It’s that time of the year again for the year end review, and very sadly, my last one for Shanghai, because as many of you may know, I have left Shanghai in August 2017, moving back to my hometown of Singapore.
2017 was a big year of eating with many huge juggernauts in the list that lived up to the hype and other Michelin-starred ones that didn’t.
Without futher ado, here are my personal top 10 restaurants for Shanghai in 2017, ranked in no particular order because they are all very different restaurants serving very different types of cuisine.
10. Tai’an Table
Bldg 1, Lane 465, 161 Zhenning Lu, near Xinzha Lu
I finally visited Tai’an Table at their new location for Menu 9. What blew me away was not only their expertedly crafted dishes courtesy of Stefan Stiller, but also the level of service and efficiency executed by the staff. The 1300+ price is a bit of a killer for the average Joe, but with rotating menus every couple of months, you can be sure that the dishes that you have at Tai’an table cannot be found any where else, nor possibly ever again.
That said, make sure to prepare some time in advance when you head for your reservation because the restaurant is notoriously difficult to find, “…part of the adventure…” as Stefan said.
Secret, but the journey starts from Mr and Mrs Bund at 6/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu
The creme de le creme of restaurants in Shanghai. The most expensive meal I have ever paid for in my life thus far, but so, very life changing, memorable and really, worth it.
Simply put, there is no other restaurant experience like Ultraviolet. I know it’s a super cliche thing to talk about the multi-sensory experience where sights, sounds and smells get integrated into every dish, but you have to experience it to believe it. It was really a remarkable and sensory-overloaded experience such that at one point I was tearing up for no particular reason.
6/F, 282 Huaihai Zhong Lu
John Liu’s latest masterpiece of a restaurant. Retro lounge vibes of the 80s recreated in a modern setting in a metropolis that couldn’t have been more suitable.
My favourite part about Highline is not just the delectable new American cuisine by Chefs power-duo Anna Bautista and Sean Jorgensen, but also the chic vibe, well-trained service and the unique sprawling view of the Huai Hai Rd and People’s Park area.
The dishes can be a casual brunch affair while also worthy of a classy dinner with VIPs.
7. Sushi Takumi
1221 Chang Le Rd, No. 2
An omakase restaurant opened by serial restaurateur, William Zhang. The draw here are the freshly imported raw ingredients and masterful craftsmanship of the chefs. Sitting at the bar counter is the best way to enjoy the meal, as you watch the chef duo work their magic, almost bringing life to the raw pieces of seafood. The best part? The premium omakase set costs only RMB 880, with a cheaper set for RMB 580. This is truly a hidden gem.
Watch my vlog here, one of my favourite episodes.
6. Maison Papillon
No. 2, 149 Jiaozhou Lu
I visited Maison Papillon before they renovated in April, and due to their impending closure for renovation, I had held back the review that I had originally wanted to do.
Maison Papillon is run by Chef Xiao Hu who is a bit of an understated celebrity himself amongst the Chinese restaurant circles. The modern French inspired dishes at Maison Papillon were surprisingly well thought out and executed; Crisp and clear flavours that showcased the flavours of every ingredient while allowing them to meld and bond together in harmony while also being beautifully presented on the plate.
5. The Commune Social
511 Jiang Ning Rd
Went back again a few times this year, not once disappointed. The Commune Social is another restaurant that never ceases to challenge themselves and up the ante on the menu. Sadly, Scott Melvin is handing the reins to super-wife Kim Melvin who was already setting records with her amazing desserts. Expect to find Scott behind the menu at a certain lucky hotel’s restaurant soon.
4. Cheesecake Factory
No. 720, Disneytown, 255 Shendi Xi Lu
Possibly the oddest choice of restaurant to appear on this list, but I was genuinely surprised by the quantity, quality and general feel (emotion) of the food here. To put it simply, it brought me back to eating meals in the United States! For some reason, perhaps the Disney effect, they captured the very same taste, portions and feel, from the mountain of a salad to the spread of tacos with rice to the gumbo! Sadly it’s located at Disney Shanghai which is almost like travelling to another city itself.
225 Xikang Lu
Pelikan is perhaps the Shanghai representative of Nordic cuisine although many diners prefer to feast their eyes on the ridiculously hunk-of-a-chef Kasper Elmholdt Pedersen.
Featuring a mix of local and imported ingredients cooked in the Nordic style, or in many cases, uncooked in the Nordic style. Kasper’s dishes brings a breath of fresh air to the rich sauces and grease laden fare that is prevalent in most restaurants in Shanghai.
One dish that stood out the most to me was a perfectly cooked medium rare tenderloin that was finished by smoking with an entire branch (not twig) of burning rosemary. That aroma of charred beef and burnt rosemary was something that I will never forget.
2. 最湘 Zui Xiang
618 Xu Jia Hui Lu, Sun Moon Light Mall, 01-12 (Inner courtyard)
The only pure Chinese restaurant that has blew my mind in my 11 years in Shanghai, since the debut of Hai Di Lao. Think Hunan cuisine, modern setting, but with super clean and transparent flavours using fresh ingredients.
Think french beans that have a thin skin that gives way to a good crunch and sweetness.
Think Hunan Chilli Fish head that is just spicy enough so you can still taste the sweetness and tenderness of the flesh.
This restaurant at Sun Moon Light mall seemed like typical Chinese hyped trash, complete with dry ice steam coming out of my fish’s head. In the end, my wife and I returned multiple times in the course of two months. We still salivate at the thought of the chilli fish head. Unfortunately for my English-only friends, they did not have an english menu at the time of visit, but who knows, one might be available now.
158 Julu Lu
Last but not least, Homeslice. For a little while, Pizza seemed to be the returning trend in Shanghai, with the syncopated opening of Joes Pizza, Homeslice and Zozzo.
Several months in, Homeslice was pretty much the emerging champion, and had just launched their Winter/Fall collection of Pizzas this winter. Nat Alexander is a genius, coming from ZERO generations of pizza making and embraced the millennial’s way of learning, in this case to make Pizza: over the internet!
Anyway, Homeslice has been one of, if not the most visited eatery for me in 2017. It’s also been the most dependable in the sense that the pizzas are consistent all of the time, you know you cannot go wrong. So much that on more than a few failed dinners trying out new restaurants with my Grumpy Diners group, we cut short the dinners and fell back to Homeslice at Found 158.
Next time you try out a new place, think to yourself.. Do you need to go to Homeslice after that meal?
So that’s that!
My top 10 restaurant recommendations in Shanghai for 2017.
Next year I will likely be compiling a Top 10 for Singapore instead.
Thanks for reading, and if you’ve visited any of these upon my recommendation, let me know how it went in the comments below!
PS: Any interest in reading a Worst 5 dining experiences in Shanghai 2017?