Sour, Sweet, and Maybe Some Meat – Shanghai’s Best Huaiyang Restaurants

Excited to try some regional cuisine in a city as big and diverse as Shanghai? Get ready for an explosion of flavor with the dishes of the nearby Huaiyang region. Glutton Guide Shanghai will introduce Shanghai’s best Huaiyang restaurants as well as Shanghai’s best everything else. You’ll want to get a copy ASAP!

Huaiyang cuisine encompasses the region between the Huai and Yangtze Rivers, including Shanghainese food (which is considered a bastardized version of Huaiyang thanks to the city’s historical foreign influence). This type of local cuisine is known for being quite sweet and sour; sugar and vinegar are added to almost every dish. Dishes most often include pork and freshwater seafood fished out of the rivers from which the cuisine gets its name, and braising and stewing are the most typical preparations.

Jianguo 328 / 328小馆 

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It’s all about simple, clean flavors and top-notch ingredients at this Shanghainese restaurant. They fervently implement the city’s official no-smoking policy, and there’s no MSG on the menu. The flavor of every dish reflects the trend toward quality ingredients, and they even filter the water they use to boil their excellent noodles. More info.

 

Lao Ji Shi (Old Jesse) / 老吉士 

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There’s a reason this is one of the most recommended restaurants in China: it’s the best darn Shanghainese in town. Avoid the “New” Jesses around town – they’re not nearly as good. And make sure to call ahead about the “secret” dishes, although the menu lists most of them, they require pre-ordering several days in advance.

 

FU 1088 / 1088


There are four FU restaurants in town, all run by Shanghai’s closest thing to a celebrity chef (Tony Lu) and housed in beautiful art deco villas in Jing’an. Fu 1088 is the cheapest of the lot, but the minimum spend pre-booze is still RMB 400 per person. It’s worth it just for the chance to eat in a private room of such a beautiful house; luckily the food is amazing too.

Is your mouth watering yet? Good thing Glutton Guide Shanghai is here to help you find all of the most delicious things in China’s most stunning city! Check it out for everything from Indian food to Hong Kong desserts and more!

 

XiXi Bistro – Shanghai Restaurant Review

XiXi Bistro: Fusion Finally Finds its Place

Diners today are rightfully skeptical of anything that might be considered fusion cuisine. Plenty of egregiously bad ‘east meets west’ concepts have come and gone over the years in Shanghai, but that isn’t stopping Xixi Bistro from trying. They’re re-imagining classic Shanghainese dishes by introducing touches of Italian cuisine – and it’s working.

The concept centers around a well-to-do 1920’s Shanghai proprietress, Madame Xixi, who lends an air of intrigue to the restaurant’s homey vibe and pleasant backyard. Maybe she owns a brothel or maybe it’s an opium den – regardless, we’re invited into her home to sample her cuisine – a mix of Shanghainese specialties, co-mingling with foreign ingredients that she’s picked up from her international ‘clientele’.

Understanding the backstory is key to appreciating the beguiling menu, 29 year-old co-owner Piercarlo Panozzo believes, and especially for getting locals on board with the twists they aren’t used to seeing in their beloved classic dishes. In many cities fusion cuisine has been done to death, but in Shanghai, Panozzo says, it’s Italian cuisine that is oversaturating the city. “There’s a pizza or pasta place on almost every corner now. We’re trying to do something different.”

After arriving in Shanghai armed with an economics degree and getting frustrated doing odd jobs including factory QC inspections, Panozzo met up with a friend and eventual co-owner Ivan Icardi at a wine fair in Hong Kong. They realized that Shanghai still lacked an Itialian-centric wine bar paired with decently-priced comfort food. The resulting concept, UVA, packed in the crowds, while winning awards and giving them the platform and capital needed to expand their offerings. They’ve since opened another wine concept in a modernist space called Fumo on Xinle Lu.IMG_8370

Panozzo, who grew up outside Milan, is half Italian & Chinese himself, and has an eye for making his projects stand out from the crowd. His sister flew in from LA to help with the interior design, which oozes a welcoming effortless hip vibe. The funky Cole & Son wallpaper print, imported from England, coupled with classic Shanghai antique stained-glass room dividers ensures there isn’t anything else quite like it in the city.

One dish where the fusion theme works especially well is the lotus caprese. With locally sourced mozzarella sandwiched between two deep-fried lotus slices with pesto, tomato and fresh basil, it’s a beautifully fresh take on a familiar dish. The other crowd favorites were the lightly pan-fried mini jiaozi dumplings, stuffed with Italian flavor combinations like pumpkin cream & spinach mozzarella, or the most popular, a slightly spicy tomato ragú. There are enough starters to make a full meal with a group out of these shared plates, and at around 35rmb each, you can order a big variety without worrying about over-ordering. Another favorite, a light and fresh tofu-avocado-quail pidan dish, smothered in soy sauce is almost like an Asian avocado toast, and offers a delicious entry point for those wary of the preserved eggs found commonly in Chinese dishes.IMG_8372

If you’re willing to commit to heartier dishes, the pork ribs smothered in a sweet rosewater glaze and served on a wooden platter played off traditional sweet elements in a memorable new way. Its sweetness may turn of bbq advocates not used to Shanghai’s saccharine flavor profile, but we found the meat falling of the bone and well seasoned. The roasted chicken served with roasted potatoes on a wooden platter fell flat for us, but a bowl of scallion oil noodles proved springy and light, a nice contrast to the sometimes very oily version you’ll find in local joints.

The price point is very reasonable here, and the food comes quickly, making It a great place for a quick, tapas-style meal with friends – you don’t have to rush, but you do get the feeling turnover will be key here to maintain these price points. There’s certainly no mandate to hurry, however, and you’d be remiss to leave before lingering over a well-mixed negroni sbagliato or a reasonable bottle of Prosecco at about 220rmb/bottle.IMG_8372

As the team moves away from soft opening, a dessert menu is in the works, and the cocktail lounge concept on the 2nd floor will be opening soon, with Madame Xixi inviting guests up to her bedroom for after-dinner drinks in a ‘brothel-opium type den’, according to Panozzo. Naturally, for a fusion restaurant, the bar manager is busy perfecting a range of alcoholic infusions using foreign alcohols and Chinese vegetables, herbs & spices – with the success the kitchen has had mixing cultures and cuisines, we have faith that Madame Xixi will deliver here too.

Chinese address for taxis: 五原路89号近常熟路
Address: 89 Wuyuan Lu, near Changshu Lu, Xuhui District
Telephone: +86 21 6486 1331 Hours: 11:30am-11pm Menu: English & Chinese