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  • To many, Chinese barbecue – or shaokao – is something best enjoyed while sitting on a plastic stool out on the street, after and along with a few cold beers. Hao Jiu Yi Qian (full name Hao Jiu Yi Qian Yang Rou Chuanr) is a chain that aims to recreate that kind of revelry indoor, since most of those outdoor operations have mostly been cleaned up.

    That means happy staff, bright lights and music that can come on a little – or way – too strong. It’s not the place for a quiet meal, more the place for a boozy Friday night gathering with friends. Come here if you want to squeeze into a six person booth, down cold pints of cheap Chinese Budweiser, and eat lots of meat on a stick.

    Also, every table receives complimentary cans of fresh air from Inner Mongolia, which has a pleasant, vaguely grassy smell. Make of that what you will.

    Food: If you’ve ever enjoyed Chinese barbecue before, you’ll know what’s on offer here – various meats, vegetables and more, liberally oiled and seasoned, served on skewers and cooked over coals. Here, it’s prepared at your table, with a machine that manually rotates the skewers constantly until they’re ready, when staff remove them and add them to a rack for you to grab at.

    It’s not the same as eating shaokao on the roadside, but it’s the closest you’re going to get downtown, and it has it’s highlights. The quality of the ingredients themselves is good, and the pair of dry seasonings that they hand you in sachets to dump on your plate – one spicy, one not – pack a bunch of flavor. The whole eggplant is a must. Standard pork, beef and lamb skewers are the highlights. As beer snacks, they’re almost as flawless as Japanese yakitori or Korean BBQ. Get the cold edamame to start, which arrive drenched in soy sauve, vinegar, chili and garlic. They’re probably the best I’ve ever had.

    Service: Service is clearly something that these guys are trying to do well. Free snacks while you order, attentive staff flipping your skewers and refilling your beers – they’re aiming for a kind of Haidilao-lite, which they generally manage to hit.

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  • Atmosphere: I swear I've been shown apartments with this exact floor plan. Still, they make it work with the usual tricks: a simple color scheme of brown wood tones and eggshell white, cozy lighting, and chalkboards galore. The open kitchen does, however, make it painfully clear when the staff is just standing around instead of, say, making your food.

    Food: My first experience with Egg couldn’t have been more perfect: stopping in during a sunny afternoon and being met with excellent service, a delicious Vietnamese egg coffee, and one of the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had. While their Bloody Mary was a little chunky for my taste, and I still don’t agree with the fusion-y notion to make it with mala spice, I have to respect that it’s one of the very few Marys served properly spicy that one can find in the whole city.

    My second visit was very different. Once my order had been finally put in (more on that in The Service), I have to assume my drinks were then rushed, because my Pumpkin Spice Latte was an overspiced mess that left nutmeg on my tongue long after finishing. My Bloody Mary luckily acted as palate cleanser, and salvaged some of the experience before I received the Biscuit Benedict, which was already cold by the time I was eating. Points in their favor: the scallion buttermilk biscuits made in-house were surprisingly decent, and ideal for mopping up the perfectly poached eggs (at least they got the eggs right). The ham is cut thick enough to give it a satisfying chew, and each benny comes with a generous portion of it.

    Service: Despite being nearly empty, service was slow and then proceeded to forget my order, only remembering after 30 minutes to check back in. For something like this I don’t expect some sort of compensation, but the lack of even an apology was a little insulting. After eating, I ordered a black coffee (they were out of gin for the Cinammon Bun Rum which I was curious about) which I -again- waited 30 minutes for, until realizing once more the order hadn’t been put in so I just paid and left. I know dips in service are to be expected, we shouldn't expect restaurants to be 100% consistent all the time, blah blah blah, but being forgotten TWICE is pretty hard to forgive, no matter how good your breakfast sandwich was the one time.

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  • Atmosphere: There was a massive dry age cabin in the middle of the restaurant with cuts of steaks waltzing round it. Nothing could go wrong with a show case of steaks of considerable virtuosity. There was also a well equipped bar with a nicely lit display of bottles but sadly it was pretty empty.

