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  • Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4

    on Pasha Price per Person: 150 Rmb

    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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  • Atmosphere: It's a spacious cafe, with variants of table sizes throughout.  Good for catching up with friends, business discussins, or working on the next great screenplay, it meets all your cafe needs.  There’s even an open kitchen with six soufflé ovens so you can watch the magic happen.

    Food: Cafe overload.  These days, seems as if on every corner of Shanghai a cafe is opening up.  It’s always a treat, however, to see a cafe that’s not a Starbucks or Baker & Spice.  That’s why I was intrigued to visit Caffaina, a newly opened, spacious cafe near Hanzhong Road metro station.

    Pre-made sandwiches and pastries greet you as you make your way to the register.   There’s no doubt that the specialty of this cafe are soufflés, though, as pictures and plastic replicas bombard you from different directions.  

    On my visit, I ordered a flat white, smoked chicken panini, and the classic soufflé.  You could spend a good fifteen minutes just deciding between the eight varieties of soufflés (from classic, to sesame and even blueberry) but seeing that this was my first visit, I had to go with the classic. 

    The flat white is pricey, coming in at 39 RMB.  It’s too light for my preference.  However, they have a huge selection of coffees to choose from, so it’s worth another shot.  The smoked chicken panini lacks any exciting flavors.  No smokiness in the chicken, a piece of lettuce that seems to have lost its way, and a slice of cheese that doesn’t bother contributing.

    But then there’s the soufflé.  Each soufflé takes twenty minutes to make.   The wait is absolutely worth it.  It’s just as a soufflé should be:  delicate, fluffy, creamy, with just a hint of sweetness.  The edge of the crust just crunchy enough to provide a balancing mouthfeel.  A side scoop of vanilla ice cream and two sugar cookies accompany the dish, but the star here is the soufflé.  They even thoughtfully provide instructions on how to eat the soufflé in case it’s your first go around.  If the classic is this good, it begs to wonder how the other seven compare.

    I doubt Caffeine will make a dent in Starbucks’ or Baker & Spice’s domination, but it’s a pleasant deviation nonetheless, if only for the soufflé.  Skip everything but the soufflé.  You want this soufflé.  You need this soufflé.  Simply put, Caffaina is an unexceptional cafe with one exceptional dish.

    Service: The service staff are very friendly and deliver food with a smile.

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  • Atmosphere: Bread Etc is a a bakery and café on the corner of Xiang Yang Lu and Jian Guo Lu. Over the last few years this part of Jian Guo feels like it has become the land of bakeries and cafes.
     
    You literally can not go more than two or three storefronts in this area before hitting another coffeeshop or bakery. That makes it all the more impressive that Bread Etc is still drawing the crowds.

    The atmosphere is fairly typical with a large bakery counter where you can see the goods and then a large seating area. There are a few large communal tables where people in large headphones type on laptops. 

    Food: There are a couple of surprises here. First, the prices are not that expensive for the quality. I think most of the foreign bakeries have either jacked up their prices so much that it makes you cry or reduced their portions so much that you can’t even see what you’re buying.
     
    Second, there are some unique twists on the food that actually make it better. The salmon eggs benedict is served on one of their house made croissants which makes a rich dish even richer. And the burger is one of the best out there even though it veers from American burger orthodoxy. The homemade bun is buttery and light, the meat actually tastes like beef, and the shaved cucumbers give a nice crunch while offering a good balance to the meat and bread. There is a small French flag on the burger, but alas there are no French fries. Instead they have roasted potatoes that must be made in some magical meat dripping as they are super savory and delicious. The pizza, cakes and breads to take home were also done very well.

    Service: The service overall is good, but this place gets packed on weekends during brunch so things sometimes seem a bit out of hand. There was a sizable line out front and the host could have done a better job of splitting the people who want to sit inside and outside as there was some jostling about. 

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  • Atmosphere: On hearing a multitude of great reviews from American friends I eventually felt compelled to give Deli Boys a shot. The recent move to Dingxi Road (my neighbourhood) meant that I had now ran out of excuses not to try it.

    On entering a rather peculiar building site, assurances are given you’re in the right area with a sign reading, “Don’t mind the chains, I’m still open!”  Squeezing through the chain-link fence and under the padlock you arrive at Deli Boys. It was a Monday night and it’s fair to say the place was dead, with only one other table being used in the whole restaurant.

