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  • The newest spot for pancake lovers arrived to the city in the recently opened –and still not fully developed- Xintiandi Plaza mall. In the second basement you will find people queuing for this beautiful instagrammable piece of dough with different toppings under the name of Fomo Pancake.

    The menu goes from sweet to salty choices and the kitchen is open so you can check the whole making process of your pancake while you wait. There is a bar and one tall table to sit, so you better hurry and devour your pancake to continue shopping.

    Did I say pancakes? Well, not really. The dough is different from what we use to call the western version of pancakes. It has a more pudding and airy style, a lot of cream on top, few fruits and syrup. I found it too sweet and the portion is pretty generous so I couldn't finish it. I had the classic one for 48RMB.

    The price is very fair for the size of the portion. The place is a “meh”, definitely not for staying a while. I should say it is a “to go pancake” and, in my opinion, the consistency of the dough is not like a pancake one -it is a different concept. If you are looking for a traditional pancake spot this is not the one, but if you are keen on trying a different version, then Fomo is the place.

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  • Bangkok is a new Thai joint that opened up on Nanjng West Road and it’s dianping page is filled with praise. Determined to get a taste of what’s good, our group of four visited the place on a weekend for late lunch. Firstly, the service was great as the servers were all incredibly friendly, with great English on top. They were also helpful with recommendations, and accommodating with allergy restrictions. We kicked off the meal with the chilli and basil duck confit with pork mince, which had a great display (as we’ll come to find, so does all of the food served here), but the duck was a bit tough. Their star dish, the tom yum seafood soup was served unliked any others I’ve seen. The soup and ingredients are loaded into a siphon coffee maker before it’s flushed out and poured onto the shrimps, clams and mushrooms. A gimmick that’s fun and entertaining, the overall soup was not bad either. The thai bean paste spinach and vegetable fried rice were not too noteworthy as they were both a bit too bland. The green curry chicken and lamb made up for it though as they were both rich in flavor and a good mixer with rice. The seafood vermicelli was also a great addition to our meal filled lunch. Last but not least, the recommended mango rice desert was just the right portions as we couldn’t really stuff ourselves with anything more after the large meal, and it was just the right amount of sugary delights with fresh mangos on the side. Overall, the restaurant had a very inviting vibe and the food were all displayed in a very aesthetically pleasing manner. Word of advice to anyone coming to eat here, do not stuff yourself with the free shrimp crackers they offer (along with free refills) because you will regret not having an empty stomach to enjoy the rest of the yummy meal. Price for our meal was around 180/person for four.   

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  • A 70rmb slice of cake should conjure up memories of classic birthdays and weddings. The cakes at Lady M taste like office parties and 85 Degrees.

    Yet somehow, the #LadyM tag has 250,000 posts on Instagram. Maybe it's better in other cities? The NYC chain has four bright white shops in Shanghai selling overly-sweet crepe cakes with hundreds of thin layers. They stay busy, probably because of their aesthetic and social media presence.

    The taste? Awfully Chocolate slays Lady M on every level, for less than half the price.

    And if the cake is barely mediocre, the service is offensive. "You're eating here? Go outside and order." These bakeshop girls throw some serious attitude and they serve water in paper cups to dine-in customers. This is one time I would rather order from a QR code or robot. One Dianping reviewer commented, "the service is so bad you might think this is a shanzhai shop."

    My SmartReview philosophy is to highlight good places so they stay in business, so here's three better dessert options near Lady M Xintiand:

    1) If you want red velvet, just get a Strictly Cookies red velvet cookie from local chain Buzztime Coffee in Xintiandi Style. They make a really good house ice coffee and the staff are angels.

    2) Grab a salted caramel brioche and a piece of cake for ~30rmb total on night discount from Rye & Co and take it to Taiping Hu.

    3) Just go to HoF on Sinan Lu. It's still a standard, with consistent desserts, excellent service, and low-key vibes for over ten years. And they serve water in glassware.

     

     

    Summary: Overpriced, overhyped dessert shop with a curated aesthetic and strong social media presence. Awfully Chocolate and several other places do better cake for about half the price. 

    Price: ~70rmb per slice.

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  • Changsha is a wild place. The first night I ate street food there, a man walked up and asked me, "Hey little brother, are you done with that beer bottle? Can I have it?". Then he walked across the street and smashed the bottle over another man's head and their crews fought for over an hour while my friends and I ate painfully spicy bowls of frog and noodles.

    So how do you distill those intense flavors into a new Shanghai mall where Kohler charges 39rmb for an "exhibition" and Elle has a lifestyle shop and/or hair salon? Seems like Kairougi, an effort from the folks behind Haiku, is trying to do just that with their Hunan spot.

    The place looks nice and the food isn't bad. In fact, the rice is delicious and they use really nice oil. It's just that a meal here is double the price of Di Shui Dong and the service isn't half as good.

    Tried the signature fish (199rmb), signature duck (150rmb), fried stinky tofu and three bowls of rice and the bill came out to over 400rmb. For that price they need more staff, more flavor, and bigger portions. Feels aimed at locals who have some money to burn but prefer to eat something familiar, like Hunan. But without the Hunan wildness.