    Food: We ordered an USDA dry aged rib eye steak and a beef brisket burger to share. Before frying the steak, the waiter brought the cut of steak on a big marble stone plate and asked if we liked the cut. It was such a personal experience. The steak was not very thick and I believed it made it even harder not to overcook the steak since I liked my steak medium rare and nothing more than that. I reckoned it was the ultimate test of the chef's skills and they nailed it in making the perfect steak. The steak was well seasoned with a generous amount of pink rock salt and freshly grounded pepper too. Since the steak was dry aged, there was a remarkable depth of beefy flavor and tenderness in it. The flavor did not just go away as I swallowed the steak, it lingered onto my breath and it remained there to give you an aftertaste until I sipped some red wine or water. There was also some baked potato and tomato on the side which were excellent in balancing off the oiliness of the steak.

     


    The beef brisket burger was a bomb. I have never found beef brisket burgers this good in Shanghai and I was so glad I finally found a quality fix so close to home and work, and at a reasonable price as well. The beef brisket was loaded with juices and barbecue sauce. It went hand in hand with the caramelized onion on top and the chopped lettuce at the bottom. The bun was toasted just right and there was a trace of salt on the plate in case you want an extra punch of flavors.

     


    The burger came with some thickly cut fries but I didn't know about it ahead of time so I ordered an extra side of thinly cut fries. Both of them were excellent and were scotching hot and fresh when they were served.

    Service: The service was impeccable and impersonal. The waiters were very attentive and detail oriented as to understanding the needs of customers. They knew when to bring napkins and ketchup on their own initiative. They knew that we were sharing the steak and burger so they offered to cut everything into halves. It was very thoughtful of them.

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  • Xing Yuan Yuan is a Shanghainese-focused Chinese join on the corner of Panyu and Fahuazhen Lu. It’s nicely decked out with classical Chinese illustrations on the wall which belies its very friendly pricing, but don’t get it twisted – this isn’t really an upmarket place. Rather it’s a classic, at times rowdy neighborhood-favorite kind of place. Its usually busy, portions are huge, and you’re looking at roughly RMB 80 each for a dinner for two, likely with leftovers. Solid Dianping ratings.

    Last time I went, there was a group of young adults who burst into song not once but twice in baijiu-addled revelry. whether that sounds the kind of thing that to you makes a restaurant seem homely or a nightmare probably tells you whether this is the kind of place you’ll want to hit up.

    With so many Chinese restaurants on every street, it can be hard to tell which ones actually merit a visit with a grueling process of trial and error. In this neighborhood, this on is worth trying.

    Food: The menu is largely Shanghainese staples with a smattering of Sichuan dishes at the back and a few bougie, eye-wateringly expensive novelty items like turtle soup. That said, it doesn’t feel like it hues particularly close to one province or cuisine, instead offering reliable Chinese standards that make up for a lack of subtlety with a bunch of flavor. It can be hearty, spicy, anf warming in equal measure. Great for groups, too; portions are huge and everyone’s favorite dish will probably be found somewhere.

    Highlights include round ‘cups’ of bread served around a bowl of pickles, which you fill them up with. Oily, spicy, and endlessly satisfying. Others are the simple “beef pot”, hunks of tender beef served in a boiling soup with cabbage and glass noodles, soup of real, funky tofu and aged Chinese ham, and of course hongshao rou. It’s the kind of place that won’t have you seeing fireworks but more than does the job if you’re in the neighborhood. I live nearby, and it’s a regular.  

    Service: Service is just fine. Staff are often busy, but they’ll keep you topped up with hot water and never seem to forget a dish or mess any orders up. Can’t really ask for more than that when you’re paying less than a hundred per person.

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  • Atmosphere: Having worked in the same Old Shanghai neighbourhood on Huangpi nan Lu for over 10 years, our local lunch choices have have gone from dining wasteland to options overload as shopping centres and development has sprung up around us.  Within the shiny new LuOne Mall, Fuk Luk House is our new favourite local.

