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[The Brunch List]: July 2016

Summer gems. Proper full English breakfasts, shakshouka, lush park views, and high-grade Chinese breakfast pancakes.
2016-07-25 17:42:58
The Brunch List is our monthly column pinpointing great (and not so great) brunch spots around town. Everything below is all you need to know about where to get leisurely weekend eats.

1. Wishbone


Good for: Full English breakfasts, sausages, and cultural hybrids.
Available: Sat & Sun, 11am-4pm
Price: A la carte, dishes from 55-85rmb

Jing'an rotisserie chicken joint Wishbone started serving weekend brunch in their sunny little shop late last month, and it's so good they might consider doing breakfast every day. Interesting: None of the six items on the brunch menu feature birds. Several of them mash-up ingredients from China and beyond into hybrid breakfasts that make perfect sense. For example, their shakshuka (available with or without chorizo) arrives in a skillet with crispy youtiao (breakfast crullers) sticking out like shark fins, ready to dip in the egg and tomato.

"Is that dou hua?", asked two people who saw the photo.

It's like the "Purgatory Eggs" at Al's Diner, but better in every way. The dude behind Wishbone, Sam Norris, worked at Nobu and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, so he could probably figure out how to make a decent you tiao, but why bother? There's a guy around the corner making all the Shanghai breakfast favorites, so they just source directly from him.

Another guy from the neighborhood makes the huge sausages that come with their full English breakfast. Wishbone makes the mix, and the butcher around the corner cases the links. They nailed it, as well as the rest of the breakfast, especially the beans, and the farm bread toast slathered in butter. It's just a nicer, higher-grade English breakfast, though at 85rmb it might come with a cup of tea. You can also get the sausages in a sandwich with egg and cheese, which they don't skimp on. One idea for the sandwich -- a rye option for the bread. Everything is a la carte, including the drinks, which include Bloody Mary's and Buck's Fizz for 50rmb, and fresh peach juice for 32rmb. Everything comes served on blue and white china plates while '70s and '80s funk plays in the background -- another example of the beautifully unforced amalgamation going on here.

- Ian L.

Full Brunch Listing


2. Ginger


Good for: Lush park views, greenery, shakshouka, and Ricotta Hotcakes
Available: Sat & Sun, 10.30am-3pm
Price: A la carte; dishes from 30–68 kuai; brunch set for 148rmb.

Ginger by the Park occupies a special spot in the hearts of long time Shanghai residents. It sits quietly on one of the best blocks in Xuhui, hidden from the frenzied Ferguson Lane crowds, far enough away from a subway to feel peaceful, and flanked by greenery on all sides. It's eclectic and unapologetic about it. Is it South East Asian? Japanese? Mediterranean? What’s with the different vibes on every floor? The funky art on the walls? All of it sums up owner and proprietor Betty Ng’s personality; she’s Singaporean, Cordon Bleu-trained in Japan, and a seasoned traveler. It’s refreshing to keep coming back to an establishment in Shanghai that doesn’t mess with trends and gimmicks, and gives no fucks because it is a gorgeous bistro in a park. It’s already won.

Brunch is when Ginger shines. On those fleeting weekends in summer when Shanghai isn’t downtrodden by oppressive rain and humidity, its patio is one of the best. Even if you don’t snag a table outdoors, the expansive windows make you feel like you’re up in the trees. The crowd veers on the younger side, a balance of locals and expats. While not the best value, the brunch set at 148rmb includes a tasting platter of four small appetizers, one main, and a dessert. Some of the better mains aren’t available in the set but can be ordered a la carte instead, with the famous Ginger Shakshouka -- baked eggs with tomato, sweet pepper and a rich sprinkling of Dukkah -- and Fluffy Ricotta Hotcakes with pistachio, fruit and honey stealing the show. Overall, Ginger is a good place to escape the city’s frenetic pace and often clichéd brunch scene for a couple hours.

- Jenny Gao

Full Brunch Listing


3. Chu Chu Yuan


Good for: Taiwanese breakfast pastries and jia chang cai
Available: All day, every day.
Price: A la carte, from 10rmb.

A few blocks north of Xintiandi and next to an '80s dance hall guarded by giant lion statues is joint that serves good and cheap homemade Taiwanese breakfast bing (pastries / pies) all day long. Like nearby A'Wen, they're keeping the Chinese breakfast dream alive without moving into a mall and getting all sterile. The place has soul -- it's the Prince to Taoyuan Village's weak-sauce Lenny Kravitz.

Dishes on Chu Chu Yuan's long and hilarious menu include "Literally Soup" and "Hot and Sour Dirty", but stick to the first couple pages as you wade in. These span the essential bing, like zhua bing, which translates to "grab the bing" and is just a basket of light and flakey cooked dough. It's addictive by itself or dipped in a bit of chili oil. Then there's the da bing zhuan rou, which wraps a doughy bing around a piece of beef, a cucumber slice, and some hoisin sauce. They call it a "meat pie", and it's 13rmb. This guy's more complicated sibling is Zong Hui Niu Rou Zhuan, whose thinner bing also holds some egg and lettuce, and gets a texture boost from some meat floss. Life tip: Don't knock meat floss until you've tried it.

Along with a decent lu rou fan, an ultra-dense sesame bun mini-burger (jiang rou shao bing), a squid porridge whose flavor transformed with each bite, and a few cans of soda, the meal came out to 90rmb total and kept two people full for a whole Sunday. They don't serve coffee but you can bring your own and stay as long as you'd like, with the spacey-but-friendly staff appearing when needed and the glass dragons and fish keeping the feng shui and vibes in balance.

- Ian L.

Full Brunch Listing


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