    When the bill came, everyone felt the same: "Damn! Should have just gone to Di Shui Dong. Or that place on Wulumuqi."

    Also, Shanghai is ready for the heat! They rate the signature duck 5/5 chilies but it's more like 3/5.

     

    Summary: Decent-but-overpriced Hunan restaurant with good rice that might be worth visiting if it were half the price.

    Price: 221rmb per person without alcohol

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  • I don't know how fair it is to evaluate a restaurant on Valentine's Day. Usually, they'll have a special menu that the chef and servers may be unfamiliar with, they'll be far busier than they usually would be, and there are plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. That being said, an unfamiliar menu, and more guests than usual on a holiday, are predictable things for a restuarnt to prepare for. With this standard in mind, I can report a disappointing meal of Middle Eastern cuisine at Makan on Feb 14. 

    There seemed to only be 2-3 servers when we arrived at dinner time, with the restaurant almost full. The host told me they were still missing some server were yet to return from the Chinese New Year holiday, which I believe and sympathize with, but still didn't excuse the poor and inattentive service. After being seated with a menu, the waitstaff disappered for 20 minutes. When one of them finally reappeared, he informed us that we shouldn't be ordering off the regular menu anyway; there was a special Valentine's day set meal. Ok fine, we'll go with that, and could we get some water please? 

    Another 20 minutes go by, and there's no sign of apps or water. We hail a different server, ask him to check on the food and the water and he asks if we still need to order...disorganized much? 

    When the appetizer platter finally arrives, it's a mixture of hot and cold apps. The baba ghanoush is nice. The hummus is excellent (a highlight of the meal). The falafel is pretty good. The potatoes, and mushrooms are both complete devoid of taste. The salad is totally forgettable. Overall...3/5 for the app sharing platter. 

    The meat sharing platter arrives 2 minutes later (coordination still suffering). Everything on the platter is cold. Some of the things probably tasted quite nice when they were fresh. The lamb chops are the biggest disappointment...even if they were hot, they wouldn't have tasted very good, because there was seemingly no seasoning on the outside. 1/5 on the meat platter. 

    The kabsa chicken arrives. It's really nice - actually seems like it was made to order. The seasoning on the outside of the chicken is flavorful and has marinated into the meat. The rice served with is is also warm and good. This dish gave me a glimpse of what this restaurant may be like if I didn't come on a holiday. 

    We asked for water two more times throughout the meal, but it never arrived. We never got a glass of water to drink throughout our 90 minute meal. 

    The dessert was tiny, and unremarkable. 

    This is not the way to do a Valentine's Day special. 398 CNY, poorly spent. The whole experience was 1 star, honestly, but I cut them the tiniest of slack for missing some servers after CNY, and for the tasty kabsa chicken. I'd be curious if anyone has had a better experience at Makan at another time. 

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  • Visiting Funk & Kale in the evening was a mistake.

     

    The designers appear to have taken self-consciously cool-aspiring workplaces as their aesthetic. There’s a sadly pristine pool table at the mall-side entrance, for example. The “artwork” is a good marker, too: black and white photos of grinning urbanites with colourful photoshopped giant fruits. It’s the design equivalent of your boss buying a round of half shandies. “Hey guys”, it says. “Let’s hang out.”

     

    The food is exactly what you’d expect from the Wagas group: protein-topped bowls and small plates of carbs, with some bright veggies thrown in for the ‘gram. We ordered the aubergine gnocchi and a ramen bowl with a quirky but forgettable name. The former was surprisingly good, with a rich tomato sauce but absolutely no frills. The latter was less so: the broth was oddly sweet, and the beef was unremarkable. There’s a brunch menu, too, if you really can’t find anywhere better, and some cakes at the bar.

     

    Funk & Kale also offer a selection of drinks, from coffees to cocktails to a little selection of craft beers (“Hey guys”). It was the evening, so I tried a cocktail; the lemon and raspberry flavours were fresh, but it was about as alcoholic as a wheatgrass juice. Less than decadent.

     

    In total, we paid 252rmb for the abovementioned food and cocktail, plus a beer. Not terrible. Not amazing.

     

    If you work in the area, give it a go. Try to relax on the slightly awkward furniture. Play a very quiet game of pool. Order the gnocchi. Then check your watch, say “right, well then, I suppose I’d better”, and escape to somewhere more relaxing.

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  • Whenever I am craving for a western version of sushi -or something "similar"- I head to Most, either to the old one close to Shanghai Library or to the newest one in the gastro hub “More Than Eat” at 758 Julu road. Why? Because not only they have niguiris or sashimis –which are really good and fresh-, but also ROLLS (without Philadelphia cheese though), and their selection of rolls is remarkable.

    The place is quite modern and neat for being an Izakaya, which generally are more noisy and casual. The only problem is that the place closes pretty early but I guess the reason is because the general place closes early.

