Located centrally at Anfu Road, Apollo is a beautiful restaurant. I visited the place at a Wednesday night and it was delightfully quiet.
I ordered a mango salad, one soft shell chicken taco and avocado taco, kale and steak, as well as a squid salad. Mango salad was sour but very refreshing. The chicken taco was juicy and flavorful but the avocado taco was pretty average. Kale and steak was very interesting to eat and beautiful to look at. kale was crunchy and steak was well seasoned. I’m not a big fan of squid but the salad tastes amazing. Every dish was beautifully arranged with delicate plating, matching perfectly with the venue itself.
The waiters were attentive and warm, pouring up water whenever the cups were empty. We paid Overall it was a great experience to dine here and we would definitely go again for brunch.
Gong Yi Nong is a Sichuan restaurant up in Hongkou, serving up some classics of the cuisine along with a few deep cuts that you don’t find as often. Their renditions of classics like hui guo rou (twice cooked pork) are solid enough to sate anyone with a Sichuan craving.
Where they really excel, though, is in their cold dishes. These small plates, great as a round of appetizers, include delicious – and very hot – cold eggplant smother in garlic and chili as well as chilled slices of tender beef, drowning in chili oil and sprinkled with peanuts. Pair these with a bowl of hot rice and you’re set.
The atmosphere and décor are non-descript, but a cut above your average hole in the wall. You order via iPad, for some reason, so they’re clearly trying to be modern. Everything’s clean, there’s plenty of space, and you don’t feel backed into a corner even during the lunch rush.
Do you need to travel for this place? Not really when you’ve got a handful of truly stellar Sichuanese spots downtown. But if you’re on the North side looking for some heat, you could do way worse.
The famous Song Fah Bak Kuh Teh chain of Singapore has expanded their presence internationally, with store fronts opening-up on the bottom floors of Shanghai’s high-end shopping malls. Needless to say, the experience of dining at these mall-based chains are far from the experience of dining at the original chains in the Singapore street-side. They do try and make an effort though, by lining up the restaurant walls with a drawing of the original street-side restaurant, as well as descriptions of how the bak kuh teh (pork ribbed broth) is made (brewing in a mix of spices for 8 or 9 hours apparently). Authenticity aside, let’s talk about the food.
You can’t come in here and not order their signature bak kuh teh, and luckily, the place offers free refills of broth once you’re down slurping in your fill. Other than that, there’s also a selection of porridge, broth, and noodle dishes, along with some side dishes that would go well with the main course. Thus, I ordered the bak kuh teh along with a plate of marinated tofu. What erks me a bit about this chain in Shanghai though, is that they charge an additional 10rmb for a small plate of tough fritter (though not much, is still overpriced for what it’s worth), which is usually offered for free at the chains in Singapore to go along with the broth.
I have no complaints about the tastes of the broth, as they probably use the same ingredients as the ones in Singapore, but it’s the display and artificial atmosphere of the store that I do not like. I guess once you’ve had the original, you can’t compare replicas of it against it.
This place is definitely on the affordable end of the restaurants you find in these high-end malls and service is top-notch.
Polux is part of the Paul Pairet package. He’s the Ultraviolet / Mr and Mrs Bund guy, and he opened Polux as a more casual, bistro-style restaurant this year. Predictably, Polux received a “Bib Gourmand” in the 2020 Michelin Guide. Predictably, it’s both absolutely decent and a little flat.
The bistro-style stuff tastes and looks good. Crispy shoe-string fries, toasted club sandwiches, and brunch hashes for hashtag brunching. There’s a lot of very competent cooking of fairly basic stuff going on. Shout out to the coconut latte, too – my friend said it was probably the best coffee he’s ever had, and I’m inclined to agree.
Décor and service are both stylish. I have a lot of love for the incongruous floral napkins, and a little less love for the brown waistcoats. Prices aren’t bad, either. As a general rule, small plates are around 80rmb, brunch dishes around 110rmb, mains 150-180rmb, and desserts vary. In total, we paid 1067rmb for four people at brunch time – no booze but a lot of coffee and tea.
I wouldn’t race back to Polux, though, for a couple of reasons. I know it’s fussy, but the choice to finely chop my burrata before serving it was bewildering. Part of the joy of eating burrata is the moment of ooze – that lovely moment when you break the outer layers and the interior spills out. At Polux, they pre-mince your burrata. Odd decision. I also found certain dishes, such as the soft egg or the iced tea, a bit empty.
Polux is a beautifully-designed bistro with a beautifully-designed menu and some beautifully-executed food. It’s fairly expensive as a brunch option, but fairly cheap for Paul Pairet. Go for a coconut latte and some fries, if nothing else, and watch the beautiful people chat away their mornings.
