Jeffo is originally from Chicago, and is now expat dad in Shanghai. Even after 12 years, he still loves exploring Shanghai and finding something new to experience.
jeffo on 1/F, Bldg 4, Lane 3911, Hongmei Lu, near Yan'an Xi Lu 187 2123 6238 Vin Vie Price per Person: 250 Rmb
Atmosphere: Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a French bistro and Japanese izakaya had a baby? Vin Vie answers that question in a unique and great place to check out in Gubei.
The interior deliver the same feeling. The main seating are feels like a French bistro complete with empty wine bottles and an Amelie poster. But the back bar area is completely Japanese with a draft Asahi machine, bar seats and chef cooking skewers on an open grill.
Food: This is probably less fusion and more mash up. They aren’t really combining French and Japanese flavors but rather presenting classics from both cuisines as independent dishes. Thankfully, the edamame and foie gras are still separate dishes, and you cannot order a shot of sake in your Bordeaux. But you can still have all of the above individually and they do a pretty good job in delivering the shared values from both cultures of getting your group tipsy while sharing great food.
We went heavier on the Japanese side and were not disappointed. It’s pretty basic Japanese bar food done well, with the chicken liver skewers and the grilled roe special standouts. We also dabbled on the French side of the menu with the roast chicken and French fries being table favorites.
There was also a decent wine selection which is not expected with Japanese food. Overall, the concept can be a bit confusing, but it works. We had a great meal and the place was packed on a Tuesday night with mostly Japanese speaking small groups.
Service: The service was good. As with many Japanese places, there were multiple menus and not all were in English or Chinese, but the waiter spent time to explain the dishes to us and make recommendations based on what we typically like.
The food came out quickly and the service was prompt even when the restaurant filled up and all tables were taken.
jeffo on 1486 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Tongren Lu 6247 0788 Bread Etc (Nanjing Xi Lu) Price per Person: 140 Rmb
Atmosphere: Bread Etc is a a bakery and café on the corner of Xiang Yang Lu and Jian Guo Lu. Over the last few years this part of Jian Guo feels like it has become the land of bakeries and cafes.
You literally can not go more than two or three storefronts in this area before hitting another coffeeshop or bakery. That makes it all the more impressive that Bread Etc is still drawing the crowds.
The atmosphere is fairly typical with a large bakery counter where you can see the goods and then a large seating area. There are a few large communal tables where people in large headphones type on laptops.
Food: There are a couple of surprises here. First, the prices are not that expensive for the quality. I think most of the foreign bakeries have either jacked up their prices so much that it makes you cry or reduced their portions so much that you can’t even see what you’re buying.
Second, there are some unique twists on the food that actually make it better. The salmon eggs benedict is served on one of their house made croissants which makes a rich dish even richer. And the burger is one of the best out there even though it veers from American burger orthodoxy. The homemade bun is buttery and light, the meat actually tastes like beef, and the shaved cucumbers give a nice crunch while offering a good balance to the meat and bread. There is a small French flag on the burger, but alas there are no French fries. Instead they have roasted potatoes that must be made in some magical meat dripping as they are super savory and delicious. The pizza, cakes and breads to take home were also done very well.
Service: The service overall is good, but this place gets packed on weekends during brunch so things sometimes seem a bit out of hand. There was a sizable line out front and the host could have done a better job of splitting the people who want to sit inside and outside as there was some jostling about.
jeffo on 406-1 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Yueyang Lu 5448 8097 Popot (Jianguo Xi Lu) Price per Person: 70 Rmb
Atmosphere: Popot is a newly opened café on Jian Guo Lu close to Yue Yang Lu. This space has changed a couple of times over the last year or so, but this is probably the most unique concept and hopefully the one that lasts.
It is pretty much standard cafe decoration in a small space. There is very limited seating to just a large communal table and some bar seats by the window or outside, but this is a great takeaway place if you live or work in the area. I think it would also be an excellent choice if you are planning on a picnic somewhere.
They also have some limited outdoor seating which is great for nice days.
Food: Basically, the concept is that all the food comes in little glass jars. They have coffee and a selection of drinks in the fridge, but all the food comes in jars. I had passed by a few times after it opened but was skeptical because it feels like you are buying leftovers or just shopping at a grocery store.
But after going, I regret not going earlier. The hot food is actually cooked fresh and just served in the jar. Only the desserts and salads are premade and in the self-serve fridge.
