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2015: Shanghai's Favorite Eats & Drinks

Shanghai chefs, restaurateurs, writers, and other F&B people recall some memorable meals and drinks from 2015.
Last updated: 2016-01-02

Samuel Norris - Owner / Chef @ Wishbone

"I have enjoyed countless delicious meals during the last year, but the dishes that I crave the most are the short ribs in Tentekomai. The sweet plum miso marinade they use on the wagu ribs is out of control, and the black chicken and Chinese medicine soup which is on the special board on occasion has got to be the greatest cure for any ailment be it a hangover or winter flu.

The Chaozhou hot pot next door to Dope Shifu with the line usually stretching out of the door. Its soup is by far the best I have tried and the hot sauce they use is the bomb. That grapefruit cocktail in Mokkos is the lid sauce of Jing'an."


Michelle Garnaut, CEO @ M Restaurant Group

"In early May our chef Hamish Pollitt and I were invited to a remarkable meal that was part of the filming for 'Rick Steins China'. The seasoned BBC TV chef was making his first foray into China exploring the culinary traditions of Shanghai. 

The meal was hosted by  Zhu Xun Tao, who’s 99 year old grandmother still oversees a 300 year-old family owned courtyard house on Chongming Island.  Matriarch Zhu, in residence with her cook and nurse, still does much of the cooking herself …we could attest to that as we watched her order her troops around and had all quaking in their boots. You know what they say about Shanghai matriarchs! 

It was all pulled together by our friend Christopher Shallis who set up the remarkable Good Earth Project whose aim is to work from the bottom up, not the top down, with local villagers, farmers & officials to eradicate farm pollution, seriously decrease the use of chemical fertilisers and make a real difference to food safety culture  in Shanghai. 

The meal…well everything you’d expect of a classic Shanghainese meal really…including malantou, local smoked fish, indescribable whelks, tiny shells…and mutton, which of course in the general confusion of the year of the sheep, lamb, ram, ewe…. was actually goat." 


Christopher St Cavish - Writer / Record Selector / Soup Dumpling Don

"I try to write about my favorites, so: the chutzpah of the beer lady; the cool confidence of Mr Jia's Sichuan noodles; the palm sugar dumplings at Bumbu; coconut everything from the coconut hotpot place.

The other ones I'll be writing about shortly: fatty Japanese beef bbq while getting leathered on whisky highballs; a Japanese sushi place so clean you wear socks to the bathroom; crabs covered in a storm of fried garlic chips.

Honorable mentions: being able to get nice Hokkaido scallops from Little Catch; the avocado/coconut water smoothie in the basement of K11; everything at Imperial Treasure; food at The Nest that's much better than it needs to be; too many soup dumplings; the thick and coarse noodles at Zheng Yuan, tossed in Lao Gan Ma chili sauce (hold the meat, please); the fascinating story of turkey rice; Fortune Cookie's mapo tofu cheese fries; at least a third of the menu at Lotus Eatery; the lushui pig guts at Four Seasons; Jumbo's black pepper crab; Pret A Manger's 11 RMB croissants; and buying live Canadian lobsters from Taobao."


Deji Odunlami, Owner & Chief Sausage Maker @ Bad Boy Bangers

"I have to confess that I'm a sweet tooth particularly if it concerns chocolate so naturally HoF features on my list of places to go and get good dessert. Although absent of chocolate I love the waffle with fruit and cream at Liquid Laundry.

Food wise this year I've probably been seen most at 关于我们 (About Us). Local Fusion-y type place with good service and very good price. Great for quick bite or for casual dinner. For a sausage maker like myself their bone sausage caught my attention. Give it a try if you go in."

Betty Richardson - Dining Editor @ That's Shanghai

"My favorite eats of 2015 came in two varieties: raw, and BBQ-ed. By raw I mean sushi, and lots of it. Places like Aoki , and uh, Naoki (no relation) are killing it, minus the downside of draining your dining budget and pushing you into a subsequent existence of Ah Niang Mian's  cheap 'n' cheerful crab noodz, although that's no bad thing. Luckily the BBQ side of my life is much, much cheaper. AJIYA yakiniku on Huaihai Lu is my ultimate favorite – I've still never managed to stagger out of there and spend more than 250rmb per person, despite drinking a shit ton of frozen Kirin beer. Another recent BBQ discovery is Hutong (get the butter chicken, squid ink sausage, secret 'staff rice' and lots of beef). Extra points for their Taiwanese techno soundtrack."