In the first ten years I lived in Shanghai, I don’t think I ever said, “Let’s go eat in Xintiandi.” This is the area of throngs of flag following tour groups, and where you are likely to trip over the tourist in front of you who just had stop mid-stride to get a picture of a Starbucks in China.
But times are changing, and there are more and more interesting restaurants in Xintiandi that make the tourist dodging gymnastics worth it. Xixi Bistro, relocated from Wuyuan lu, is one of them.
First, this is just a really cool looking space. When you walk into the first floor of the restaurant (on the second floor across from Polux), you feel transported back to the 1930’s Shanghai. I felt like I was in the very fancy house of someone who probably has a pencil mustache and wears white tuxedo jackets just because the sun went down.
Next, the food. There are a lot of Xixi Bistro haters on the interweb, but I think the food was great and everyone at our table enjoyed it. I think if anything, they may want to change the names, because the food tastes better than it sounds. For example, the foie gras terrine with spring onion pancakes. That sounds as “fusion-y” as anything could possibly be and actually in your mind it may be strange mix, but when it comes out, the spring onion pancakes are really just bread.
I think the fusion part was not a 50-50 split and is still mainly either solidly western or Chinese with just hints of the other culture in the flavoring. The roast chicken, ribs and mao po tofu were all really good without too much variation from what you would expect, but just enough to keep things interesting.
If you are early with kids, request a table in the 2ndfloor bar. It seemed to be where the families were strategically located to have an isolated run around space.
Go to Xintiandi more often, I think your stomach will thank you. And weaving through tour groups is good practice if you ever have to dodge zombies in the apocalypse.
About 250 rmb per person
I love taking people down to Found 158 for the first time. Always the same reaction of a raised-eyebrow with a pouted lip followed by, ‘woah you’d never know this place exists!’. Its true. Strolling down Julu Lu you wouldn’t have a clue that this giant fish bowl houses a dynamic mix of quality restaurants and bars. Amongst these is Hooked, a seafront inspired restaurant and bar serving up classic British/Aussie/New Zealand (take your pick) style meals. You’re sure to find these breeds of expats gathering at this watering hole when they’re craving a taste of home.
They’ve got daily deals throughout the week on food and drinks, my favourite being the 2 for 1 fish and chips on a Monday. Battered, crumbed or grilled. Or if you’re feeling like something a little more decadent I’d go for the lobster mac and cheese. Drinks menu has a good selection of cocktails and craft beers and if you feel like getting messy on a Wednesday night there’s 2 for 1 gin n tonics.
Growing up down under I’ve had my fair share of everything from exceptional to horrendous fish and chips and everything in between. Hooked’s version is pretty darn good. I’ve tried both crumbed (nice) and battered (the best) versions (grilled fish n chips is not a thing). I was impressed with how well the fish was cooked and the mayo n mushy peas are a nice addition.
Having tried many of the other restaurants at Found 158 I think Hooked deserves its spot. Although it may be the least ‘exotic’ of the bunch it does its thing well and delivers on a crowd favourite. I can see this being a popular spot even with the weather cooling down, those hearty comfort meals will go down a treat!
Price for 2 (incl drinks): 260 (2 for 1 Mondays)
Here’s the low-down on the latest action-
The Beef: Yunnan cuisine is one of my favorite Chinese cuisines, so I never miss a chance to try a new spot that serves up the sour and spicy flavors. Yun Hai Yao has been around and has quickly expanded – with more than 20 stores in Shanghai alone and even more nationwide, and can be found in most malls and mid-range dining establishments.
I’ve been to a few within Shanghai and the quality of food and service has always been consistently good. Sit down, scan your table qr code to order, and your dishes are served up rather promptly.
Offerings include the typical open-faced grilled fish (one of my favorites, pictured), Yunnan style mashed potatoes, stir-fry pork belly, and the rice noodle soups (mi xian). They also have some interesting combo dishes like pu-er tea leaves stir fried with tofu, jasmine flower with eggs, you can’t really go wrong here. It pays to be adventurous here, especially if you have been in SH for awhile and are used to lot of the typical Chinese dishes.
The Gang: Popular with local Chinese diners, in either smaller or larger groups.
The Damage: Group of six came out to 120rmb/pax with a few beers each. Definitely good for groups if you’re looking to switch it up from the requisite Lotus Eatery.
The Down n’ Dirty: In the mall…’nuff said.
Here’s the low-down on the latest action-
The Beef: Bird has a loyal flock of fans in Shanghai, and it’s not hard to see why. The creative, not to mention insta-worthy dishes seem to be updated to make use of seasonal ingredients. A girly brunch date was made, and off to Bird it was.
