Shanghai is the 10th city that Ting has called home. She works at a Chinese social enterprise and loves immersing herself in new cultures and chasing new experiences, particularly food.
There’s many obscure hole-in-the-wall restaurants that still occupy the rare corners of Shanghai which remains untouched by gentrification, and for some reason, A Ping Beef reminded me of just that, except for the fact that its tucked away not in some small alleyway, but in an inconspicuous lining of restaurants on the 5th floor of the Paris Spring Shopping Mall on Changshou Road.
My companion and I were in the neighbourhood one afternoon and were looking for a quick place to eat. Although not very noticeable, I had a gut feeling there might be a good restaurant here and there inside the top floors of the small-sized Paris Spring. So up we went, and stumbled across this small joint. We were presented with a paper menu but everything is made to order via mobile. Our seats faced the open kitchen, and we watched in amusement as the young chefs hurried from one corner to another to prepare the meals. In what felt like less than 10 minutes, our hot and steam beef radish soup appeared on our dining table. The restaurant also offered a variety of soups with beef intestines, but being the conscious eater I am, I ordered the simplest thing on the menu, along with some sides of tofu and boiled qual eggs.
Up on the side of the store, there is an abundant sauce and small sides bar, where customers can DIY the unique flavourings of their soup. One drink into the soup and I was in love. It was so aromatic and flavourful, with the beef and radish boiled to just the right amount of tenderness. It was the best soup dish I had in a while, and my companion agreed. Plus the efficiency that the place operated on was amazing. The whole set meal was only 32 rmb/person and I left with a wholesome satisfied tummy.
The Kiwi Café is located on a quaint narrow lane of Shanxi North Road. They serve a range of Western foods like waffles, burgers, and spaghetti but I mainly wanted to come and try out their specialty coconut coffee. This coffee is served in an actual coconut, which makes it a unique selling point, and of course, it’s always nice to drink out of a coconut as the weather gets cooler and pretend you are somewhere near the beach.
I came around a weekend morning, and there weren’t much people in the shop except a large table full of students, and one or two single customers. They had a range of set brunch and afternoon tea combinations, and I settled on the egg benedict with salmon along with the cube toast topped with chocolate ice cream, and of course the coconut coffee. Set brunch or afternoon tea deals were around 60-70rmb. The ordering process was simple enough as you just order at the counter, but the wait for the food was quite long, despite it being quite empty. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones that was a bit impatient, because during our wait, a frustrated deliveries guy had a heated argument with the staff at the counters due to the slow pace of food preparation. I do not blame him as they are evaluated on the speed of their deliveries.
Finally, after around half an hour, our meal came and I was ready to dig in. Appearance wise, the egg benedict did not look too appealing, mainly due to the colour of the egg, but it managed to scrape past the taste test at a 6.5/10. The large toast was a good filler, but it was really hard to finish as the ice cream ran out, and plain toast is no fun to munch on. The coconut coffee lived up to its name, for those that likes sweet coffee at least, but at 58rmb/ coconut, it’s double the price of your average cup of coffee, and although it’s good, I’m not sure it’s double as good as a normal cup of coffee. The atmosphere was pretty cosy though, and I can see this as a great place to do work or have a cosy chat with friends.
A large, spacious, and beautifully decorated cafe/restaurant/ bar, the Press has got you covered- whether it be a place for a business meal, an afternoon working spot, or a night-time hangout. This place used to be an old newspaper print factory of the Shun Pao newspaper, and some traces of its past still remains, as can be seen in its remaining newspaper label sign on the second floor bar area, as well as its intricate ceilings decorated in an old European styled sculpting. It’s one of those places you walk into, and kind of forget you are still in Shanghai.
I came in one afternoon looking for a place that still served brunch items, and luckily, this seemed to be the place. To start off, the service was impeccable here, with all staff being super attentive and helpful. A glance at the menu showed that they served everything from Italian food, hearty steaks, the usual sandwiches and hamburgers, and yummy deserts. I stuck to my initial craving and opted for their signature brunch dish, the 1872 Breakfast, which consisted of two eggs, sausage, bacon, mixed veggies and toast. Brunch was hearty, but nothing too spectacular, and the omelette was simply not filling enough. Coffee was rich and creamy, but nothing too special either.
The place was pretty crowded during the lunch time rush hour, but once the afternoon comes it starts to die out and you are left at peace with your meal. Judging from my meal, I would guess that most people come for the experience rather than the food itself. Overall though, it was a good dining experience thanks to the atmosphere and the great service. I will probably come back again to try out their other menu and dessert items. It’s worth taking a walk upstairs to check out the bar area as they have old letters framed alongside the Shun Pao newspaper sign that gives the place a touch of the charm of age.
I found myself in the Found 158 area at lunch and with only 30 minutes to kill, I naturally gravitated towards the most reasonable choice there, which also happens to be the few open options at that time, Home Slice Pizza. I’ve passed the place on weekend nights and it was always filled to the brims, so I’m glad I got a chance to experience the place without the crowd. Aside from a group of people seated on the long-ended table, I was the only other customer in the store.
