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  • Another place trying to build a Wanghong image of themself but not quite there.

    Have to admit the photos on the menu are very pretty, couldn’t help myself entering the restaurant. 

    Chestnut, pumpkin, mocha, strawberry and lemon! Pumpkin it is.

    Very surprised to see Hojicha on the menu. Comes with thick foam and a comforting smell. Recommended to anyone who hasn't had a hojicha latte. 

    The pancakes came right after I finished the latte. The pancake was a bit undercooked, and not as thick as the menu shows. If you're not a full-on sugar addict, skip this. It's extremely sweet. Sugar hell. 

    They also offer other things, like wontons, Chinese/western style noodle, ochazuke, and salad, a true fusion restaurant. Price was reasonable, 106RMB for the above two, and I sat there the entire afternoon. The light inside was perfect. 

    One downside is that the restroom is in the mall, shared with other restaurants like Diner. 

     

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  • So keen to find a place can eat and work on a Saturday afternoon near where I live, in Minhang. It's not the best area to find someplace. Ala Town seems to be a newly built commercial area with not so good promotion. I was the only guest in Bourbon's. The restaurant is spacious and decorated in American style: wooden table and chair with metal details, and a huge counter. 

    The waiter radiated happiness. 

    Bourbon has various brunch choices, from omelette to breakfast steak. Almost went for the fried chicken waffle, but the crispy bacon and cheddar one caught my eye. The Cheddar melted on the waffle, salty-sweet and soft. A slice of grilled tomato hid under the egg, and the bacon was dry and crispy, very enjoyable with egg yolk and salty waffle. Two slices of white bread plus the waffle put me into a carb coma.

    A casual place for a random brunch. Will come again.

     

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  • A Japanese style eatery still can’t escape from Chinese New Year. Two weeks before CNY and they already stopped serving things other than Dons and cold dishes.

    Fortunately they still have tuna and natto. Wagyu beef & salmon don as main course, switched the cooked salmon to sashimi.

    A rice bowl is like a mystery. You never know what’s waiting for you under the salmon sashimi. First is the grilled plaice fin (or the meat near fin). It was very soft, fully-cooked white fish hiding under the pickled daikon. Then sweet black beans. Plus Furikake sprinkled on the rice. The beef wasn't great; too much sauce overwhelmed the beef flavor. 

    Natto was very standard, but standard's good.

    I was the only customer on Monday at noon. Sitting at the counter by myself, watching the cook preparing the food, and then calling out for a runner in Japanese. He was trying very hard to create some atmosphere, although having a clean table might be a more practical task. In the end, the tables were sticky. Overall, the food was so-so, and the place could be cleaner. They try but I don't think they completely succeed.

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  • A must-try restaurant at the top of every Shanghainese cuisine list, always packed. Make a reservation or be prepared to wait during peak times.

    Drunken crab was a perfect starter for the crab season, with a palm-sized hairy crab full of gao and soaked in Shaoxing wine. Still, this is not a very first date friendly choice; elegantly eating a crab is still an unsolved puzzle.

    Salted chicken is typical of Zhejiang. Jishi's was fresh and a bit more chewy then expected. They use very young chickens (can tell from the size of the bone) and the size of the dish is good for two (a quarter chicken).

    Always thought Xintairuan (red dates stuffed with glutinous rice) was a cold dish but to my surprise, it's steamed and served warm here. The warmth was definitely appreciated in winter, although the dish itself is too hot for dessert and too sweet to be a main dish.

    Braised pork is always a must-order in Shanghainese restaurants. Best way to eat it is to start from the fat part.

    Was sitting on second floor, which is packed with tables for two and four people. It was almost like being in Hong Kong as every other table was speaking Cantonese. It had a very vivid Hongkongese vibe here that made me wonder: do any locals even come here at all?

    200RMB/person. Well-spent for having crab in crab season plus three other dishes.

     

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  • A newly-opened shop in a new shopping community - Zhonghaihuanyuhui near Xintiandi. Didn't have a chance to try the original Diner on  Wuyuan Lu before it closed, very happy to have this new one in my regular go-to. 

    Food: all day breakfast (the American), biscuits & gravy, French toast (Fun) and pumpkin pie.

    Drink: Bailey milkshake and americano. 

    People: two girls and a late-comer.

    All day breakfast should be labelled for two people, with two scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, hash browns and toast. I was very impressed by the bacon, as crispy as crackers. However, calling the sausage a cutlet might be more accurate. A way too-spiced cutlet; we left it as is.

    Fun French toast could be softer but chocolate and peanut butter are always life-savers.