The place itself is small and intimate – bar seating, window seating, and a single long table for groups, in total you can cram in around 25ppl. Upon entering on a 12:30 weekend day, the kitchen was already bustling and servers were busy scrambling behind the bar, and shuttling in and out of the door (sending food next door to sister café/bar Bitter next door).
Without anyone to greet us, we sat ourselves by the only available seats along the window. It was a nice view of all the activities on Wuyuan Lu on a slightly drizzly day. Maybe it’s the old age, but instantly I felt the backless high stools were not doing it for me. No place for my bag either, where were the hooks under the table? This forced me to place my bag behind me, giving my ass even less comfort and space.
The food menu looked great, however. Our appetizers. The kidney bean dish was carefully composed with dollop of smooth-as-butter hummus. The broccolini was roasted and charred perfectly, each bite so intense. I was not as much a fan of the two mains we had, however. The crab was rather too much flavor, too briny, too umami, too seafood-y (which I’m usually not put off by). It was also logistically challenging to eat as a benedict dish, so I ended up eating the crab on its own then dissecting the bottom part separately. The double sliders tasted bland and way less interesting than they looked, even with the two pretty green sauces. Squash fries were oily and soggy, could have been easily be mistaken for avocado fries without the nutty flavor. Portion sizes on the small side.
The Motive: This place seems more of a girly date spot, although not really a brunch place where you can plop down and leisurely chat through the afternoon over drinks (a la seating situation). Suggest popping into Bitter after your meal.
The Damage: 118rmb for brunch set (1 app + 1 main). Select mains require additional+20rmb.
The Down n’ Dirty: Free (and clean) as a Bird splattering in the garden birdbath.
There has been a lot of buzz around this place over the last few months, some even crowning it the best new restaurant in Shanghai. Helmed by a well-reputed chef and located in the swanky Bund Financial Centre, Heritage by Madison seems to tick all the boxes to attract the masses.
The space is sophisticated, dimly lit with large inverted copper lampshades. Like many restaurants these days there is the option to sit overlooking the kitchen, which is always a treat to see the chefs work their magic. The menu consists of a range of Chinese-inspired small plates so be prepared to order a lot (sample a lot!).
Still relatively new to Shanghai I’ve realized that my expectations are quite different to those who are more familiar with the ever-changing dynamics of Shanghai’s F&B industry. So this was a great opportunity to try something new with a range of people, to observe ultimately what determines if they’ll be back!
Dishes of mention:
General Hu’s cauliflower – One of the standout dishes. Sweet and crunchy with a nice hint of chilli
Salted duck yolk lotus roots – a very polarizing dish. I myself loved it but it appeared to be one you either love or hate. The expression on my friends face can only be described as ‘an insult to her tastebuds’
Fried mantou with edamame – a rye based version of these buns. Creative and delicious!
Uni lobster – a decadent dish! Because of this its a ideal for sharing.
Panna cotta – Unfortunately the fruit to panna cotta ratio was off. i.e. gimme more PC.
On the spectrum of modern Chinese cuisine Heritage by Madison presents an innovative menu that pushes the boundaries. While some of the people I dined with weren’t so impressed with the stray from traditional flavours, I really enjoyed seeing a fresh spin on the dishes and am eager to see how the menu evolves.
Price per person: 300 RMB
Vietnamese restaurants aren’t as rare in Shanghai as they used to be just a few years ago. More choices means more opportunity pho you to find a good Vietnamese spot (I do not send my apologies for that terrible pun). Ha Tien joins the crowd in the Taikoo Hui mall off West Nanjing Road. How does it compare?
The pho sells itself. It’s aromatic broth hits you even before the server sets it on the table. The peaks of the pink, uncooked beef like icebergs piled in the beef broth. The beef and star anise linger on your tongue after every sip.
The grilled betel leaf wrapped beef is a treat. An item that I’ve never seen on a Vietnamese menu outside of Ho Chi Minh. Though it can’t compare to the real deal in Ho Chi Minh, it’s a dish worth ordering because it’s so different.
The dry vermicelli with grilled pork and spring rolls is a hearty dish. The spring rolls are the star, as they maintain their crispness no matter how much chilli sauce or hoisin you douse on the noodles. The dish comes with a side of home-made chilli sauce that provides an unexpected tang. Bottle that up and sell it please!
Overall, it’s one of the better Vietnamese spots in town. A menu that’s less than twenty items with a few good noodle choices and some items that aren’t so commonly found on other Vietnamese menus. Meal for two, without drinks, runs about 170 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.