The food was actually really good and one of my new favorites in the neighborhood. The Beef “Bourguignon” was super tender and flavorful and the whole things its on a layer of mashed potatoes. There are little touches like the little decorative flowers sprinkled on top to make the whole thing feel more sophisticated.
Service: All of the hot food and drinks you order at the counter and the cold food and drinks are self serve. The service is really good. As it's new there wasn't anyone else in there when I went so the staff spent a lot of time with me explaining the concept and the food choices.
jeffo on 3/F, Grand Gateway, 1 Hongqiao Lu, near Huashan Lu 5436 2006 Twinkle Kids Club (Grand Gateway) Price per Person: 150 Rmb
Atmosphere: Twinkle Premium Kids Club is a restaurant slash play pen for kids. If you have children under the age of 6, you have to try it out.
The play area is best in class for kids. There is a huge ball pit with a high-end interactive video game projects on the wall. The ball pit is connected to slides and filled with giant stuffed animals. The play kitchen is probably ten times bigger than my real kitchen. There are also luxury “cars” to ride and charge at the electric charging station. Your kids will not get bored here.
There are tons of staff to keep the place spotless despite being overrun with kids and they also actually seem genuinely interested in interacting and playing with the children, leading them to explore the toys and features of different areas.
But then we get to the food. I can only say the food is squarely in the “not good” category. For a place that does everything else so nicely, it’s a shame that the food is gross. Don’t get me wrong, it looks pretty decent, but it just tastes terrible. The pizza was half cooked, limp, and also had no flavor. It tasted like eating a wet piece of cardboard. Quesadillas went downhill from there. I understand that some parents don’t want to expose their children to too much seasoning, but the total lack of flavor should be illegal.
However, there is one thing that they totally nailed on the menu – cold beers. Very cold and very delicious. You order by scanning the QR code at your table and it shows up almost instantly. I wish I could take the QR code with me.
If mom needs a break, this is a great place for dad bring the kids.They also have free wifi.
It’s about 200 rmb admission per kid (parents are free) and the food is about 150 per person. Beers are 48 rmb.
Takashimaya has had a rough year in Shanghai. First, the high-end Japanese department store announced they were closing. I believe they actually closed for some time, and now all of a sudden, it’s open again.
The only noticeable difference after the resurrection is that there seems to be much less people now. The whole department store was pretty much empty and there are many more workers than customers.
The reasons to come here are its proximity to many international schools and there are good facilities geared towards kids. There is a free playground in the children’s section and there is also a Haba activity center that you can pay to enter. This is a great place to set up a play date and stay for dinner.
Wan Liang is our favorite Japanese style barbeque at Takashimaya. The decoration is all a bit dated and simple, the tables are all really close together, but the quality of the food and service is really top quality. Basically, it’s just like you are in Japan.
We had a pregnant friend in our group and the waitstaff offered to cook our food for us at another table so that the smoke wouldn’t bother her. I think that’s great service.
The food was simple, but really high quality. We will be back.
250 per person
A lot of people don’t like restaurant in malls. But technically, Frasca is a restaurant in a hotel that happens to be in a mall. And it also happens to be one of the best new restaurants in Shanghai.\
While you can access the hotel through Taikoo Hui Mall, once you get into the Middle House hotel, you will feel like you are a whole world away. Even though you are just a few feet from the largest Starbucks in the world, the well-designed landscaping has a resort feel as you walk through the lobby and outside to the restaurant.
We booked a large party for 20 people in their private room. From start to finish the planning and service were top notch. Special thanks to Mark, the manager who helped us plan the event.
We ordered a variety of courses from the menu. The pastas were really outstanding, and I also really liked the pisca. It’s like a pizza but super crunchy and loaded with toppings.
Perhaps the branzino or sea bass baked in a salt crust was the only dish that we didn’t finish. This looked really cool when it came out and was served tableside. Nothing about it was bad, but it also wasn’t very special or unique like the other dishes above. The T bone steak was fantastic and was devoured before the plate had even cooled. The tiramisu for sharing was also worked great as a birthday cake and was the perfect end to the meal.
Frasca should be everyone’s go-to for Italian food in Shanghai.
Shintori was one of the first nice Japanese restaurants I visited when I came to Shanghai the first time around 15 years ago. Given how restaurants don’t seem to make it past the first year very much in this town, it’s amazing that this place has now been open for 20 years.
We were in the neighborhood so stopped by for an early dinner. The place was completely empty, and we were able to get a table with no reservation on a weekend.
