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Kong Yi Ji (Wenmiao)

Shanghainese | Huangpu

Kong Yi Ji (Wenmiao)


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Kong Yi Ji (Wenmiao)

  • 36 Xuegong Jie,
    near Wenmiao Lu

    Huangpu District


    10 mins from Laoximen
    Chinese Name: 孔乙己酒家
    6376 7979, 6377 6779
    Daily, 11am-2pm, 5-9.30pm

    Editor’s Description

    Last updated: Jun 12, 2019
    Buried behind the Confucius temple, this is a well-regarded Shanghainese joint on the foodie tours. They do a special hairy crab menu during hairy crab season.
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    • Let's start with the obvious discussion about the restaurant's location: Kong Yiji is not easy to get to. Your taxi driver isn't going to want to take you there (if he/she) knows the location at all (intersection of Xuegong Rd. and Wenmiao Rd). It's basically southeast of Laoximen Subway Station, down some eternally under-renovation side alleys sipderwebbing between Zhonghua Rd. and Henan South Rd. Your best bet if cabbing it is probably to get dropped off on one of those streets and walk into the alleys. 

      This is a Zhejiang-style restaurant that is especially noted for focusing on crab dishes. Although it's got many pages of standard hangbang cai to admire, the big draw is undoubtedly the pages of crabmeat delicacies, including the crab shizi tou, the crab broth dumplings, crabmeat noodles, and so on. They also have flights of huang jiu for tasting (mellow Chinese rice wine that supposedly has medicinal value, usually in the 14-20% alcohol range). My friend raved about the crabmeat dishes, and although I had been to this restaurant several years ago, I didn't have an especially clear memory of the crab, so I joined her in a party of three to explore the menu. 

      We ordered five dishes: pork belly with cured Chinese cabbage, Shaoxing-style tofu, lion's head meatball with crab, crab dumplings, and a stir-fried green leafy vegetable for color. 

      Pork belly with cured Chinese cabbage (梅干菜扣肉)- The slices of pork belly were flavorful and the meat to fat ratio was very good, but the meat itself was a bit dry, as was the heap of mei gan cai it was nestled in. It wasn't a bad dish, but it wasn't quite as unctious and satisfying as its more famous cousin - the hongshao rou. That's also a popular dish for Kong Yiji that I didn't get this time around - maybe I'll try it on my next visit. Overall, 6/10 

      Lion's head meatball with crab (蟹粉狮子头 I think) - This was the standout of the meal - the meat was steamed well, very flavorful and the crab flavor was strong and fresh throughout both the broth and the shreds of crab meat covering the meatball. The only downside was that the chunks of fat/cartilage inside the meatball were chopped a bit large, so they didn't dissolve entirely inside the cooking meatball. This resulted in sometimes biting down on a hard little nugget of non-dissolved matter inside the meatball (possibly cartilage...). The waiter told us the broth was cooked down from pork shoulderbones, explaining the very rich crab/pork flavor in the juice  around the meatball. A very tasty dish. 9/10.

      Crab roe dumpings (蟹黄混沌)- These were a bit of a disappointment for me. The mini-dumplings themselves were really unremarkable - overcooked to the point where the dumpling skin had lost its elasticity and become mushy, and they didn't have any crab itself in them, just vegetables - while the yellow crab roe broth they were swimming in was just...ok. It had good crab flavor but felt like it was missing some additional depth of flavor or seasoning. While the juice that came with the lion's head meatball was bursting with pork and crab flavor, this broth was really one dimensional (crab) and lacked the umami richness that would have come from using pork bone broth instead of what I assume was just a clear broth + crab roe. Overall - 4/10. 

      Shaoxing tofu (绍兴豆腐) - Slightly sweet, savory, difficult to go wrong with this dish. These did the trick just fine. Plus, I seem to remember that it was a very inexpensive dish (something like 22 CNY?). Anyway nothing to complain about here - i'd be surprised for a Zhejiang-style restaurant to mess these up. If you like the sweet-ish food of the region like I do, you'll like these. 8/10. 

      The green vegetable dish (no recall of the Chinese name). - This dish was really boring - it tasted like the greens were wok-fried in some oil and barely any other seasonings added in. I think there were some shreds of tofu skin that added a bit of texture to the dish but nothing else? Completely forgettable - this is what you get for trying to be healthy and eating your vegetables! 3/10 

      Other stuff: This place is really popular with the locals, so it's always pretty crowded. On busy evenings, you might even half to wait for a seat. It's rowdy, loud, cluttered - if you like that style of Chinese restaurant, you'll like it here. There are three stories in all, with some private rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor. The restaurant's theme is based on a short story by Lu Xun (the name of the restaurant is a character from the short story) and it has signs of the homage throughout the restaurant. On the first floor, for instance, there's a shelf with dozens of carved wooden cups with personalized names on them - a callout to the teahouse in the Lu Xun short story that served their regular guests from personalized cups. Fans of modern Chinese fiction will likely get a kick out of it. 

      Overall, it's a neat place to take out-of-towners for a raucous regional Chinese feast. There are a few weak points on the menu but I suspect if you stick to the crab dishes and rely on your server for recommendations, you'll end up ordering mostly good stuff and missing the bogies. It's best to check whether it's actually a good season for ordering crab, however, and you'll probably want to make sure that your guests like sweet food. Final score: 4/5. 

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