    On first impressions I was fooled that a longstanding Hong Kong name had opened its door in Shanghai, but alas Fuk Luk is a brand new restaurant with local owners.  Named after the feng shui gods of wealth, prosperity and longevity, Fuk Luk Sau are three wise men whose miniature statuettes greet you on entry.

    Food: The lunch menu is a mix of dim sum standards as well as some quite refined and contemporary variations.  All are fresh and flavourful.  Our benchmark of any dim sum meal are the steamed Shrimp dumplings (Har Gau). Four decent plumplings crunch with a sweet and light bounce.  Similarly, the bbq pork rice noodle roll was fragrant with hints of coriander and vegetable.

    Roast duck is about the only roast I’ve seen in a Chinese restaurant, but at Fuk Luk, we had to try the Roasted Vegetables with Black Truffle. The duck was excellent - crispy, golden, and served with sweet and sour plum sauce which tempers the gamey-ness of the bird. The roasted vegetable was a healthy dose of caramelised wilted zhi mao cai with a subtle truffle undercurrent.

    My highlight of the meal was the largest jiaozi I’ve ever eaten.  Expecting a regular Xiao Long Bao soup dumpling, the Fish Soup Dumpling is actually an individual bowl of seafood consommé containing a giant jiaozi filled with shrimp, clam and pork. 

    Service: I’ve eaten at Fuk Luk several times now, so i assume the three Wise Men are doing their jobs well.  And the food has always been a consistently high standard  The restaurant is stylish, spacious and airy flooded with daylight from giant windows, making this a great lunch venue.  Mall dining can be hit and miss - Fuk Luk House manages to deliver a relaxed meal with high quality service and food.

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  • 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. 

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  • Atmosphere: Tucked away in a corner of the Xintiandi strip, Green & Safe gives the appearance of a quaint farm to table restaurant with outdoor seating and a small first floor space. Nonetheless, if you ask for The Bunker, its version of a speakeasy, or find your way down the corridor and up the stairs to the second floor, you will find much more.

    The ambience and decor are akin to its fare, New American & simple minimalism. The farm to table or farm to fork craze that took the States by storm is alive and well in this restaurant with this theme as the focal point. Guests will feel welcomed and the prices won’t scare diners away, even though they are situated in the middle of Xintiandi.

    Food: The menu is diverse from different selections of steaks, pasta, pizza & all day brunch to Thai dishes like green curry & pork krapaw to Spanish Paella Valenciana.

    Using a word from its namesake, Green + Safe is exactly that: it is a safe option to take out of town guests to. There are definitely better, although a little more expensive options along the Xintiandi strip. The porcini mushroom pizza with black truffle that we ordered (98 rmb) and the thai beef salad (68 rmb) are worth another order at best, although you will definitely have had better elsewhere in the city (of course, Mercato's truffle pizza is on a completely different stratosphere). My girlfriend ordered the holiday special with friends. Nothing particularly stood out as eclectic and newsworthy, both good or bad. Thus, it is evident why this will remain your safe option if all else fails. With a menu big enough for the entire table, this restaurant will cater to expats and locals alike.

    Service: Besides a decent wait and a couple drinks at the Bunker until the entire table was ready, the service was attentive and prompt. Green & Safe is certainly in a competitive area of Xintiandi real estate, but guests will definitely keep coming back for the value & variety. 

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  • Atmosphere: There was a bar area on the ground floor and a dining area upstairs on the second floor. I visited the restaurant at about 10pm on a weekday so it was pretty quiet. There were a lot of evil eye drawings and ornaments to remind me of the Turkish origin of the restaurant. I found it really hard to find late night quality food in Shanghai. When I found this place in a cold winter late night, it was like a shining gem in the desert.

    Food: We ordered lentil soup and lamb soup to warm up our stomachs. It was all that I could ask for in a freezing and rainy night like this. The lentil soups was really hearty and earthy. The lentils were completely molten into the soup. The lamb soup was surprisingly white in color but it came with a pungent lamb flavor. It warmed me up instantly as It had some little dices of lamb meat to satisfy my instant cravings.

