Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) Thai Restaurant Opens at Hongyi Plaza Above East Nanjing Subway Station

Today I had lunch at the new Thai restaurant, Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) above the East Nanjing subway station on the 6th floor of the Hongyi Plaza, directly above Exit 3 of the station. Wonderful place with good prices and service, plus delicious food. I ordered a shrimp curry set meal for just 32 RMB. A large serving of a delicious mild yellow curry dish with large shrimps and a good mix of veggies with a little pineapple, too. One of the best curries I’ve had in China, for my tastes. There was also some pretty good fried fish, a lilttle bowl of some limp greens, and a little serving of fruit. The bowl of rice that came with it looked more like Basmati rice or a real Thai rice and was quite good. A pleasant surprise overall.

The only disappointment was an herbal tea I ordered for 18 RMB. They served it in a regular glass and it was much too hot to handle. Needed a handle on a cup to drink this. Also didn’t have much flavor. This was a Chinese data and rose mix that didn’t have enough of the dates to contribute noticeably to the flavor. But it was certainly pretty.

Will definitely go back for dinner sometime, and certainly for lunch.

Beyond the Clouds: Exposing One of Shanghai’s Fine Culinary Secrets

Beyond the Clouds

One of Shanghai’s hidden culinary gems is overlooked by thousands of tourists everyday in one of Shanghai’s most popular spots, the beginning of the East Nanjing pedestrian street close to the Bund where East Nanjing intersects Henan Road. There, hidden away on the 5th floor of the building that houses the bustling Forever 21 store, is a delightful Yunnan restaurant that most people don’t even know is there. And that’s a good thing, because lines would be way too long if they knew about Beyond the Clouds.  I’ve been there twice and didn’t have to wait to be seated, which is how I like it. Beyond the Clouds has pleasant, somewhat mysterious decor with excellent food at surprisingly low prices. Definitely worth a visit for some of the most interesting flavors in China.

The best deal are their set meals for lunch. Just two choices: Set Meal A feeds two people for 88 RMB, and Set Meal B feeds 4 people for 138 RMB. I took a CEO there recently for lunch and we had Set Meal A, which had more food than we could eat and was quite good. The yellow curry was perfect. The hongshao pork and bean curd skins were excellent. The greens were good and the pickled radishes were very pleasant. Soup was OK. I enjoyed the meal, but was surprised to hear my friend describe it as the best Chinese food he’s had in his time in China (total of a couple of months or so, I think). Well, the food is decent and prices are great.

The set meals are only available during weekdays. I went there today with my wife and we loved the stuffed pineapple rice dish, with a nice mix of sweet black rice and pineapple in a pineapple shell. Digging out the cooked pineapple was fun. We also had an interesting crepe wrapped around mushrooms and other ingredients that was spicy and strongly flavored. I loved it, though the flavors were a bit strong for my wife. Service was good. Definitely a place I’ll be back to for larger meals to further explore the unusual cuisine of Yunnan province.

Many say this is an imitation of Lost Heaven, and that may be fair. But it’s an imitation that may taste better and be more affordable than the original. Keep those improved imitations coming!

You can get to the restaurant by entering Forever 21 and going up the elevators tot he 5th floor. There are also little alleys behind and to the side of that building that take you to a mysterious elevator to ascend to the 5th floor. Give it  try!

French Food in Shanghai

One of the best places for French food, in terms of quality and value, is an unusual restaurant that is also a school for French chefs. The Restaurant-Ecole Institute Paul Bocuse is affiliated with the famous French restaurant in France, the Restaurant Paul Bocuse. In France, that is one of the few places to gain 3 stars from Michelin. Paul Bocuse’s school in France takes a team of its students who are ready to graduate and sends them to Shanghai to run this restaurant and to train Chinese students wishing to learn French cuisine.

You can read about the school and the restaurant on the Paul Bocuse site. The website for the restaurant itself provides a menu and a link to make reservations electronically, or just call them. They are open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations are definitely recommended. It’s a loving setting near the foot of the Nanpu Bridge in Puxi, close to the Xizang South Road subway stop on lines 4 and 8. Address is 379 BaoTun Road, very close to Zhongshan South Road, the big road that runs along the Bund.

There are some set meals or plate meals on the back of the menu that are great for lunch, ranging from 110 to 270 RMB, depending on how many items you want. You won’t walk away feeling overloaded with food because portions are not gargantuan, but you are likely to be inspired and delighted with what can be done with food.

Other places we’ve tried include Cuivre across from the Shanghai Library, near the Shanghai Library Station on Line 10. A popular and expensive place. We didn’t try much there, but the crepes were fun, though I felt they were a little “wimpy.” A French place with truly superior crepes, though, is La Creperie in the French Concession area. They are at 1 TaoJiang Lu / YueYang Lu in XuHui District,
+86 21 5465 9055. I felt the prices were quite reasonable, service was good, and food was fun. Quiet, pleasant setting.

