Eating in a grocery store has, in my lifetime, never been a fulfilling experience. Disinterested staff preparing mediocre food that’s nearing fine-inducing temperatures. Needless to say, I was much too hesitant to try the seafood at HeMa, Alibaba’s supermarket that’s popping up all over Shanghai. But hey, different country, different experiences, right?
Things start off with a bang. HeMa’s seafood section is as fresh as can be. Large tanks display copious amounts of sea creatures: fish, clams, mussels, shrimp, big lobsters and giant crabs barreling over one another. Choose your victim, the helpful staff bags it up, and walk it over to the register by the kitchen. Select your cooking style and choice of flavor, find a seat, and wait patiently until your number is called. Then just devour the goodness.
Dinner started off with razor clams coated in a spicy sauce consisting of five different kinds of chili peppers. I couldn’t help but lick the sauce off the shells. Next came the plump mussels which were covered in a thick ginger and scallion sauce. Pluck out the meat, then use the shell to scoop the sauce onto your bowl of rice. It’s that good. The showstopper is the fresh Boston lobster. Split in half, plentiful meat steamed to perfection, and topped with a slightly sweet vinegar sauce.
It’s fresh, messy and extremely budget friendly. Razor clams, mussels, and a whole Boston lobster cooked to order all for just under 150 RMB. Your Alipay account won’t even feel a pinch. HeMa is not your typical grocery store experience. You definitely want to eat here.
Nothing beckons indulging in some American BBQ when the dog days of summer are in full force. Enter Chuckville, a newly opened BBQ joint in what looks like to be an up and coming F&B complex near Laoximen.
The menu contains a variety of meats you’d expect at any respectable BBQ place. However, there are two standouts. First, the melt-in-your mouth brisket that begs repeat orders. Second, the beef ribs that would make Fred Flintstone proud. Not shy on meat, it falls right off the bone. Kissed with the essence of smoke that takes me back to the backyard bbq’s of my youth.
When eating BBQ, don’t skimp on the sides. The potato mash with burnt ends is an unexpected hit, though I wish the pieces of burnt ends were bigger. The coleslaw is creamy and the creamed spinach is rich in its butteriness. The corn bread, as tasty as it is, is served in a minuscule portion.
The only gripes I have about this place is that 1) there is no homemade bbq sauce to speak of. There is only one option of sauce, and I wouldn’t doubt if it’s of the bottled variety. Come on, Chuckville, you got to step up your sauce game! 2) No baked beans on the menu? Blasphemy!
Overall, a better-than-expected American BBQ restaurant that really serves up some moist and delicious barbecue. The staff is friendly with never-ending smiles. Chuckville can be a bit pricey, but if you can limit yourself to one beef rib shared amongst friends, it shouldn’t be too excessive.
It’s creamy. It’s smooth. Simply put, it’s heaven in a bowl. Move over ice cream, because there’s a new king of summer in town. Xibei Yogurt House has just taken first place on the podium of summer desserts.
Grab a bowl when you enter. Pour in a ladle or two of your choice of sweet or unsweetened yogurt. Top it with your choice of toppings that range from fresh seasonal fruit to corn flakes to tiny chocolate morsels. Have it weighed by the friendly staff, grab a seat and indulge in the new summer treat. Who knew that yogurt could taste so darn good!
Be careful though. If you get too liberal with the toppings (and you definitely will) your bowl of yogurt may top out at nearly 60 RMB. Manage it carefully, and you’ll satisfy your sweet tooth at roughly 25 RMB.
Xibei Yogurt House has savory food on the menu too, and in all honesty, I didn’t bother trying it. I was here for the yogurt. And this place doesn’t disappoint. My new rankings for Shanghai’s delectable dairy treats: In third place is the classic and budget friendly ice cream bar, Dong Bei Da Ban. Kicked to #2 is the always reliable Italian gelato spot, GROM. And now, until further notice, Xibei Yogurt House stands confidently on top of the charts, clutching gold, with its luscious, and oh-so-creamy yogurt.
The burgeoning coffee scene in Shanghai has introduced many options to get that caffeine fix. Sometimes it can be too much of a burden deciding where to get that addictive beverage. Akimba, primely located on ever-changing Yuyuan Lu, is a cafe worth a visit.
Along with the standard coffee options, it offers three fruit coffees served on ice: lychee, grapefruit and pineapple. Weird at first glance, but I recommend giving them a shot. The pineapple coffee is not shy in it’s sweetness, but the bitterness of the coffee helps to cut through. Served with a slice of pineapple and sprig of aromatic rosemary it could definitely work as a cocktail. BYO vodka or rum!
