Shanghai is a large sprawl of a city and there is no shortage of restaurants to suit every budget and taste. The Chinese take their wining and dining very seriously and this is confirmed by the presence of at least one, often more restaurants, on almost every block. No single area of the city can be said to have a monopoly on high-class restaurants or authentic Chinese cuisine, but there are a few areas which can be good starting points for new arrivals who want to be eased into their new Chinese lifestyle by sampling all sorts of cuisines from classy, boutique restaurants.
Shanghai might be mainland China’s best city for eating. These days, indulging in Shanghai’s culinary delights has become a must on any expat’s itinerary during his stay in the city. Shanghai is really a gourmet’s paradise, virtually on par with Hong Kong. You will find any food imaginable in Shanghai, whether it’s an asado from Argentina, wiener schnitzel from a Viennese restaurant, a Korean hot pot, delicate French food, spicy Cuban offerings, or a thick American steak.
Xintiandi is always a good place to start. Xintiandi is Shanghai’s trendy new food and beverage quarter where you can find restaurants serving cuisine that includes Chinese, Thai, Spanish, American, French, Indian and German cuisines. On and around Hengshan Road, in the heart of the beautiful French Concession, you can find restaurants like Indian Kitchen, Vedas, Hengshan Café, Sasha’s and Le Garcon Chinois.
Expats will find the widest variety of dining options is in the Luwan (French Concession), Jing An, Gubei, and Xuhui districts. Of course, you will find some of the city’s best restaurants on the Bund. The Pudong New Area is adding great restaurants at a dizzying pace, especially in the Jinqiao area and near Thumb Plaza. See the restaurant guides below for specific cuisines or restaurants in your favorite areas.
General Hours of Operation
Virtually all restaurants in Shanghai will be open for the following lunch and dinner periods:
- Lunch: 11:30am to 2pm
- Dinner: 5:30am to 10pm
However, a large number of restaurants will be open for lunch from 11am until 2:30pm, and will be open for dinner from 5pm until 11pm. A small number of family restaurants will be open from 10am until midnight. There are also a few restaurants opened until very late or even 24 hours.
Generally speaking, if you have a party of four persons, then reservations will be taken and they are recommended for dinner. Many restaurants will not take reservations for parties of 2-3, but as a foreigner, you might be able to convince them to hold a table for you at a certain time.
Overbooking in restaurants is normal, so you might have to wait for 20-30 minutes, even if you have a reservation. Most restaurants will provide chairs for waiting.
Brief Introduction to Chinese Cuisine
The above title is misleading as talking about Chinese cuisine is as impossible as talking about European or American cuisine. It can work as a reference tag, but it has no real meaning. Inevitably, because of the large size of the country and the presence of many ethnic groups, every province has developed its own culinary tradition. And the Chinese emigrants have also modified, and influenced, the cuisine brought from their motherlands.
Cantonese food is the most well-known in western countries, since the first Chinese emigrants came from Guangdong. It´s supposed to be the most sophisticated of the country, defined by soft flavors and the use of a huge range of products. If something can be eaten, the Cantonese have a dish with it.
Sichuan cuisine is also very popular among Chinese, but less so abroad. You will enjoy Sichuan food if you like spiciness: red pepper, salt, ginger and, especially, the unique Sichuan pepper are abundantly used. Also spicy, but much less so, is the Yunnan cuisine, which have savors that resemble those from the nearby Vietnam. There is an unmistakable Middle East touch to Xinjiang food, particularly in the mutton, served in the restaurants of the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group.
Shanghai’s cuisine is a mixture of the cuisine from the surrounding provinces, especially Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Sugar is utilized readily and is mixed with soya sauce, giving a particular flavor to many dishes. The most traditional food in Shanghai is the hairy crab (Shanghai mao xie).
The restaurants listed in the table below offer clean, high-quality food and service.