By |February 21st, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants|Tags: , , |0 Comments

The Quest for Italian Food in Shanghai: Two More Tries

There is new Italian place on the Bund, almost next door to Lost Heaven Yunnan on YanAn Road is a classy little place that is easy to miss: Goodfellas at 7 YanAn East Road. Elegant modern interior with lots of black and white photos, possibly from various Italian gangster movies. The lunch menu offers two set meals, one for 68 RMB and one for 98 RMB. I tried the more expensive one to get a better taste of what the restaurant can do. I’ve heard a good report for the food here, but personally I was disappointed. First, the bread was cold and not especially good, just one small roll. The balsamic vinegar was the thick, not very tart variety that I think is made by boiling down vinegar. Not the best, IMHO. First course was mushroom soup, which was OK except the mushrooms had the smooth, rubbery feel of canned or overcooked sliced mushrooms. OK, but not delicious. Then came a generous portion of pan-fried sea bass and mashed potatoes. The sea bass was tender but not flavorful, possibly too low on salt (I prefer low salt cuisine normally, so it must have been really low). The mashed potatoes were OK but had the flavor and texture I get sometimes when dried potato flakes have been used instead of real potatoes. That makes no sense, though, because potatoes are so cheap and abundant here, so it must have just been a little too dry or something. Everything was OK, but nothing was really pleasing. That’s too bad. For 98 RMB, there are a lot of exciting lunch options in this town.

Another place I tried recently and liked is Luccio’s on DanShui Road, a little north of FuXing Road and almost next door to La Creme Milano. Luccio’s also has a classy, comfortable decor and excellent service. They have a good menu with pizza, pasta, steak, and other items. We tried a couple of pasta dishes and were generally pleased. The bread was quite good and included several different kinds, including a black roll that we learned is colored with squid ink. Delicious and creative. The pasta is fresh and homemade with a good consistency. Nothing to complain about. It was good, though not necessarily outstanding. But we’ll go back and try more of their menu. The proprietor is from Italy and adds charm to the place.

By |February 19th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: |0 Comments

Great Lunch Deal on the Bund in Shanghai: Union Restaurant Buffet, 30 RMB

After nearly 3 years working in downtown Shanghai on the beautiful Bund, having explored dozens of restaurants on my daily lunch break, I finally discovered a supreme value tucked away on the second floor of a building almost next door. The Union Cafeteria is clean, bright self-serve cafeteria where you can eat well for just 30 RMB. It’s buffet style with healthy, tasty food including a meat dish or two and great vegetable dishes. It’s on the second floor of the Union Building at 100 YanAn East Road, adjacent to Sichuan Road. It’s on the east side of YanAn, next to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and right above the Construction Bank on the ground floor. I think it’s designed for the many employees working in the financial industry and other companies in the area.

When you enter the front doors on YanAn Road, go to the left side to see a staircase ascending to the second floor. An elevator may also be used, I think. As you follow the crowd to the cafeteria entrance, there’s a little room on the right with a sign in Chinese only. In that room is a desk and a woman selling coupons for the cafeteria. You need to go in there an buy your coupon (or many coupons if you wish). You hand over the yellow coupon as you enter the cafeteria. Then you will be given a tray with chopsticks, a yogurt and a piece of fruit (tangerines right now). You pick up a plate or two at the same time and then head over to one of the food lines to load up your plate with good food. There is also rice and soup.

30 RMB is the lowest price I’ve seen for a buffet in Shanghai. The selection is much smaller than you will get at other buffets like the one at Latina (138 RMB or over 300 more if you want all the meat), the Cook ($$$), or Shangri-La’s 2nd floor spread (almost 400 RMB per person). But for a fast and healthy business lunch, this is great.

Due east (toward the Bund) from the Union Building is another financial tower with another secret little restaurant on it’s second floor, a placed called Tanko. There you pay 15 RMB and can get a healthy meal also with several good selections, though I think the Union Cafeteria is the better choice if you’re hungry. It also suffers from a low ceiling so watch your head there if you’re tall!

By |February 16th, 2014|Categories: China, Restaurants|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Origin Disappoints

Looking for a special place for dinner with healthy food, I took a friend and my wife to dinner at Origin in the Tianzifang area on Monday. Reviews from others have been good, but we were disappointed. Food was OK, but lacked the seasonings and attention needed to make it great. The vegetarian mustafa was good but was mostly mashed potato and lacked adequate eggplant and flavor. Was also not very warm. Our friend had a set meal for 248 RMB that was pretty ordinary looking. A little tuna salad, a piece of plain cod, and a dull looking side of grilled veggies, for which they carved an extra 15 RMB on the bill for grilling. Huh? The fruit juices were OK and the grilled baby tomatoes I ordered as a side dish were delicious, but overall it was one of the more expensive meals I’ve had in a while and we left hungry and unimpressed.