Home Slice Pizza feels exactly like an American pizza joint with its big order screen, tiled walls, and displays of large pizzas on the counter. It had a real homey vibe to it. The spicy sausage pizza (a slice for 30rmb) called out my name so I ordered that along with a side of orange juice as a part of their lunch deal. A bite into the pizza and I can already say that this is probably the best tasting pizza I’ve ever had in China. The dough was not too thick or too thin, baked to the right amount of crisp topped with great quality cheese and sausage, and sprinkled with self-served oregano and chili flakes, the pizza was supreme and well worth my 30rmb.
Unfortunately, I had to eat the slice in a hurry and didn’t have time to really savour the meal or grab more. The juice was also pretty good and left me feeling refreshed. I will definitely be coming back though to get another taste of home.
The famous Song Fah Bak Kuh Teh chain of Singapore has expanded their presence internationally, with store fronts opening-up on the bottom floors of Shanghai’s high-end shopping malls. Needless to say, the experience of dining at these mall-based chains are far from the experience of dining at the original chains in the Singapore street-side. They do try and make an effort though, by lining up the restaurant walls with a drawing of the original street-side restaurant, as well as descriptions of how the bak kuh teh (pork ribbed broth) is made (brewing in a mix of spices for 8 or 9 hours apparently). Authenticity aside, let’s talk about the food.
You can’t come in here and not order their signature bak kuh teh, and luckily, the place offers free refills of broth once you’re down slurping in your fill. Other than that, there’s also a selection of porridge, broth, and noodle dishes, along with some side dishes that would go well with the main course. Thus, I ordered the bak kuh teh along with a plate of marinated tofu. What erks me a bit about this chain in Shanghai though, is that they charge an additional 10rmb for a small plate of tough fritter (though not much, is still overpriced for what it’s worth), which is usually offered for free at the chains in Singapore to go along with the broth.
I have no complaints about the tastes of the broth, as they probably use the same ingredients as the ones in Singapore, but it’s the display and artificial atmosphere of the store that I do not like. I guess once you’ve had the original, you can’t compare replicas of it against it.
This place is definitely on the affordable end of the restaurants you find in these high-end malls and service is top-notch.
Recommended by a Mexican friend as the best place in town for tacos, I knew I had to see for myself what it was all about. Located in the fun Found 158 complex, El Santo has a large indoor and outdoor seating area. We came here around brunch time on the weekends, and the place was not too packed as most places in Found 158 don’t open nor get busy till night-time.
The concrete walls inside El Santo were adorned with artworks of wrestlers with luche libre masks, and the TV streamed wrestling matches as well, giving the place a vibrant feel.
There was a wide array of brunch menu options to choose from, and it was a hard choice as everything seemed like a feast. In the end we opted for the Al Pastor taco (marinated pork tacos served with grilled pineapple), Arrachera taco (beef steak taco with guacamole), nachos, and the short ribs & egg benedict open faced burrito. We waited quite a bit to be served but the food did not disappoint.
The taco toppings were plentiful, and it took quite a few mouthfuls to finish. The pineapple added a special taste of contrasting flavours to the Al Pastor taco, but I enjoyed the Arrachera taco more as beef with guac can never go wrong. The nachos were a delicious mix of beans, chilli, guac, cheese and salsa. Having never eaten an open-faced burrito before, I was pleasantly surprised by the photogenic displace of the food. With a combination of rib meat, bacon, avocados, and egg benedict, it seemed like the perfect brunch combination. By the end of the meal, my stomach was stuffed to the max, but extremely satisfied.
The place didn’t do too much damage to the wallet as tacos were 3 for 100 rmb, nachos 68 rmb, and the open-faced burrito for 98rmb. Overall verdict, I’m still not sure if the place can be claimed as the best taco place in town, but it certainly wasn’t bad for the buck.
Bites & Brews is one of those neighbourhood places where you can pop in for a quick healthy lunch on the weekdays or hang around on Friday night to catch up with friends over a good beer. The décor inside has a bit of a Bohemian vibe to it, with wooden table and desks, lanterns hanging down from the lights and corners where you can snuggle up against with some pillows and quilts. They also have a large panelled window on the upper floor that’s great for street-side watching. A large portion of their customer base are expats, although it’s also popular with the Chinese, so all the waiters have a pretty good command of English.
I came in for food for the first time and found that their menu options were quite affordable with most items ranging from 40 to 50 rmb. I ordered a chicken quesadilla, a chocolate banana smoothie, and a salad bowl to share with a friend. The chicken quesadilla was great, and more than filling for a lunchtime meal, but the salad bowl was quite tasteless. With such limited dressing and the broccoli being so raw, the salad was a bit hard to swallow, but then again, maybe I just don’t have an appetite for ultra-healthy food. I did enjoy the food displays though, as all the bowls and platter were also made of wood, it made you feel like you were eating straight from nature. The chocolate banana smoothie also had a rather cute display and was rich in flavour and not too sweet.
Overall I enjoyed my meal, though the atmosphere definitely gave it huge points. I also liked that the place was pet friendly, as that always adds to the lightness of the vibe. I’m glad to discover that this place has more to offer than just being a pub hang-out, which I guess is exactly what its name, "Bites&Brews" suggests it is.