    We also got some hummus with eggplants which were off the menu. It came with a basket of bread and pita which was pillow soft and fresh. The hummus was creamy and smooth. It was very nutty and a bit garlicky. There was also a red hummus which was loaded with roasted sweet red pepper and granulated chickpea. It was a delightful variation to the original flavor. The eggplants were very smokey and packed with herbs. I love how the skin of the eggplants was peeled off as it sometimes had a burnt and bitter flavor and the dark purple color was not very attractive as well.

    Besides, we ordered beyti kebabi which was mixed lamb and beef minced meat skewer rolled in lavash bread with cheese, pistachio and yoghurt. First and foremost, this dish was the most photogenic of all. The presentation of the dish was simply mesmerizing with the a drizzle of yoghurt here and a dash of sauce there. Besides, the cuts of the kebab rolled out like the feathers of a peacock. The lavash bread absorbed all the sauce, yoghurt and meat juice but it held on tight to the skewer and was not saggy at all. There was also a perfect blend of minced beef and lamb in the skewer since I could taste the both meat without any one of them overpowering another. A little surprise of this dish is the puddle of rice in the middle as it had extra herbs on it. It was almost like the basmati rice with loads of herbs pods you get in Indian restaurants.

    Service: We were the only customer when we got there so we have a troop of waiters at our disposal. They were very kind to recommend items which was off the menu.

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  • Atmosphere: Nigh on perfect. With just 24 seats, the majority of them surrounding the bar/kitchen, the seating arrangement and room design is very well-thought out. There are also two booths facing the front of the bar. Even when full, this restaurant doesn't seem too busy or crowded. The room is centred around the the kitchen. Chatting to your dining companions, your eyes are drawn to the chefs, in almost reverence, as they create and fine-tune the dishes you're paying top dollar for. The lighting is finely balanced, bright enough in the right places to see your food in striking clarity, whilst also dim enough to afford you some privacy in a small room with thirty other people. Two minor qualms came in the shape of an annoying draft from the door – we were on the corner of the bar nearest the door, so whenever it was opened we got an icy blast of winter air. The second was the champagne bar upstairs. On the night of our dining, there was a particularly boisterous posse of ladies getting their drank on. The occasional piercing cackle of laughter from upstairs slightly dampened what was otherwise a pristine air of class.

    Food: After we were treated to a few welcome nibbles and a glass of champagne, the 'Tartar of Dutch Veal Loin' kicked the main dishes off in style. My teeth sank into the tender veal. Coupled with a crispy beef tendon, it was an interesting and exquisite dichotomy of cooked cow. Next up was the 'Cold Cappelini Pasta Salad', consisting of hairy crab, caviar and lime. This was a refreshing treat, the tiny morsels of hairy crab being a 'Brucie Bonus' on top of the already delicious combo of cold pasta and sumptuous roe. This dish was perhaps inspired by the common Chinese dish of Scallion Oil Noodles, a nice nod to local cuisine.

    The 'Cauliflower Mousse' with sea urchin gelato was an absolute treat, perhaps the pick of the bunch. That is, until the 'Foie Gras Custard' was presented to us. The Chef reeled off descriptions of corn prepared in around five different ways, topped off with some foie gras (at the bottom). He summarised 'If you don't like corn, you probably won't like this dish'. Fortunately we did and I'd probably stick with this as the best of the dozen dishes on offer that night. The 'Sichuan Mountain Trout' with grilled celtuce (Chinese lettuce) and seaweed was also noteworthy. A really quite excellent piece of fish.

    The accompanying wine pairing will set you back a hefty 780 RMB. I'd say it's well worth it though. If, after demanding “We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now!”, this assortment was presented to Withnail and I, in the Penrith tea-rooms, I feel they would have been placated. As it was on this night in Changning, as an accompaniement to each couple of dishes, they were wonderful. For your money, you get four glasses, on top of your champagne on arrival. We even got a couple of aged, ethereal rums to finish the meal off after the magnificent desserts.