I also ordered a Mediterranean sandwich that should have been warm and flavorful but was cold, with hard, flat, dry chicken, and a mysterious absence of sauce or flavor. Disappointing.

Finally, when I asked for the “fapiao,” the official receipt, the waitress made some excuse and just gave me an unofficial bill, not the one that shows taxes have been paid. That means patrons can’t get reimbursed if it’s a business expense. Not good. Sigh.

By |February 12th, 2014|Categories: China, Restaurants|Tags: , |0 Comments

Good Gelato in Shanghai? Yes, It’s Possible!

After a vacation to Italy, I was anxious to see if somewhere in Shanghai there might
be gelato approaching the incredible quality that abounds in Italy. Gelato is
different from ice cream. It has less fat and more flavor, generally prepared with
simple, natural ingredients, and is served at a warmer temperature (around -14 C vs.
-18 C for ice cream) so it is less icy and melts in your mouth easier. It has a
smoother, silkier texture. Some of the “gelato” sold in Shanghai is pretty much just
ice cream or sherbet, but real gelato does exist with surprisingly good quality.

Of the places I’ve sampled so far, Le Creme Milano may be the best. I tried several flavors and
found none to be bad and several to be really excellent. I thought their chocolate
was too rich, but felt that the coconut, strawberry, pumpkin, and Creme de Milano (a
special house flavor similar to flan) were excellent. The person in charge when I
went spoke excellent English and was interested in chatting, which made our visit
extra fun. The shop were tried was at 262 Danshui Road near Xintiandi, just a few
yards north of Fuxing Road and a few hundred meters from the Xintiandi subway
station on Line 10.

Origin at Tianzefang was highly rated by some other foodies in town, but when we
were there they only had four or five flavors and of those, the coconut was
definitely impaired by the presence of added food starch that made the base gelato
grainy instead of smooth and creamy. The chocolate, though, was excellent, as was
the strawberry.

Mr. Eggie’s at the large Dapuqiao food court (an underground area adjacent to the
Dapuqiao station on Line 9) has pretty good gelato also with some Asian flavors like
black sesame and green tea. The chocolate was smooth and flavorful, though its
texture seemed a little more like ice cream.

I will keep reporting as new finds come along. Any suggestions? I’ve heard the
Freshary at the IFC Mall in Lujiazui is excellent, so it’s on my list now.

Related resources:

By |February 9th, 2014|Categories: China, Products, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , |0 Comments

Dining in Shanghai: Xintiandi’s 1930 Offers Inexpensive Chinese in a Prime Location

The main restaurant stretch along Xintiandi’s pedestrian street offers numerous great places to eat, but they are typically quite expensive. Polauner’s, the German restaurant, is surprisingly good with prices around 150 RMB per person, making it a relatively affordable option with fast service. But our biggest surprise in finding affordable food in that area was the Chinese restaurant very close to the cinema, 1930. The restaurant 1930 offers live entertainment in the form of jazz, I understand–wasn’t there when we ate around 6 pm on a weeknight, but it looked like some performers were preparing to play later when we left. What surprised me was that the Chinese food offered there came with price tags fairly typical for higher-end Chinese establishments in more ordinary parts of town. My wife and I ordered 4 items, two main courses, a veggie side dish and some dumplings, and the cost was a little under 200 RMB total. Not bad at all, though still twice what we would have paid in an ordinary corner shop in many parts of town–but the quality was excellent and everything tasted great. The menu is rather limited, though, and the fare is pretty simple. My twice cooked pork was flavorful but not extraordinary. The dumplings were nicely done. The garlic kale was tender and tasty. Service was meticulous and friendly, and they do speak English. A pleasant place with nice ambience, popular Western oldies being played, good food and fast service, and fresh air (at least when we were there). Now we need to try it when there is jazz being played.

By |March 26th, 2013|Categories: Restaurants, Shanghai||0 Comments

Where to Find Cheese in Shanghai

One of the great mysteries of expat life in Shanghai is where to find cheese. Some expats rely on expensive cheese sold in small delis in the French Concession or places like the deli at the Westin Hotel/Bund Center. Some rely on cheese sold at supermarkets such as Tesco. But if you use a lot of cheese or just want the best price on cheese, you should know about the food warehouse in Minhang District which supplies cheese and a lot of other products to restaurants all over town. There you can buy cheese for prices surprisingly close to what you might pay in the United States. A 3 kilogram block of good mozzarella cheese was purchased yesterday by my wife for 150 RMB. That’s under $4 a pound for cheese in Shanghai. Awesome!