I stumbled upon this cozy garden restaurant when strolling across Jianguo West Road and decided to give it a try. The space is not large, but there were enough seats around on an early weekday afternoon. There is also outside seating for when the weather is nice.
We took a seat on the counter facing a great street-side view and began to order. There’s not a load of menu options available, but they do seem to have their specialty dishes. We ordered their speciality early bird salad, but it turned out to be a let-down. The display, I’ll give it credit, was enticing- a garden salad decorated with flower petals and an edible butterfly display on top, but the taste was not so great. The bacon sauce didn’t really go well with the salad, the leaves weren’t that fresh and were a bit soggy, and there wasn’t enough fruits in the salad. Oh and that edible butterfly display the waiter told us about? It tasted like plastic. This made me a bit weary to order their specialty desert set called “spilt pot of flowers,” so we opted for their ice cream which turned out to be an amazing choice- which I’ll go into later.
One of their new menu specialty items was the Boston Lobster spaghetti. We saw the table besides us munching on it and couldn’t resist ordering it. The dish was incredibly tasty due to the sauce they used to top the lobster and blend the spaghetti. I made a heck of a mess when munching on the lobster but such is life when you are eating delicious seafood. The dish also made for amazing pictures.
Lastly, what will make me remember this restaurant and long to come back for more is its ice cream. They had a variety of unique flavors such as dragon fruit, salted egg yolk, and black sesame. I took a leap of faith and ordered the salted egg yolk flavor and my friend ordered the black sesame. We were not disappointed. Each ice cream scope has such a rich flavor to it, somehow mastering the combination of unusual tastes injected into a dessert item most people just associate with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. 10/10 would come back and try more flavors.
Overall meal was 400 rmb.
Located on the 6th floor of the Crystal Galleria, this place doesn’t lack traffic during lunch time. Recommended by a Cantonese friend, our group of 3 came to this restaurant looking for a hearty meal, something along the lines of soul food. We were seated around a small round table, but they also had square tables as well as outside patio seating. They are known for their braised duck but we weren’t in the mood for much oily food so we ordered the white carp fish, pan-fried dark tofu, stewed chicken soup with Chinese herbs, some veggies, and deserts which consisted of kuei hua wine with small tang yuan and papaya stewed peach desert.
The white carped fish were steamed to a work of perfection. I don’t think I’ve ever had fish with such gummy texture on the outsides, with the insides being soft as cotton candy. The pan fried dark tofu is one of their most popular dishes, second only to their braised duck. It is made with black bean sauce and is hardened on the outside and soft on the inside. The stewed chicken soup was perfect soul food and left my stomach feeling warm and content, not to mention that there’s Chinese herbs in there meant to replenish your body’s numerous nutritional needs. The kuei hua wine with small tang yuan had the same effect and was made with the right amount of sticky texture and sweet taste. The papaya stewed peach on the other hand, was way too sweet for my tastes, and felt like I was just downing jam.
Overall price was 440 rmb, and you get an 8% off your tab if you pay via Dianping.
This places, hands down, is a hidden gem on the basement floor of the glitzy Shanghai Centre, also home to the new high-rise bookstore that opened this month on the 52nd floor. On a visit to the new bookstore, I came down for a meal and was surprised to find the place fairly empty on a weekday night but the menu options looked enticing enough. This Singaporean restaurant has all the Singaporean delicacies, such as chili crab, bak kuh teh, and then some more.
I was able to find a set meal coupon option on Dianping so I ordered off of that plus a desert of coconut sago. The set meal almost seemed too good to be true, we got their signature pork bun wrap, iron plate tofu with egg, Yangzhou fried rice, bak kuh teh soup, and curry chicken all for a mere 138 rmb. Let’s not forget that this is a restaurant located at the heart of the Pudong financial district.
For starters, they offered us a small plate of mooncake samples for free, as they are promoting their mooncake sets at the store. I would hold off on eating those samples though, because mooncakes are super filling, and you probably won’t have enough stomach space left for the rest of the grand meal. The bak kuh teh arrived first in a large clay pot, and it is seriously the largest serving of bak kuh teh I ever had, not to mention very authentic. Next came the Yangzhou fried rice which is cooked with just the right amount of water, so that the rice are separated nicely. By the time the pork bun wraps came, I was already quite full but the pork buns simply screamed “eat me,” with their delicious texture and sauce. The iron plate tofu is also one of their signature dishes and comes highly recommended on Dianping, with good reason I would say. The tofu is placed on top of a flattened egg bottom, and is covered sauce. The outside has a bit of a crisp to it, but the insides are so soft that they almost melt in your mouth. When the last dish, curry chicken, came, my stomach completely shut down on me and I had to take it to-go.
As they say though, there’s always room for desert, so I managed to fit the coconut sago in, and it was extremely creamy and just the right amount of sweet. All this amazing food for around 150 rmb, who could say no? (They had tea sets for 8rmb/ person and wet towels for 2rmb/each but you can also choose to opt out)
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.