    Food: My initial excitement was at the drink’s options with Cherry Coke and Dr Pepper both on the menu (albeit 20 kuai a pop). I got a starter of hummus with some chopped up veggies and crisps to dip. It came with two types of hummus (sweet chill and plain) and it was great. Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right places for hummus but this stuff was the best I’ve had in Shanghai. For my main I ordered “The New York Ruben” which is essentially meat on meat on meat. The “challah bun” was delicious and the meat was plentiful, not sure on the sauerkraut as it was sparse. However, has anyone ever complained about a lack of sauerkraut when the meat is so good and copious? The fries were nicely season, nothing to write home about.

    Service: On reflection I’m not sure a cold Monday night was the best time to visit Deli Boys for the first time. I can’t really rate the restaurant on the atmosphere or ambience as that was solely created by myself, a podcast and an older Chinese couple. Probably not the most vibrant the restaurant has ever been? But in terms of a lunch/brunch spot Deli Boys knows what they’re doing and they do it well. Would maybe recommend avoiding the vacant Monday nights though.

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  • Atmosphere: It’s a little difficult to find The Pine, especially in darkness. It’s in the beautiful complex fronted on Fuxing Zhong Lu by the InterContinental. If you take this entrance, follow the road that curves around to the left. If you enter from Ruijin Er Lu, turn to the right through the gate, and follow the road around.

    Once you get inside, it’s murmur-or-get-stared-at quiet. There’s a slightly jumpy, eclectic soundtrack that meanders from jazz to electronic, but the white tablecloths and the proximity of the other patrons are very Michelin. Very tasting-menu-or-die. I wasn’t immediately comfortable.

    The place is divided up into different rooms, both public and private. Décor is mostly understated but, incongruously, there’s CitySuper merchandise everywhere. Those bright green cushions were a very strange choice in the context. Perhaps it’s a sponsorship deal, but it rather jars with the general aesthetic.

    Food: You can go a la carte, if you really want to, but it’s obvious that the focus here is on classic tasting menus. These are often focused on a key ingredient: crab, steak or truffle, for example. We chose the entry-level menu, because the others were wincingly expensive and also because it looked the best. It gave us two options for each course, too.

    And so we ordered, and the food started to arrive, and it was absolutely divine. I relaxed, even in the starched surroundings, because it was clear that we were in good hands. Brioche was brought first, fresh and soft and meltingly-rich from the kitchen. We said no to more, and I have few more potent regrets this year.

    To start: oysters or a cold dish of beetroot, cheese and hazelnuts. The latter, in particular, was beautiful both to sight and to taste: dancing, light flavours. The fish course, which came next, was a crisped fillet of Japanese white fish with one of those decadent, buttery sauces imbued with technique. Someone teach me.

    Next, the meat course. (There is no vegetarian menu, as far as I know.) There was a preposterously overpriced Wagyu plate, but we both chose the chicken – a neat, chubby ballotine with freshly podded peas and, this time, two of those excellent, deep sauces, served with a boned and foie gras-stuffed crispy chicken wing.

    Things lightened up considerably after that, thank goodness. We were served a light, pineapple-y palate cleanser before our dessert: black truffle ice cream (potent) with green melon. It wasn’t a highlight, but it was a suitable way to end a heavy meal.

    Service: Staff were professional and warm throughout, explaining each dish. The server went to the kitchen at one point to ask, as we’d enquired, what the crisped topping on the fish was. I’ve forgotten the answer, but it was very good of him nonetheless. Wine was promptly poured, and the still and sparkling waters were always served to the right person. Full marks.

    You can see into the kitchen on your way to the bathrooms, too, if that’s your thing. (It’s my thing. I love it.)

    In total, we paid around 2390rmb for two people. Note that we chose their lowest-priced evening tasting menu. To be fair, though, we did also drink a very nice bottle of Riesling and two big waters.

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  • Atmosphere: Spacious.  Wooden, sometimes wobbly tables.  TVs showing Aussie sports. This is an expat institution, where single diners can enjoy as much as a big group.  Wanna drown your sorrows with some shots?  Saddle up to the bar.  Play some darts or pool?  They got a few tables.  Eat a decent steak at a decent price? Come on by on Monday nights! The Shed is one of those places that when you enter, you know you’ll be in good hands.  

    Food: It's not going to win any awards for the steak.   You wanted medium rare, but the steak arrives medium.  They might give you the wrong side of sauce.   Does any of that matter at The Shed?  It’s not a place to complain.  It’s a place to have good food without any fuss.  Easy on the wallet.  Tasty, daily specials.  I make many return visits on Monday nights for their half-off steak specials.  Two steaks, with that perfect char taste, choice of two sides, a side of sauce, and a glass of wine each for no more than 250 RMB.  New York Strip, Ribeye, to a more expensive Rump - it’s all delicious. 