The latte is just how I like it: strong and creamy. They have a variety of instagrammable desserts that are quite pricey, many hovering over 80 RMB! The coconut tart is encased in a dark chocolate shell and topped with passion fruit cream that combines well with the sensibly sweet and light coconut mousse.
Overall, Akimba serves up some interesting coffee options, over-priced desserts, and good seats for people watching on Yuyuan Lu. Try one of the fruit coffees for a different experience.
As soon as it hits your tongue. That’s when you know you’re in good hands. The gnocchi melts in your mouth, the bright and herbal pesto lingers, and the subtle funkiness of the blue cheese jabs at your taste buds.
It’s unconventional that the first thing mentioned in a review for a cocktail bar is a pasta. However, Arch is not your typical cocktail bar. You come here for the drinks, but you stay for the pastas. And what a wonderful selection of pastas to choose from. The aforementioned gnocchi with pesto and blue cheese, orecchiette with a meaty and zesty lamb ragu, spinach tagliatelle with bite-sized meatballs and peppery arugula. It’s hard to decide which one is the clear cut favourite. Not to mention a perfectly charred octopus starter, served on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, that prepares your mouth for the onslaught of flavours that’s about to be experienced. The pastas at Arch are, unequivocally, the best pastas I’ve ever eaten in Shanghai.
The cocktails are nothing to be sneezed at, either. The drink list is imaginative, beginning with a selection of aperitivos that opens up your palate. One recommendation is the refreshing Campari & BBQ Orange served with a burnt orange wedge. The presentation of the Saffron & Ginseng, refreshing though potent, is highlighted by a glass dusted with pumpkin powder. Tell the bartender what kind of drink profile you prefer and have them come up with something on the spot. I wanted something a bit strong so the bartender whipped up a coconut Old Fashioned. Who knew that could be a good combination, but sure enough, just about everything works at Arch.
Arch is a well executed cocktail bar where the food menu sneaks up on you and takes you on a journey you never could have expected. Hats off to the team here because they know what they’re doing and it shows in each sip of imaginative cocktails and each indulgent bite of perfectly cooked pastas.
As I walked past this small cafe not too far from Ruijin Lu, the exterior bar-stool seating beckoned me to come and take a rest on a beautiful spring afternoon. Having visited Paris not too long ago, I was hoping this cafe might transport me back to the gluttonous city.
The first thing that acknowledges Paris is the small display of five to six croissants by the register. The menu offers up a simple selection of sandwiches, salads, smoothies and coffee. I ordered the Le Parisian Ham sandwich, an espresso to get a pick me up, and the Paris smoothie.
The sandwich is presented showing off all the layers of tomato, cucumber, lettuce, ham and oregano-seasoned fried egg drizzled in mayo. The toasted bread quickly falls apart upon biting into it. It’s best to resume eating it by scooping up the ingredients with the toast, Indian-style.
The smoothie looks like ice cream as it’s served in a blue-tinted mason jar. Perfectly cold and refreshing, though lacking much of the strawberry-banana flavor promised from the menu. The espresso is invigorating. Dark, bitter, with a subtle fruitiness. The perfect pick-me-up.
While it may not make you feel as if you’re back in Paris, Meet in Paris does offer terrific seating for people-watching and a cozy atmosphere to pass time on a lazy afternoon. The food may not stand out, but the espresso, brewed by an ever smiling barista, is on par with that of any decent cafe in Shanghai.
Puxies stays in Puxi. Pudongers stay in Pudong. Such is the sad case with the inhabitants of Shanghai. There are only a few reasons to go across the river: work, bringing a tourist to see the sights, and the occasional can’t-miss restaurant.
With Pudong rapidly growing, there’s no doubt that there are more and more can’t-miss restaurants popping up. Century Link Mall, located right next to Century Avenue metro station, includes one such restaurant.
Hao Noodle, originally from New York City, opened it’s first location in Shanghai not too long ago. After browsing the menu, I settled on: Shanghai Style Fried Fish Noodle Soup, Dan Dan Mian, and Boiled Tofu with Mushrooms.
The fish soup is phenomenal. Correction: The fish is phenomenal. It’s beautifully caramelized, lacquered in a reddish hue, which makes for a good contrast to the broth it rests upon. It’s firm, meaty and retains a slight crispness throughout. Unobtrusively sweet, I couldn’t stop eating it. There’s nothing wrong with the broth or noodles, but they lack in comparison to the fried fish.
