48 Hours in Shanghai
While Shanghai is known for its xiao long bao (soup dumplings), we were warned that coming from Hong Kong, it was best to have lower expectations when it came to the city's European dining scene. This was despite the hugely anticipated opening of Otto e Mezzo Shanghai or the extremely successful and original Fofo by el Willy. However, on a recent visit there, we were pleased to prove these naysayers wrong, having discovered a trove of excellent restaurants, both Chinese and European. Without further ado, our 48-hour guide to fine dining in Shanghai.
Can't get away to Shanghai? Have a look at our Top 5 Shanghainese restaurants in Hong Kong instead.
2pm: With Shanghai just under two hours away from Hong Kong and no time difference, one of our favourite ways to maximise our time there is to take a morning flight from Hong Kong and arrive in Shanghai around lunchtime. Once all the checking-in is done, take a cab to Tao Jiang Road in the French Concession. There, nestled besides two Japanese restaurants is Xin Jinshi, an understated and small restaurant offering a wealth of Shanghainese dishes. As the restaurant only seats about 20 people and queues can be long, we would advise coming in just before 2pm. Although the menu has English, most of the staff only speak Mandarin so having a local take you would be helpful. If not, just point to the following dishes: spare ribs which are unabashedly greasy and fatty but also delicious with the right amount of black vinegar; the xiao long bao which have a nicely elastic tough and textured pork; and the fried rice with preserved vegetables and a touch of chilli.
28 Tao Jiang Lu, Xuhui, Shanghai. Tel: +86-21-6445-0068.
8pm: A while back, chef Guillermo "Willy" Trullas Moreno, the man behind the popular Fofo in both Shanghai and Hong Kong, was in town and we decided to ask him what were some of his favourite restaurants in Shanghai. One of the spots he recommended was Bistro Franck, a buzzing restaurant filled with people having a good time, located in a quiet courtyard off Wu Kang Lu in the French Concession. A deli counter sells homemade terrines and other charcuterie, while chalkboards show the menu du jour. Among our favourites were the perfectly seasoned steak tartar with its big hunks of beef (pictured below) as well as a starter of cold confit of foie gras.
376 Wu Kang Lu, Shanghai. Tel: +86-21-6437-6465.
11pm: After a hearty dinner at Bistro Franck, there is nothing better than a brisk walk to Yong Fu Lu, a street lined with happening bars. The Apartment is a two-level bar: the third floor is split into units 301 and 302; with each room offering a different style of music and vibe. On the night we visited, 301 played hip hop while 302 played house. On the fourth floor is the quieter Mumm bar which is decorated like someone's rather stylish living room with leather couches, carpets and bookshelves. In the summer, the roof deck is a lovely place for cocktails.
Also on the same road is El Coctel, which also contains a New York loft-vibe, similar to how Bloom is decorated here in Hong Kong. Each table is given an addictive bowl of spicy and sweet homemade popcorn, while mulling over which of the artisanal cocktails to order. While the bartender is Japanese, the tapas list is Spanish, making it an enticingly cosmopolitan and stylish place for a nightcap.
The Apartment: 3/F, 47 Yong Fu Lu, Shanghai. Tel: +86-21-6437-9478.
El Coctel: 2/F, 47 Yong Fu Lu, Shanghai. Tel: +86-21-6433-6511.
1pm: After a Friday night out in Shanghai, we like to gently ease our way into the day with some Chinese food at Yi Long Court in The Peninsula. One of the few five-star hotels located along The Bund, The Peninsula in Shanghai lives up to our expectations. Yi Long Court is decorated by Hong Kong designer Henry Leung, and its seven private rooms are designed along a motif of a 1930s Shanghainese gentleman who lives with his wife and daughters. We especially love the modern chef's table (pictured below). In Shanghai, Cantonese cuisine, especially the delicate dim sum, is seen as the pinnacle of Chinese fine dining, and Yi Long Court is an excellent ambassador. Our favourites include a barbecued pork puff and steamed vegetarian dumplings with pine seeds and bamboo fungus, both from the dim sum menu. For a more substantial dish, the silky noodles in an organic tomato broth with fresh red king crab meat is a must.
Yi Long Court: 32 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu, Huangpu, Shanghai. Tel: +86-21-2327-6742.
8pm: While Yi Long Court is great for grandeur, we also love the more low-key but equally chic Table No. 1 at the Waterhouse, a warehouse converted into a boutique hotel on the South Bund. Opened by famous British chef Jason Atherton, Table No. 1 combines Melbourne-esque cool interiors with wooden tables, lots of natural light, plus an inner courtyard. First-timers might like to try the tasting menu for two, which is reasonably priced at RMB650 for two, featuring modern Mediterranean dishes such as marinated hamachi and parsley risotto. The kitchen has a way with seafood, and we particularly loved the barbecued mackerel on toast with salted cucumber, dill and horseradish, as well as a starter of mussels ceviche with avocado puree.
1-3 Mao Jia Yuan Lu, Zhongshan Nan Lu, Huangpu, Shanghai. Tel: +86-21-6080-2918.
Planning an actual trip to Melbourne? Make sure to check out our 48-hour guide to Melbourne here.
1pm: No Sunday is complete with a decadent brunch and while in Shanghai, we love visiting Jean-Georges at Three on the Bund. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten needs little introduction, with his eponymous Jean-Georges in New York City, as well as more casual but equally vaunted outlets such as Perry Street, JoJo and ABC Kitchen. At Jean-Georges Shanghai on Sundays, there is either a brunch plate or a four-course prix fixe menu, both priced at RMB398. The brunch plate consists of eggs benedict with truffle hollandaise; a lobster tartin with fresh basil that is tart and acidic; a light and fluffy French toast; and slices of house-smoked salmon. From the prix fixe menu, options include a foie gras brulee, which is cold in the middle but torched to a crispy exterior; a green asparagus risotto with mushrooms, lemon and parmesan; and a rather lovely dark chocolate cake. Wine lovers will also note that the wine list has been awarded Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence in 2011.
4/F, 3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu, Huangpu, Shanghai. Tel: +86-21-6321-7733.