accompanied the dish, perhaps the kitchen team from Bloom should stop by and check out what Sour Dough bread is really like.
Fried Halibut with bacon, green peas, smoked butter sauce, butter lettuce and blue mussel: all the ingredients came together well, the bacon which is house cured and smoked was perhaps little too much for the dish, or perhaps the quantity served, no real fault though.
Whole baked sole with chargrilled asparagus, garlic shoots: The Sole, whilst not your classic Dover Sole variety, this dish was delicate and just cooked to perfection with the flesh of the fish falling off the bone, no overturned fishing boats with this dish.
BBQ Smoked Pork Ribs with sour apple, mustard seeds and shallots: personally, while the dish had flavour, the meat was slightly tough and chewy, and not juicy or succulent enough, a little disappointing.
For the sides chose the following:
Pelikan Beets, beets beets: chargrilled baby beetroot just wonderful flavours, along with a touch of sea salt and cracked pepper, just right.
Gnocchi with onion cream, garlic salsa verde, dried duck shavings: delightful creamy dish.
For the red wines we had Saint Cosme from Côtes du Rhône, personally a little flat for my liking and a Pinot Noir from Wairarapa Valley in New Zealand a better choice, again both served at the correct temperature, and a decent 150ml pour, and the price points reasonable.
The service is sharp and the menu refreshing, we perhaps overindulged and declined the tempting dessert menu, will be back to sample other dishes, along with desserts some other time.
The music whilst laid back and good selection, it can be a little too loud at times, and perhaps turned down a notch.
I can only recommend BOR, damages came to 1050RMB for two, but then again, we wanted to sample as much as possible.
The corner of Wulumuqi and Wuyuan Lu is a weekend hotspot for expats. On one side of the road you’ve got people squeezing in and out of the The Avocado Lady for their lao wai cravings (bless her) and on the other you’ll find Bowl Bowl Bowl. The upstairs dining area has a chill minimalistic vibe where you can either perch up at the windowsill and people-watch/pooch-watch, or enjoy some peace and quiet.
Summed up, BBB specialize in poke bowls, salad bowls and yoghurt bowls. I can only comment on the poke as they keep me coming back rain or shine, fresh or dusty – they always hit the spot.
The selection of bowls you can order are named according to different Scandinavian countries. But I thought poke was from Hawaii? Although traditionally a Hawaiian dish, apparently poke bowls have also become very popular in Scandinavia because of the seafood element. The bowls at BBB resemble a classic poke make-up similar to deconstructed sushi where you can choose from different seafood options as your protein. They come lined with a slab of sushi rice, packed with a generous serving of edamame, cashews, avocado, seaweed, black sesame and topped off with a drizzle of the perfect spicy mayo. If you’re keen up the experience one more notch you can go to town on the self-serve soy sauce and wasabi.
Dishes of mention:
Northern Lights poke bowl – salmon is super fresh and complimented well by the spicy mayo
No real criticism for BBB but perhaps they could offer the bowls in different sizes for those that want more of that poke goodness. Overall a reliable spot for a healthy, delicious meal.
Price per person: <100 RMB
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.