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The high ceilings, giant windows, and chandeliers are the first sign that the Dongbei Countryside Jiaozi Village across from Shanghai Sculpture Park is not a typical Dongbei restaurant.
Sure, they have the usuals: the smashed chicken; the jiaozi; the poetic menu translations ("burn all the meat", "to three fresh", "paste the spine"); and the aphrodisiac baijius infused with deer phalluses.
But Dongbei Jiaozi Village just tastes better than Shanghai's go-to Dongbei restaurant, Dongbei Four Seasons Jiaozi King. Higher-quality ingredients, less oil, similar price. The dishes are fresher and less sweet than the Dongbei at Huaihai and Huashan, and tower levels above the one on Xikang Lu.
Dongbei might be the most vegetarian-friendly Chinese cuisine, and Jiaozi Village's star dish involves no meat at all. Liang ban dongbei da dofu is just a mountain of cold tofu mixed with chili flakes, raw onion, and cilantro. Some say it looks like cottage cheese. You will crave it for weeks after your initiation, and it's only 16rmb.
On a Friday night, a crew of young kuaidi drivers with backward baseball caps dug into dry-pots of meats and vegetables, laughing and cheering with big bottles of Harbin beer. In a city where the price of a cocktail has leapt from 60rmb, to 80rmb, to 100rmb, to 130rmb in just a few years, Dongbei restaurants remain one of the few places where anyone can have a feast for well under 100rmb. Dongbei food: a rare constant in the city.
(They do lose one star for still using plastic-wrapped plates and cups, which everyone still washes with tea anyway. Next year, maybe.)
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