    Pumpkin pie was underwhelming, and salty.

    The milkshake sucks up all your calorie quota, made totally out of ice cream.

    The restaurant is on the ground floor by Madang Lu. Great lighting in the restaurant thanks to the big windows on each side. It’s very photography-friendly, with good street view and good winter sunbathing.

     

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  • Unexpected drama at the beginning: we booked a table with a view but when we arrived, there was no table. We had to stand in the middle of the dining room, arguing for ten minutes until they finally sat us at another table. Apparently, some VVIP's drinking at the bar had wanted (and got) our original table.

    After all of that, we went for the 498RMB classic sharing sets.  The bread was cold.

    Would recommend house made ricotta with strawberry compote olive oil and grilled bread. A cheese version of hummus, a total gratification. 

    The black truffle pizza just cannot go wrong. The egg was perfectly cooked with a runny yolk.

    Well-done salmon to finish was a little heavy for us after a 2-hour meal. 

    Four kinds of ice cream (rum/ caramel&sea-salt/ Oreo/ lime) and a 6-inch tiramisu as dessert. A tiramisu connoisseur would expect more from an Italian restaurant. The tiramisu tasted plain, lacking rum  (or am I too alcoholic?). 

    The other food wasn't impressive but still good. 

    Not very photography-friendly as they try to preserve the night view by keeping the room dark.

    The service was responsive and good in general despite the drama at the beginning. The male manager was familiar with the wine selection and recommended a riesling and a wine from Italy.

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  • A perfect place to reminisce over the UK.

    My BBF was visiting last week. We both studied in the UK almost six years ago, and have known each other for almost 20 years. We get each other without having to explain, so the second I told her about a British pie place, she said yes.

    The trip to Pie Society was my first time to Xingfuli (幸福里). It's chill but vibrant at the same time, with bookstores, fashion boutiques, coffee shops, a bakery and Chinese and western restaurants all within a short walk. 

    The weather felt like the middle of October, even if it was the end of November. People were sitting outside talking and enjoying coffee, and even having ice cream. Next to the fountain along the main stretch of Xingfuli, Pie Society overlooks all the action from its identical red tables and chairs.

    The lunch set is great value at RMB68 for any pie plus a side and sauce, and tea or coffee. We went for the full English breakfast (typical) and their most recommended pie, the Seriously Beefy, with minty mushy peas. The full breakfast was as huge as expected, almost enough for two. The crust of pie was perfectly cooked, crumbly and tender, and the minty peas had real mint leaves in them.

    There weren't many customers on a Friday at noon, but we still had to wait 20 minutes. Must have been the take-out orders delaying the tickets. 

    I have another friend who studied in the UK coming this week. Think I'll be back at Pie Society.

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  • The best ketchup ever! (I know.) But I had never tasted any ketchup like this, which feels like true tomato, perfectly mashed and flavoured if a bit salty, but still the best. 

    Waited forever for the Scottish fried egg sandwich, at least 15 minutes. Had seen some photos of it online, the bread looked just like normal white toast. To my surprise, it was ciabatta, well-toasted and crispy. The yolk was perfect, but the meat part was nothing special. Would give some credit to the Japanese style sesame sauce.

    Couldn't help to have the lemon pound cake, as they looked so adorable on the counter. Very good on photos and went well with flat white. 

    It was about 11:30a.m. on a rainy Sunday morning when I got there. Two people before me at the counter and the first floor was not so busy at all. They have some groceries in the shop, mainly stationary and canvas bags with their logo on it. Couple of tables were available upstairs but definitely not the ones with the best views.

    By the time I left an hour later, it was full of people on the first floor, taking pictures and ordering.

     

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  • Advice: always come on weekdays.

    Was here on a Sunday afternoon three weeks ago, told to wait for at least one hour. Walked a bit in the neighbourhood. The coconut used as the bowl (yes the bowl) ran out when I got back. Had to wait for another 30 minutes or more. The shop offered us the chance to come back another. So, back on a Friday morning when it's not busy, and our bowls were the most elaborate.

    Acai CocoBowl: careful if you don't like sourness. Would rate this one 4/5 on sourness. There is honey on the bar table if it's too sour.

    Yellow CocoBowl: a little tropical heaven. Well-balanced sweet and sour, with mango chunks, two pieces of pineapple, half a passionfruit and some dry lycium (very Chinese) on the top.

    Friend's comment: acai's for marketing, yellow makes people stay.

    Cannot deny the bowls look great on photos, but it's not worth an hour wait.

