Shanghai is arguably the most rapidly developing global city in China. It is a metropolis that draws its influences from both the east and the west, combining the best of both worlds. Naturally, it’s not just Shanghai’s cityscape or heritage that has been influenced by the western. Shanghai’s culinary scene has also come international.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the restaurants in Shanghai that are worth your visit, while at the same time, to get a glimpse of the city’s rapidly evolving culinary scene.
Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet
Ultraviolet is the only restaurant with three Michelin stars in Shanghai. It is also one of the strangest dining experiences that are unlike anything else you’ve seen.
Like any Michelin starred eateries, you’ll need to book ahead. They only serve one of the three tasting menus (with wine pairings) for a fixed price, but that’s not that strange.
The strange part begins as you began your way to the restaurant. Unlike most of the restaurants in the world, you are required to stay in a specific place with 9 other strangers, waiting to get picked up blindfolded and traveled to a hidden location.
The strangeness doesn’t end with your arrival. The food comes with theatrics, with music, videos, perfumes, all acting as stimuli to compliment the gastronomical wonders served. The chef, Paul Pairet, named this as ‘Immersive Dining’, which he divided set menus into acts, as if customers were in for a modern theatrical performance.
As the chef remarked, everything they do aims to enhance the flavor, and the food here is extraordinary. In any of the menus, you’ll find Items as seemingly orthodox as black pepper beef and as wild as ‘Can’t Quit Foie Gras’ – Foie Gras wrapped in fruity ‘wrapping paper’ served like a piece of cigar. It tastes like edible cigars, but it is not.
An evening in Ultraviolet is like an evening of trickery and misdirection, but you will leave wanting for more. Such is the prowess of Ultraviolet.
Wang Bao He Restaurant
Unlike Ultraviolet, Wang Bao He Resaurant (王宝和酒家) isn’t that well known in the international culinary scene. Most of the waitresses here don’t speak fluent English (although the place does have an English menu), making it even harder for any non-Chinese-speaking visitors to order. Despite the language barrier, you shouldn’t be discouraged into skipping Wang Bao He.
Wang Bao He is popular amongst Chinese visitors and locals for one single reason: Crabs. It is a place dedicated to crabs. Wang Bao He are most famous for its Steam Crabs, served whole, where the roe is rich and crab meats are sweet and juicy.
Besides eating whole crabs, Crab Roe Tofu, Crab and Prawn Rolls, Crab with Fish Maws, the Crab Shell Cake and Xiaolongbao (Meat Dumplings) infused with Crab Roe are just some of the items to look for.
Shanghai Lao Fandian
When it comes to old school Shanghai cuisine, there isn’t anything as classics as YuYuan District’s Shanghai Lao Fandian (上海老饭店), literally translated as ‘Shanghai Old Restaurant’.
Established during the Ching Dynasty, Shanghai Lao Fandian wears their Chinese influence upon their sleeves, as the décor is filled with Plaques written in Chinese and wooden chairs, dimmed with soft yellow light.
The Menu is also as classic as you would get – they are dedicated to ‘Bengbang Style’ (本帮菜), which means ‘Traditional Shanghai style’ that excludes any outside influence. ‘Bengbang Style’ is often described as ‘浓油赤酱’ – cooked with thick oil, coated with sauces that are usually thick and red.
Some of their best dishes that best exemplified Bengbang Style are the Eight-Treasure Duck (whole duck stuffed with glutinous rice, diced duck meat, ham, chestnuts.,etc and steamed), Sea Cucumber in shrimp sauce, Dynamite Fried Shrimps and Braised eels.
Da Hu Chun
The Shanghainese people are serious about their street food and dim-sum. A Traditional day of any Shanghainese starts not with a cup of coffee or a piece of scone, but with a plate of Shenjianbao (生煎包). A plate of ‘Shengjianbao’ is essentially pan fried buns that are decorated with black and white sesame, sprinkled with some spring onions on the top. It’s soft on the top and crispy at the bottom, usually filled with pork, and will spill meat juices when bitten into it. It’s sweet, yet with a hint of savory at the same time.
While you can find Shengjianbao in many places, Da Hu Chun (大壶春) is the one that’s recommended by locals. Da Hu Chun began its business in 1932, and is one of the oldest establishments dedicated to local street food in Shanghai. Their Shengjianbao is slightly less juicy than their competitors, but the buns are stuffed much fuller. Besides buns with pork stuffing, they also sell variations of Shengjianbao that’s been stuffed with clams, prawns and even Foie Gras, and these variants are just as popular as their pork buns.
Nanxiang Mantou Dian
Besides Shengjianbao, another thing that’s considered a signature of Shanghai is the Xiaolongbao. It’s essentially steamed dumplings filled with soups, wrapped with a thin layer of skin; when bitten into one Xiaolongbao, soups will definitely spill.
There are more variations of Xiaolongbao in Shanghai then you can eat, and Nanxiang Mantou Dian covers some of the more famous variations. Besides common variations that add crab roe to intensify the flavor, they also served variations of Xiaolongbao, wrapped with shrimp, shark fins, abalone or matsutake mushrooms.
But the signature dish of Nanxiang Mantou Dian is the upsized version of Xiaolongbao. It’s called ‘Xiewang Guantangbao’, literally translated as ‘Crap Roe Soup Dumplings’. It is considerably bigger than a standard xiaolongbao, and requires you use a straw to drink the soups inside the dumpling.
Shanghai Haidilao Hot Pot
While Hot Pot isn’t exactly something new in China, Haidilao is an exception.
What makes Haidilao so famous in China isn’t the food, but the service. Right when you enter the restaurant, you will be greeted by multiple waitresses, as they dress you up with aprons, hand you snacks and teach you how to use the tablet to order food.
While you are waiting for your food, you can choose one of the following things to do. You can have a massage, get your nails polished, get shoes polished, or watch one of the shows here, including ramen making shows and Chinese Bian Lian (Face changing shows). Of course, they have free wi-fi and free mobile phone charging.
Here. the food is nice, with the tomato soup and chili spicy soul being the most popular choice. But what makes Haidilao so special in China is the insane services that come with the food are all free of charge. Haidilao’s service is unmatched, and will probably remain so over the coming years.
And do you know whose service is also unmatched? It’s Cathay Pacific’s service. Cathay Pacific is often ranked as one of the top airlines in the world. With so much to experience in Shanghai, why not fly to Shanghai now and experience some of the best services on air that you might get? Book your tickets now!