    The 'Australian Angus Beef Sirloin & Cauliflower' with air dried beef cheek, smoked egg yolk and brown butter Hollandaise was tasty enough, but one of the less memorable entries on the lengthy menu. It was the lamb that was the pick of the meat offerings. The 'New Zealand 'Te Mana' Lamb' comprising lamb saddle, BBQ roasted shoulder, accompanied by artichoke and red pepper was unlike any meat I've ever tasted. According to their website, this type of lamb is the result of 'discovering sheep with a different type of fat, an intramuscular fat, higher in Omega-3 with marbling on a micro‐scale'. This unique type of lamb was truly beautiful; fortunately it's on the fixed menu.

    Having a sweet tooth, I opted for an additional dessert, along with the two on the main menu. The 'Purple Shisho Sorbet' was described to us as a palate cleanser. It was a showy effort, employing the use of liquid nitrogen for an intended 'wow' effect. Whilst it felt like it was mainly for the aesthetics, it did serve its purpose of freshening one's mouth.  The 'Lemon Tart', made up of Italian meringue, Jasmine tea and Limoncello, was even better.

    The 'Confiit Mandarine' with chestnut, mandarine sorbet and ginger rounded off a superb meal off with a flourish. Another splendid dessert to cap a pretty much flawless meal.

    Service: The service was first-class. I heard Chinese, English, French and German being spoken by the staff, and that was just in our little corner. This well-trained, knowledgable and friendly team introduced each dish and type of wine succinctly to us before serving. The Chef de Cuisine brought several of our dishes over and was as welcoming and chatty as his colleagues. The founder, Stefan Stiller, wasn't here on this occasion. Perhaps next time.

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  • Atmosphere: Never judge a restaurant by its entrance. I’d been walking past the nondescript, plastic-curtained door to the Baoqing Lu branch of Dim Sum Garden at least twice a day for four months before a friend finally encouraged me to check it out.

    Inside, it’s much more genteel than the frontage, with its faded advertising boards and supermarket-style insulation measures, would have you believe. Think marble floors, round tables draped in white and a series of semi-private rooms connected by a larger, central area. It’s more bustling than refined, with a reassuring, relaxing hum of activity and lunchtime chatter.

    Food: It’s dim sum (with additions), and it’s mostly great. My introduction to Dim Sum Garden came when a friend brought over a little plastic tub of their black, gold-brushed, molten custard buns. They were so good that I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be dragging people there to try them fresh from the steamer.

    We ate in a big group, ordering plenty. The fairest way to judge the food, I think, is to consider what we ordered seconds of. The custard buns – yes, of course. They’re amazing. I’d also highly recommend the crispy shrimp rolls. If you’ve ever had British fish and chips with scraps on top, imagine that but in a chewy wrapper. If you haven’t – well, go and try the Dim Sum Garden shrimp rolls, and you’ll get a fair picture.

    There were some other highlights, too: the char siu buns were fluffy and claggy and delicious, and the sweet and sour pork – deep fried then packed in ice to crisp the coating – was worth the trip alone. There’s also a good range of vegetarian options, from rolled green pancakes to little translucent dumplings and a fluffy fried tofu dish.

    I wasn’t crazy about some of the textures and flavours: the ribs were too chewy for my taste, and the cold turnip cakes came with a particularly cloying sauce. One of the wonderful things about dim sum, though, is that there isn’t too much of anything, so it’s easy to ignore the less satisfying dishes.

    Service: Menus show pictures and/or English translations, so the only difficulty in ordering is deciding between all of the excellent options. Dishes arrive as soon as they’re ready, which is generally fairly quickly. The staff were good enough to let us bring our own wine in for a birthday lunch, too.

    We ate as a table of seven and ended up paying about 120rmb each for an endless succession of plates, platters and steamers. Great value for this dependable, convivial dim sum spot. It isn’t the most refined iteration in the city, but it’s a great option if you’re local and hungry.

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SMARTREVIEWS

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.

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