Dillon King, Brand Ambassador @ BDM Berry Bros. & Rudd Spirits China

"It's been an awesome year for innovative drinks and bites, Choni's black gold (Nest) is savory umami heaven of the senses but bewarned: you will drink 5 trying to pinpoint exactly why you love it so much. Rick at Commune Social made an awesome rose harissa cocktail which had me sliding off the barstool; their crispy pork shoulder was a divine contrast of textures. Cottons' black pepper tuna disolves on the tongue, you want to have bread to mop up the sauce after too. All hail Wishbone's croquette sandwich as the best hangover absorbing 50rmb you will ever spend." 

Jamie Barys, Glutton in Chief @ Glutton Guide / UnTour Shanghai Food Tours

"The chengguan won 2015, unfortunately, and many of the city’s best street food vendors got the ax. The silver lining? All those closures made me appreciate (and frequent) the hawkers who are still operating– which led to the best late-night meal of the year: youtiao & doujiang from Lao Shaoxing. The area around this makeshift stall is slated for demolition, so fingers crossed for many more breakfasts-for-dinner here.
Also, so much love for Yoshi & Stefan Stiller’s new restaurant East – definitely my favorite opening of the year."


Rob Jameson, General Manager & Partner @ Maya & Mayita

"The meal I had at the Nest soon after opening was a great experience. Fresh, well presented and executed well without over-complications, especially the fish n chips. Any lunch visit to Commune Social is always full on value for money, recently I had some charred deep-fried Brussels sprout leaves with Iberico cheese & walnut pesto, again simple well balanced flavours where you just want to keep eating the dish. This year my wife and I discovered a very tasty pork dumpling called Hong You Chao Shou at Din Tai Fung. Sichuan scrumptious with spice, sweetness and a little oil. The absolute best and lasting food experience of this year however was our new super-Ayi from Gansu asking us on her 2nd day of work if we wanted fresh hand-pulled noodles for breakfast. Get in!"


Rachel Gouk, Dining Editor @ CityWeekend

"My favorite hangout is at Ruijin Cajun - my favorite hot dogs in Shanghai - and I always end up ordering a side of Po’tine. However, the highlights of 2015 are still golden oldies: that long short rib "dinosaur bone" at Mr & Mrs, the foie gras brûlée at Jean Georges, and the crispy suckling pig at M on the Bund." 


Paul Eschbach, Executive Chef @ Jean-Georges

"One night at Pirata after a  super smart Flash Mob at LL for free pizza and booze, Chef Ling threw down an incredible late night spread and the sherry wine would not stop coming. That one hurt.

Ceviche with love from Chef Eduardo at El Luchador where the tacos are always hot and the coronaritas are always ice cold.

Took a bunch of chefs from Omnivore to Union for crafted cocktails and slammin bar food.  That one hurt too.

My wife Caroline and I love unwinding after a long week at El Coctel -- great drinks, music, and ambiance. On Sundays we hit Baoism for church.

Imperial Treasure with Jacky "Mayor of the Bund" Goergler is our lunch escape/date spot.  Everything I've eaten there is amazing.  It's a race to bang it all down and fast waddle back to work." 


Fung Lam, Co-Owner @ Fortune Cookie

"I had a lot of great meals in Shanghai in 2015 but hat goes off to my neighbors next door at el Bodegon.  They make some great food, keep it affordable, and the owners are always there to look after their guests.  Class act.

However, as an operations geek, I was really blown away by my 1 AM Christmas dinner with my wife and my business partner, Dave.  We just finished closing up shop, with no other family or friends around to celebrate with, we had very few options.  Paulaner in Xintiandi was open and busy so in we went.  

Their efficiency in getting hot food and cold beers out to the table was mind blowing.  I timed my second beer at 40 seconds from the moment I ordered to the moment it landed in front of me!  When you need something, you just wave anyone down and your need is fulfilled in record time.  Operationally speaking, it was inspiring."

Shahla Salih, Founder @ Urban Thai

"I've taken bagels away from my life due to the impact on sanity, but I caved and ordered Boom Boom Bagels via Sherpas for the first time a month ago - and it was just like "woah". I forgot why I gave them up in the first place. Granted I've given them up again cos after that one bagel I went into "bagel-craving" mode. Morning obsession is Pain Chaud especially during the winter as they get their coffees right 95% of the time, and then the pastries are just heavenly. For a good quick, cheap meal the Singaporean Chicken Rice place always wins for those who love Asian classics like this. I gave The Bull & Claw a shot as I was tempted by their Lobster Benedict - was not disappointed (where else can you get Benedict with Lobster for brunch?). Planet Kebab does very well with meat grilling and though their sauces are a bit too "out of the bottle" for me, it's still a solid eatery." 