    The sides are hit and miss, but I highly recommend the side of Mexican rice.  I don’t know what they do to it, but it has a certain chew to it that makes me happy. The sauteed mushrooms are spot on.  They added what seems to be a new side item: baked cauliflower with cheese.  The cauliflower was barely baked and the cheese lacked the cheesiness that's often missing in Shanghai's Western bars.  

    With the side sauce options, the bbq is servicable, but the onion gravy is like eating Thanksgiving gravy.  Considering I missed Thanksgiving this year, it's a welcome addition to the steak.   

    Service: Completely acceptable.  The staff speaks English quite well.  Maybe a few minor mistakes when taking the order, but this is not a place for any gripes. 

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  • Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4 Rating 4

    on Quan Er Price per Person: 125 Rmb

    Atmosphere: Quan Er is a smart little beef hotpot restaurant nestled in amongst many on Dingxi Lu. It’s very much a modern hotpot joint, spread over two floors with slick design, big cuts of beef hanging behind the window to the kitchen, and a large window at the front to draw in passersby and let in a lot of natural light. It’s also popular, and likely busy whether you visit for lunch or dinner.

    Atmosphere is generally one of calm, languorous hotpot enjoyment rather than the boisterous, boozy, big-group variety. It’s the kind of hotpot you could do as a date, but is probably best suited to a laidback dinner with a small group of friends.

    Food: The specialty here is Chaoshan hotpot, a specific variety native to the eponymous area of Guangdong province that is all about beef, beef, beef. The broth is light and transparent, but flavored with beef for a warming, meaty richness. Beef is also the focus of the ingredients that you cook in the broth itself, with a variety of different cuts available. In general, it’s a lot less heavy on oil and spicy than what you probably picture when you think of hotpot, so can be a great option for those who are generally turned off by it.

    With dishes like this how good it all is comes entirely down to the quality of the meat, and for the price that’s something that Quan Er delivers. Despite keeping prices relatively average for hot pot – you’re probably looking at RMB 100 to RMB 150 a person – the cuts of beef are plentiful and good quality. The same goes for the veggies and other hotpot staples. It’s a perfect warming winter meal when you’re looking for hotpot but don’t want to kill yourself with spice.

    Service: Service is also typical of a modern hotpot place, in that it’s very good – staff are polite and bring along your sauce ingredients and dishes like well-oiled machines.

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  • Atmosphere: Look, it's in a mall. They're trying hard with the stylish, muted colours, all bronze, blue and dove-grey, but it's still in a mall.

    More specifically, Khan ChaCha is up on the 5th floor of thee Westgate Mall off West Nanjers, with a clean, shiny, chrome-filled kitchen that you can see into through a large window, and an entirely open front which makes every seat feel exposed. It's hard to get the lighting and atmosphere right in a space like this.

    This is a shame, though, because it feels like the owners are working hard to make this place a success. In terms of feet through the door, they seemed to be succeeding when we visited on a Friday evening. It was packed out - every seat was full, from the lang tables in the middle to the bar-style seating in the corner. Everyone seemed to be having a great time; it must've looked lovely to all the people walking past and gazing blankly in.

    Food: Starting with the good: the Chennai Express chicken thigh curry was comforting and decadent as hell. I was tempted to ask if I could buy a few tubs to freeze for bad days, but - joy - they say that they deliver! I struggled to find them on Elema when I looked, but their website promises they do, so perhaps I'm just not looking hard enough.

    Also, curries come with a naan bread included. They're not at all bad - it looks like they've got professional tandoor ovens in their kitchen, so the breads come out with those classic crispy bubbles. They're perhaps a little on the thin side, though.

    Having said all this, we were unimpressed by the other things we tried. They serve a saag paneer, one of my favourite dishes, but it's too cream-heavy and under-spiced for me. We also tried one of their signature appetisers: a sesame-encrusted potato log stuffed with paneer, cashews, almonds and raisins. I know - the description sounds incredible. The dish just didn't live up to it, though: the seedy coating needed longer to toast and the filling needed... excitement? A night out on the town? Something fun, anyway.

    Service: I feel bad writing this, though, because  the staff are super keen to please. It really feels like a new restaurant right now, and that's partly down to the behaviour of the servers and the owner. I have no complaints - it was good service - but it was good in an unpolished and slightly stumbling way, as if they really wanted to help but hadn't quite worked out how to work best together as a team yet.

    They're good people, though, and they're working hard. I hope it works out for them. I'd go back if I was in the area, but they need to nail every dish if they're going to draw customers from the big hitters on Shanghai's Indian cuisine scene.

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