    Went with some friends and had the broiled salmon, beef and foie grass, tuna avocado and prawn avocado rolls (8 pieces each portion). Also, as “Izakaya” name indicates, you have more options in the menu like udon, soba, ramen, tempura, and a wide variety of yakitoris. We also had fried udon in spicy sauce with vegetables and eggplant on miso dressing.

    Good prices and portions, fresh fish, quick service and nice ambient. Definitely is an ace under the sleeve for those days craving for a western-alike sushi.

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  • Other than the weird dance music in the evenings, I love this place. It’s a strange medley of everything I like. It’s part coffee shop, part health food restaurant, semi-fast food, and a killer happy hour. The service is no-frills ordering at the counter, and the food comes out within 10-15 minutes looking fresh and tasting delicious. There’s an interesting mix of people here depending on the time of day. Sometimes you’ll see people typing away on laptops, groups of friends enjoying RMB 30 happy hour drinks, or the solo lunch-goer who just left a yoga class and needs something quick but decent to eat.

    We sampled the Thai Beef Salad (RMB 58), the Tuna Salad (RMB 75), Spinach and Artichoke Dip (RMB 38), the Pick-Me-Up Smoothie (RMB 45), and a happy hour Aperol Spritz (RMB 30). A salad here is more than enough to satisfy, but I’m really bad at making singular food choices. Compared to a chain like Wagas, the freshly seared tuna on the salad was the same quality and a good deal cheaper. I do recommend going during the day when it has a more chill vibe. It’s just very strange and abrasive music for the evening vibe. Don’t forget to bring your puppy along! Dogs are welcome here.

    Average price per person during this visit: RMB 128

    Summary: Healthy food for real people who also sometimes make bad choices.

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  • Located in the back corner of Tonglefang, right beside the line 7 Changping Road Subway station, lies Masse Gastro Lounge, a quaint Southeast Asian restaurant with a laid back vibe and a great playlist of 2000’s American R&B music. I swung by with a colleague for lunch and found the place relatively empty with only one other table and one server. Service was swift and soon enough, our pani puri, salted egg yolk fried chicken wings, Malay shrimp paste spinach, and chicken pad thai were on the table. I came here for the pani puri snack(an Indian street food that was a bit of an oddity on the menu), a hollow round fried dough crust with potato bean paste and chili sauce. The potato bean paste was great, although the spices weren’t nearly as spunky as that of the pani puris you find in South Asia. Next came their star dish, the salted egg yolk fried chicken wings and that certainly did not disappoint as the salted egg covering melts in your mouth in a perfect blend of creamy delight. The chicken pad thai and the Malay shrimp paste spinach are pretty much what you would expect at any Thai joint but are good nonetheless. Last but not least, I ordered the coconut ice cream for dessert. The portions were larger than expected, and even though it was freezing cold outside, I enjoyed every bit of the coconut goodness. Overall, I’d give this place a 5 stars for it’s chill vibe and 4.5 stars for its food. I am definitely coming back for the salted egg yolk chicken wings, which were simply the best I’ve ever had. Our meal came out to be around 205 RMB for 2 people. 

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  • Sometimes you need a restaurant in your life to pat you on the back, give you a cold beer, and just send you on your way feeling better. That’s what Kyushu’s is. If you’re in the neighborhood and looking for a convivial atmosphere, a boozy dinner to start a night-out, or just some solid Japanese-style grilled food and beer, Kyushu’s is your friend.

    It’s usually busy, especially on weekends, which gives it a reliably good atmosphere. It’s also colorful, with walls covered with Japanese posters and TVs showing random pan-Asian soap operas. It’s pretty cozy, and just on the right side of kitsch.  

    Food is – stuff that goes well with beer. Think barbecued meat and vegetable skewers, fried chicken, grilled fish. I prefer going in groups, ordering a bunch of skewers and dishes to split and covering a lot of ground on the menu. As at any Japanese grill, the mackerel is a must. There are particular items they really excel at (the chicken skin skewers are great examples of the form, better than a lot of other places) but it’s generally just what you’d expect from a better-than-average Japanese BBQ joint. Which is no bad thing.

    The menu covers a wide range too, which is a bonus – it’s good for boozy, hours-long weekend group dinners, but also a decent shout for a cheap, in-and-out solo bowl of ramen. The spicy tonkatsu is decent. 

    It’s a low-stakes spot that’s always satisfying, and always a good time. It’s dependable. That’s why, despite often swearing I prefer other places that do a similar thing, I keep going back.  

     

    Price: RMB 170-200 per person, including drinks.

    Summary: Standard issue Japanese izakaya in Changning district, serving up decent grilled skewers, cold Asahi, and good vibes. There are better ones out there, but this is a great option for the area. Usually busy, so doesn’t hurt to reserve.

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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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  • Shanghai is the 10th city that Ting has called home. She works at a Chinese social enterprise and loves immersing herself in new cultures and chasing new experiences, particularly food.
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  • American

    Emily Gant has lived around the world in Ecuador, Chile, Indonesia and Tonga. She enjoys rooftop cocktails and showing up to events on time. Emily also does amateur stand-up comedy in Shanghai where she's funny 30% of the time.
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