Philippe Huser, Owner @ NAPA Wine Bar & Kitchen

"This year, my western favourites were at Villa Le Bec without doubt! Really enjoying some of their perfectly executed classics such as pate en croute, beef bavette or Jaret de Veau to mention just a few. Nicolas is without doubt responsible for some of the extra kilos I put on this year :)) On the Asian side, Good Hot Pot in Xintiandi is definitely a must if you love hot pot but want to stay away from the oily and MSG loaded ones. Ingredients used there are of great quality as well!"

Handoogies, Westside Correspondent @ SmartShanghai

"I’m going to have to keep it real and go with Din Tai Fung. Like a mid-90s Toyota Land Cruiser, their reliability and consistency is just gnarly. We are spoiled rotten, living in a city with nine branches of the best chain restaurant in the world. My perspective is somewhat different from other Shanghai residents because they’ve merely adopted the DTF. I was born into it, learned how to chew solid foods at the original locale. I didn’t see a shitty XLB until I moved to NYC and by then all I could do was dream of being reunited with their dim sum excellence.

Just the other day I went in and dined alone as I frequently do. Started off with a fiver of the classic XLB, then a fiver of the truffle XLB, and finished off with a bowl of the spicy wontons: the trip my palate took from these seemingly simple dishes comprised of mainly pork and flour was unreasonably satiating. I’ve given up debating with people over who makes the best XLB, those debates usually result in ad hominem attacks. If you don’t recognize their elegance, the balance of all the quality components, and the craft behind the handiwork, you deserve to eat elsewhere. Go grab a stool at Jia Jia, Stavros."


Daniella Lopez, PR at GHC Asia and self-proclaimed Non-stop Eater

"Oh wow! This year was rife with amazing meals so let me just creep back through my Instagram to refresh my memory. I’m obsessed with food, but I don’t wield a spatula so I’m going to have to piece together the Ultimate Meal Crawl of 2015 to do all of those meals justice.

I like to do dessert first. Let's start with those Lavender Buns at Hakkasan paired with a Saffron Spice at Glam. Then find those lamb skewers at the Xinjiang restaurant at Nandan Lu and Tianyaoqiao Lu. Legit. Next up let's go to Table No. 1's Pistachio Dip, move on to the spicy salmon and chipotle explosions at Tomatito and end the appetizers with the pacific salmon tartar at The Cut. Now take a break with some of Rooster 2’s pulled pork sliders washed down with a Chavela Lager from Pocho. Sneaky tequila. Drink drink drink. Not full yet? Great. Lean healthy with a Crispy Chicken Salad at Goga and round that out with the Beef Wellington at Coquille. Drool. Drool. Drool." 


Raul Bernardi, Food Contributor @ SmartShanghai

"Number one -- the curry chicken fried rice by my uncle at Chongqing Dianxin. I like the place cause they got an exotic short-hair white cat who jumped off the elevated highway, moved into the restaurant, and had four babies.

Aside from that, everything at Xinwang at 5.30am. Black pepper fried noodles, cumin spinach, and garlic scallops at Xiao Hei Hao Qing at 3am. Vietnamese coffee and house vermicelli at Aniseed Pho for breakfast on the reg. God damn Liu Dao Men noodles any time. The triple Fuxing SOHO threat of Rou Jia Mo at Chin Burger, fried chicken at Kyochon, and Thai boat noodles. Late night frog legs and duck confit at Mr & Mrs Bund after sipping negronis at Glam listening to Prince's keyboard player.

Turkey rice is no lie. Also, shout out to Qishan Saozi Mian for those Xi'an classics.

Fine music and forgettable drinks at Cotton Club, next-level cocktails at Taste Buds, sipping single-malts at Comet while chengguan tore the street down outside, getting crunk on Asahi draft and Fetty Wap with village gangsters on a Monday at Dou Dou, taking tourists to Judy's for one beer, watching university students black out at the Korean strip at Hongquan Lu x Hongxin Lu, and drinking unpronounceables with anime goddesses on Xianxia Lu."


Jenny Gao, Founder @ Baoism, Writer @ Jing Theory

"The crab dandan noodles and the crab mixed rice at 成隆行颐丰花园 in Hongqiao, supporting dishes to a crab feast that totally stole the show.

Pork and crab roe XLB at Zunkelai, thinnest wrapper to soup and meat ratio according to the XLB index.

Fresh blinis hot from the pan at The Nest, you don't even need to eat anything with it

A decadent 2am snack of truffle meuniere bread at Mr & Mrs Bund.

Sublime dessert of sweet potato and melted cheese at 橘炎胡同烤肉夜市, and I don't even like sweet potato.

Kinki fish and horse sashimi at 日和 in Gubei, props to Austin Hu for introducing this place to me." 


For restaurants and bars we reviewed in 2015, check out The Radar and Eat-It.