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  • "I want them ALL!" was the first sentence came out of my mouth when standing in front of the counter. The two of us ordered two for each and planned to have a second round, but then realised we could only share a third one, so we decided to add a scoop of ice-cream on their best-selling apple pie.

    Coconut cream pie and potato & satori cheese quiche for the first round. Point-added for the waitress offering to heat the quiche. The potato wasn't entirely mashed but had cubes in it and a crisp crust. It turned out coconut cream wasn't only coconut and cream; there's a layer of chocolate mousse that took away the coconut taste. The quiche won this round.

    The apple pie was surprisingly good with sip of warm orange blossom tea. You still can feel the coldness of the ice-cream, the aroma of the tea, cinnamon and apple mix and fill up the nose. It was served cold, though. A warm apple pie would be lovely in autumn time.

    Time stopped when sitting outside, enjoying a delicious slice in a rainy Saturday afternoon.

    Note: only three tea tables in the shop, more seats available outside, allowing you to have a nice open-air pie moment. Or just grab a slice and take a nice walk.

     

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  • No reason for not rating five stars.

    By the time of 8:30 am, there were already two girls sitting in the shop. A very early bird friendly place where opens at 8:00 am on workdays.

    Two choice of beans if you order espresso: 'fancy blend' and 'balanced selection'. Fancy blend is described as passionate and impressive with a hint of fermented flavour while balanced selection is more mellow, smooth and balanced.

    Ordered balanced selection flat white; it tasted very different from any flat white I've tasted. The beans, of course, have their own character, and the foam was so smooth, showed the years of coffee-making experience of the barista. Wasn't planning to eat in as time's limited on workday morning. Just wanted a small talk with my friend in the shop, and after just a little while I realised I've already finished the coffee. It was so easy to drink that I couldn't stop going sip by sip (sorry for asking for the take-away cup). No wonder a small shop like this keeps attracting coffee lovers.

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  • Came for their famous homemade Tiramisu. Served from the dish where they make it, the shape is never guaranteed but the taste is as good as expected, especially for the first big bite: a mouth full of rich cream mixed with sponge cake and melting chocolate powder. A textbook example.

    Red velvet looked so good but it was very hard actually. The sponge was more like a brownie and the cream felt like they put too much cream cheese in it.

    Summer special - passion-up Americano, just as the name suggests, is passionfruit flavoured soda coffee. Given: 1. passionfruit is always my thing, 2. I'm a regular black coffee drinker, 3. soda refreshment is not a bad idea once in a while, I tried this one and found it's a very weird combination. The taste of passion fruit is very hard to detect, and instead, the sourness of it and the carbonation both contribute to bringing the sourness out of the coffee. Would not recommend to those who prefer deep roasted coffee.

    So Cold Brew, on the other hand, is a very satisfying order, complex and mature bitterness, very comforting, goes very well with the sweets.

    The location is very convenient at the cross of Xiangyang Nan Lu and Yongkang Lu, very central and busy area with a good combination of the local Shanghainese vibe and modern western lifestyle.

    A small piece of advice: people come here to take photos all the time. If you don't like to be disturbed, better eat and go. 

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  • Waffle-craving jet-lagged holiday morning - a brunch spot might save me. 

    Went for Scoe's Fried Chicken & Waffles (yes fried chicken for breakfast). Everything was good with crispy fried chicken skin and soft waffle soaked with Al's syrup -- for the breast. But when I cut up the drumstick, there was still blood and very rare meat close to the bone. This was the last thing I wanted to see and still a long way to satisfaction. The waitress offered me a replacement, anything on the menu, so here goes "That Breakfast Sandwich Thing We Make", housemade sichuan-pepper pork patty with well-done scramble egg (should have asked how I wanted my egg done) and remoulade inside of English muffin (rare huh). When you lack sleep, you lose the sense of how much food you should eat. That's exactly what happened to me. With the stunned look on my friend's face, I finished this sandwich, thinking "would have been better if I could finish the chicken waffle". 

    Heard they make a mean milkshake as they use ice cream as a base, imagine that. But as vulnerable as I was that morning, chamomile tea was my choice. It was good at Odelice, as they use teapig's, but not so healing here at AL. 

    Oh, careful with the home-made stuff. We also had a fly in the orange juice. 

    Service, I have to say, was terrible. For some reason they were trying to keep all guests away from the sofa seats, going so far as lying. We were there from 9:30am - 11:00am, and not a single guest showed up for the "reserved" tables, which the waitress swore were booked at 10am. 

    Although I'd highly doubt I come back to Al's, I did stare at the cinnamon roll downstairs for about five seconds. Maybe just cinnamon rolls and Gracie's ice cream next time.

     

     

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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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