The Boiled Tofu and Mushrooms is another standout. A stack of delicately fried (must be a mistake in translation) tofu blocks, topped with slivers of mushrooms, served in a thick and gooey sauce reminiscent of classic Chinese-American dishes. The tofu has the taste and texture of a creamy omelet. It’s a dish that rivals any other tofu dish in Shanghai.
The noodles in the Dan Dan Mian are cooked to perfection. It’s not overwhelmingly spicy which can be a good or bad thing depending on your fondness for spice. It’s a bit milder than most dan dan mians but it hits all the standard notes.
Is it a bad thing that the two items I love most at Hao Noodle are not even the noodles? The answer is, “Who cares?” The fried fish and the braised tofu are dishes that beckon you to come back and keep ordering more. So, for all you Puxies out there, add Hao Noodle to your list of reasons to come out to Pudong.
Price: 60 RMB / person
Vacation toxins. That’s the filth invading your system after a vacation spent eating and drinking to your heart’s content without a care for calories or fat. After my most recent vacation, my body was craving anything that wasn’t deep fried or where fatty cuts of meat were the main and supporting ingredient.
That’s why I made a beeline to Pure & Whole. The menu has a healthful variety of soups, salads, appetizers, pastas, wraps and curries. For those that are health conscious, each item on the menu displays the calorie count, fat grams, carbs, etc. My body-purifying order: Green Goddess soup, Jungle Salad and a chai, dubbed Chaitown.
The soup, made of a puree of asparagus, broccoli, green peppers and coriander, is as green as the Scottish Highlands. On first taste it seems to lack any significant seasoning. However, this is a soup that develops flavor spoon by spoon. The broth is dominated by coriander with a trace of asparagus that just wants to tag along.
The first thing noticeable about the salad is the aroma of the falafel. The combination of spices and herbs hits you immediately. A good salad is all about textures. You can see and taste them here: crunchy sunflower seeds, green beans and snap peas, crisp mixed lettuce, tender chunks of pumpkin and toothsome beets and radishes. The zesty dressing is mixed well throughout, making the flavors really pop.
Chaitown is light, using soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and has an essence of vanilla. It’s on par with any other chai from a respectable cafe. Just don’t tell an Indian grandmother that this is real chai. The bay leaf, though an inspired addition, just gets in the way of sipping.
All the vacation toxicity that I came back with to Shanghai now feels as if it’s on its way out after a healthy and wholesome meal at Pure & Whole. Total calories consumed: 420, with 22 grams of fat. I even got a jump in my step after lunch.
Price: 100 RMB / person
Summary: Healthy as advertised vegetarian-friendly experience that will make you feel good about yourself. A variety of choices that will intrigue even the most hardcore of carnivores. Prices are pretty reasonable, considering its location. The staff are always smiling probably because they know they’re serving you something that you can be proud of.
The first thing you notice walking up to the restaurant is the abundant outdoor seating. There’s also plenty of space inside with the club music blaring though I’m sure nobody is there to dance at 630pm. The menu is just as massive as the restaurant. Classic bar fare combined with food representing various regions of Asia. My order: popcorn chicken, Peking duck pizza, and the beer paddle.
The paddle lists the name of all seven home brewed beers so the servers don’t have to waste time explaining the contents of each glass. The cider kicks off the experience as we move on down the paddle and finish off with a chocolaty BrewMaster Dark. Most of the beers are as basic as the names. The lone standout is the BrewMaster Local. Floral and kissed with a touch of sweetness that pairs well with the subtle spiciness of the popcorn chicken.
The popcorn chicken contains actual popcorn! This is the first time that the much too sweet Shanghai-style popcorn actually serves a purpose. It’s a good counterbalance to the crispy, crunchy chili peppers that come mixed in with the chicken.
The Peking duck pizza is a letdown. The duck tastes as if it was cooked the day before, left in the fridge, and reheated in the oven. The cilantro, perhaps the most hated or loved of herbs, lacks any of the herbal explosion that I so adore. The crust is crispy enough and the tomato sauce is quite zesty. However, the bland cheese and duck make the dish a complete afterthought.
Price: 200 RMB per person
Summary: If you have a guest staying at the Kerry Hotel, or you're exhausted from a full day at Century Park and just have a craving for some basic beer and food that’s not offensive, then The Brew is a family-friendly spot worth hitting up. They have a huge outdoor space, a stage set up for live music, and a friendly staff. However, be warned! It being part of a hotel, they charge an extra 10% service charge.
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.