The décor is the coolest part of this place. The kitchen is completely open air and you can see the chefs working clearly from almost any table in the restaurant. There are also private(ish) rooms upstairs. The place is super dark and basically decorated like the secret lair of a super villain.
I thought the food was overall very good. It is a higher end type place with higher end type prices, but everything was executed flawlessly and the presentation even on simple dishes was a nice touch. Even the fried chicken had a really nice garnish of a split pea with the peas still attached to the pod.
If you want unique Japanese, you should go to Hiya. If you want a place filled with Japanese people, you should go to Gubei. But if you want to stay close to the area and have a nice meal, you should go here.
About 400 RMB per person.
jeffo on 217 Zhenning Lu, near Dong Zhu'anbang Lu 3353 1773 Head in the Clouds Price per Person: 0 Rmb
All Day Brunch Bistro is a nice addition to the corner of Zhenning Rd and Dongzhuanbang Rd. The name of the restaurant is pretty self-explanatory of the concept. I get that Shanghai has a thing for brunching, but personally, I think there’s a limit to brunches at about once a week, and definitely not more than once a day, so we’ll see how this goes.
The two benedicts we got were both well made and tasty. However they didn’t come with any sides so we were still hungry and ordered the roasted spring chicken. This was less good. While the mushroom gravy was tasty, the chicken itself was a bit too chewy.
They have a cool record player and a cassette tape player with a large selection of music, but they didn’t let us play around with it, probably because the place was packed with people or more likely because they could tell I was looking for a Sir Mix-a-lot cassette.
This is a trendy place for trendy looking people. By my estimate, maybe half the people, both customers and staff, were sporting some sort of arm tattoos.
So don’t come here if you are super hungry, but come here if you have an old mix tape you want to play or if you want to show off your ink.
280 RMB for two people
Sushi Sake used to be a verb in the Shanghai expat vernacular. All you can eat sushi and all you can drink sake at an affordable price. There was almost no better way to start or end an evening.
Over the years, almost everything in Shanghai has gotten better - whether it’s the traffic or the lessening pollution to the overall quality of restaurants. Seafood Wharf tries, and fails, to improve the all you can eat and drink concept.
The idea is to take the all you can eat proposition and extend it to higher quality food at a much higher price. They check all the boxes with the higher end offering by including things like raw lobster, sea urchin and all different kinds of shrimp along with requisite sashimi. There is even a foie gras covered steak that they dare you to order as much as you want.
There is nothing terrible about the food at Seafood Wharf, but it just doesn’t taste as good as you would think for this price. For example, the marbling on the beef looked really good, but after cooking tasted pretty chewy without a lot of the meat flavor that you’d expect. The sea urchin was also missing the fresh taste of the ocean. The foie gras just tasted like mush covered in sauce.
The reality is that if these things were all the premium quality that you expect from these high priced items, even the current high price would probably not be enough to keep this place in business.
Given that there are already multiple outlets across Shanghai, I’d say there is a market for people wanting to post about the expensive things they ate, without said expensive things tasting all that great or people who think they are getting a deal at the restaurant’s expense (this never happens, restaurants would just close). The last straw for me was that they don’t even include any sake on the free flow menu, so you are stuck with highballs and beer.
Or maybe I’m just the kind of guy who can’t appreciate nice things…
RMB 599 per person
Cages is hands down the best sports bar in Shanghai. In fact, I think it may be the best sports bar anywhere. This is not an exaggeration, I can’t think of anything this place is missing.
It is obvious that a lot was invested in the place. The TV’s alone are worth the trip as nowhere else has the sheer amount and the quality of the broadcasts definitely look HD. There are endless amount of activities from the eponymous batting cages to regulation sized quick shot basketball (tip: if you have never swung a baseball bat, start with the slow pitch softball lane). Our group particularly liked the ping pong and football games.
We went for a company event and there really was something for everyone to try despite the diversity of backgrounds in the group. The food offering was excellent. There were probably a dozen different type of wings and the burger is top notch.
The beers were super cold and you could order mini kegs to your table.
They also have an indoor field where people were playing soccer when we went. Apparently, they also host dodgeball and some Hunger Games style foam tipped archery shoot out. This is the ideal place for company events, group gatherings, families, and people who watch Dude Perfect videos. Basically, everyone.
About 250 rmb per person for food and virtual “tokens” for activities and games
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.