Industry Nights is a semi-regular column featuring the haunts of chefs, restaurant owners, F&B managers and other marginally sane people with good eating recommendations.
Sisters Jiayi and Wenyi Huang brought poke to Shanghai. After working for a relative’s seafood shop out in Hongqiao, the two decided to go into business for themselves, opening Little Catch on Wulumuqi Lu in 2015. The first store was originally a retail shop for fresh and frozen seafood, but after a few months, they began offering poke bowls to a few special customers. By the time summer 2016 had come around, the poke bowls had become a verifiable hit. They expanded into the shop next door and opened new locations in Xintiandi and on Taixing Lu. Their first store recently fell victim to the wave of landlord take-backs on Wulumuqi Lu, but that’s just a temporary setback. There's a new Little Catch on Yanping Lu opening up in September. The sisters, who are Singaporean but raised in Hong Kong, sat down with me recently to lay out a few of their favorites in Shanghai.
Jiayi: We grew up in Hong Kong, so we have a lot of affection for Cha’s. They have this lunch bowl that you can order before 2pm, so get there at 1.30. I went there at 1.58 once and they were like “No." It’s a shuangpin fan, rice with two meats, and you can add a fried egg and request dark meat free of charge. They have really good Cantonese roasts, I would say better than a lot of places in Hong Kong. I usually get the soya chicken leg and the char siu. Their chicken is on point. It’s good, it’s cheap, and they have very efficient service as well. They are like the military, they rotate in intervals. It's like a huge rectangular space, and every 3 meters is a waitress, like sentinels, rotating like clockwork. Very well run. And we only go to the Xujiahui one, it’s huge. Satisfying. It hits the spot when you’re craving Hong Kong/Cantonese comfort food.
Ben Lai (Shaanxi Nan Lu)
Jiayi: Near Jinxian Lu there is this place called Original Taste, a Sichuan place. They have really good mapo tofu with pig brain. Supper yummy.
Wenyi: And it's proper spicy — we tend to take people when they say they want spicy food. I like their sijidou, which are stir fried and sliced on an angle. What else do we like there? That and the noodle, the yibin ranmian.
Qimin Hot Pot (Hengshan Lu)
Wenyi: This is probably my favorite. I go to the one on Hengshan Lu alot. It's open late, everything is good there. Haha, more comfort food. If you don’t want anything greasy. Good soups and I like their fish balls stuffed with bamboo, pork and shrimp. I get the chicken and matsuke mushroom soup, which I also buy from Green & Safe (same restaurant group) to stock my freezer. It’s good in a pinch to make hot pot at home.
Jiayi: The meat - order the niu xiaopai. They have great seasonal vegetable platters.
Godly (Wuyuan Lu)
Jiayi: Godly is good! We have a love hate relationship with it sometimes cause it's a bit expensive for what it is. I get the veggie wontons, and they have good su ya, the fried vegetarian “duck” stuff. Their fried noodles are good too, and you can get the dumplings to go and stick them in your freezer for a rainy day.
Wenyi: Just never order the corn pancake, that’s the most disgusting overpriced thing ever. It’s like sweet corn with tempura bits for 78rmb. So not everything is good. But when I’m not eating poke, I’m probably eating the Qimin chicken soup with the Godly dumplings at home.
Zheng Yuan Hui Mian (Wulumuqi Zhong Lu)
Jiayi: So convenient! This Henan hui mian place is a classic. I like the texture of the noodles, and the mix that they put in the soup, with the quail egg, the bean noodle, the tofu skin strips, and then the normal noodle. I also like the lamb fat chili sauce that they put on the tables, but you have to be really careful about it because it’s really spicy.