|Cuisine||Restaurant||Phone||Area||No Smoking Area?||Price/Person (RMB)|
|Beijing||Yan Yun Lou||63609698||Nanjing Rd E.||No||Less than 100|
|Cantonese||Crystal Jade||63858752||Xintiandi||No||Less than 100|
|Cantonese||Fook Lam Moon||68828888||Pudong||Yes||400+|
|Cantonese||Zen||63906390||Huaihai Rd M.||No||200-300|
|Cantonese Beijing||Goodmatch||52138868||Yan’an Rd M.||No||400+|
|Contemporary||Shintori||54045252||Yan’an Rd M.||No||200-300|
|Continental||Kathleen’s 5||63272221||Nanjing Rd W.||No||200-300|
|Continental||M on the Bund||63509988||The Bund||Yes||400+|
|Folk Cuisine||Xian Qiang Fang||62951717||Hongqiao||Yes||Less than 100|
|French||Jean Georges||63217733||The Bund||Yes||400+|
|French||La Seine||63843722||Huaihai Rd M.||No||200-300|
|French Mediterranean||Shikumen Bistro||63867100||Xintiandi||Yes||200-300|
|Grill||Steak House||32186940||Yan’an Rd M.||Yes||400+|
|Guizhou||Village Guest House||53869177||Huaihai Rd M.||Yes||100-200|
|Hangzhou||Zhangshengji||64465777||Xujiahui||Yes||Less than 100|
|Hot Pot||Faigo||54038811||Yan’an Rd M.||Yes||200-300|
|Hunan||Di Shui Dong||62532689||Maoming Rd||No||100-200|
|Hunan||Gu Yi Hunan||62328298||Caojiadu||No||100-200|
|Italian||La Vita||64741887||Fuxing Rd||Yes||200-300|
|Italian||Pasta Fresca de Salvatore||62625620||Hongqiao||Yes||400+|
|Japanese||Hanagatami||62798888||Nanjing Rd W.||Yes||200-300|
|Japanese||Yamazato||64155216||Huaihai Rd M.||No||200-300|
|New World||239||62532837||Nanjing Rd W.||Yes||200-300|
|New World||Laris||63219922||The Bund||No||400+|
|Ningbo||Hantong||52301577||Huaihai Rd W.||No||100-200|
|North African||Barbarossa||63180220||Nanjing Rd W.||No||200-300|
|Royal Court||Tanfu||52282699||Nanjing Rd W.||Yes||400+|
|Shanghainese||Lu Lu||62881179||Nanjing Rd W.||Yes||100-200|
|Shanghainese||Restaurant Art Salon||53065462||Huaihai Rd M.||No||100-200|
|Shanghainese||Whampoa Club||63213737||The Bund||Yes||400+|
|Shanghainese Cantonese||Jade Garden||54037028||Huaihai Rd M.||Yes||100-200|
|Shanghainese Cantonese||Zen Central||62897877||Nanjing Rd W.||No||200-300|
|Sichuan||Legend||62670773||Nanjing Rd W.||Yes||Less than 100|
|Sichuan||Yuxin||52980438||Nanjing Rd W.||No||Less than 100|
|Sichuan Cantonese||South Beauty||62476682||Yan’an Rd M.||Yes||100-200|
|Tea Cuisine||Qiuping||62125758||Xingyang Rd S.||No||100-200|
|Thai||Coconut Paradise||62481998||Yan’an Rd M.||Yes||100-200|
|Thai||Lan Na Thai||64664328||Fuxing Rd||No||200-300|
|Vegetarian||Gongdelin||63270218||Nanjing Rd W.||Yes||100-200|
|Vietnamese||Fong’s||63877228||Huaihai Rd M.||No||Less than 100|
|Yangzhou||Wang Bao He||63223673||Fuzhou Rd||Yes||200-300|
|Yunnan||Lost Heaven||64335126||Fuxing Rd||Yes||100-200|
Book a private room in Chinese restaurants which are usually noisy and crowded. The staff in Shanghai is often more deferential to men than women. Don’t be surprised if the men receive their menus first, and they will always be handed the bill. In Chinese restaurants is normal that the waiter brings you only one menu, without regard of the number of people at the table. This is because when a group of Chinese eats out normally one person pays the bill and chooses the dishes.
Few, if any, expats rely on printed publications for local information about Shanghai’s establishments. The primary reason for this is that the city is experiencing such rapid growth and development that new establishments are opening and old ones closing on, literally, a weekly basis. It is a local joke around Shanghai that in the time it takes you to catch and get over a 24-hour bug, a new building will have been constructed from bottom to top.
So, instead, expats and locals alike rely on the internet for the latest information. The most popular and reliable websites are listed below:
- Smart Shanghai
A comprehensive guide to various aspects of Shanghai living. It is geared mainly towards younger expats and the information listed includes: events, maps, dating services, housing, restaurants, bars and clubs. This site also provides the name and address of each establishment in Chinese so that it can be printed out and given to the taxi driver.
- City Weekend
The online version of Shanghai’s premier lifestyle magazine. City weekend provides much the same information as Smart Shanghai. But where Smart Shanghai’s content is geared mainly towards entertainment and leisure pursuits of younger foreigners in Shanghai, City Weekend provides the same information as well as having a section dedicated to practical information that will be of interest to parents and families, too. For example information on playgroups, international schools, hospitals, childcare agencies in the city etc.