This mecca of affordable cheese is inside a big warehouse at 1255 Lianhua Road, Shanghai. You enter this warehouse along a road used by forklifts or other vehicles. On the second lane to the left inside, you will find a row of shops. One of the first is SunPin Ran’s outlet, Shanghai Topwin Foods Trading Company (www.TSFoods.com.cn). Email contact: hero.db at 163dotcom, or call 021-5480-2293. Fax: 021-54934329.

Inside the building, according to the Chinese side of their business card, the shop is on the south side of the warehouse, aisle 4, number 18-19.

上海天圣食品有限公司
上海闵行区莲花路1255号南区四排18-19号

April 2014 update: Here are some photos from my recent 2014 visit to the big compound at 1255 Lianhua Road.

By |October 11th, 2012|Categories: Food, Restaurants||0 Comments

Piro Restaurant: Hamburger Heaven in Shanghai’s French Concession

When you need American food, or are stuck with a group intent on American cuisine in Shanghai, one of my favorite choices is Piro Restaurant in the heart of the French Concession (91 Changshu Road, a couple blocks north of Changshu Station on Line 1 and Line 7). This has the feel of a neighborhood restaurant with great service from very warm staff. We first tried Piro just because a friend of ours, Gina, works there, but we gladly came back for the food, too.

Piro apparently uses imported American meat in their hamburgers (so I read somewhere), and it sure tastes that way. They also understand how big, thick juicy burgers ought to taste. But if you’re not ready for a cholesterol high, they have a variety of meat-free portabello burgers that are amazingly juicy and rich in flavor. I’ve tried both the portabello burgers and the real hamburgers, and am torn: both are scrumptious.

Salads are also excellent, but you may be surprised if you order a salad and a burger since a pretty hefty portion of salad comes with your burger already.

We tried a chocolate milkshake tonight, and while it was the best milkshake we’ve had in China so far, it still falls short of the American dream shake. Part of the problem was a big load of fake whip cream on top that was just too greasy, unlike real whip cream. But the body of the shake was at least partway towards real shakedom.

A fun thing about Piros is that you can sit in the richly wooden inside or sit outside on the lively and rather noisy street for a great sidewalk cafe experience.

Burgers start at 55 RMB and go up to about 80, plus you can pay more for additional toppings. Salads are around 45 – 65 RMB. My shake was 55 RMB. So, on the slightly expensive side, but a lot less than many places with Western food, and a lot better. Give it a try! Very popular with expats, but plenty of Chinese hang out there, too.

By |October 8th, 2012|Categories: Restaurants, Shanghai||0 Comments

Shanghai’s Best Bakery: Nancy’s Bakery on Weifang Road, PuDong

At 68 Weifang Road near the east side of the Bund in PuDong is a little strip of restaurants including my favorite bakery and diner, Nancy’s Bakery. It’s the favorite spot of one of Beijing’s elite business leaders whom I have met there a couple of times. It’s a place where many foreigners go who want good bread and food made with top-notch ingredients. Nancy is a bubbly Shanghai woman who has been trained in Europe and Brazil. She offers a menu with outstanding dishes such as a special lasagna and magnificent desserts created in partnership with Eddy, her chief baker. Her breads are worth the trip and are made from imported European flours, not the genetically modified grains that might be behind the gluten allergies that many people face these days. One person I know who was sensitive to gluten found that she could eat Nancy’s bread without difficulty, apparently due to its superior grain content. True story.

Tonight my wife and I stopped at Nancy’s after a meal at the Xinjiang restaurant near our apartment on Dong Tai Street, just south of Fuxing Road. Our local Xinjiang place is terrific but quite authentic (that means lots of bones). Bold flavors, wonderful barbecue, and a lot of things that many Westerners would be shocked to see on a menu (sheep’s head dishes, cold sheep stomach, etc.). We took a taxi through the Fuxing Road Tunnel, made a right turn at the first light, and then right again a couple of blocks later onto Weifang, and there is Nancy’s on the left. Tonight we tried her new coconut-white chocolate-mango cake (awesome), a chocolate eclair, and the best fresh squeezed orange juice ever. This is a good season for sweet oranges in China. Best of all was the chance to chat with Nancy, a warm and vivacious friend.

By |September 14th, 2012|Categories: Restaurants, Shanghai||0 Comments

Lost Heaven: Once a Favorite Shanghai Restaurant, But Maybe Losing Its Heavenly Appeal

One of my longtime favorites in Shanghai has been Lost Heaven, the Yunnan-style Chinese restaurant on the Bund (17 Yan An Lu, just a few yards from the main road along the Bund on the west side of the river). It is beautiful, upscale, with an exotic menu. But after many meals there, typically with Western guests, I’m taking it off my list of favorites. Too often the food is lukewarm when it should be hot, and often lacks depth or intensity in flavor. And it’s quite expensive. 68 RMB for a small pile of fried rice with very little in it is just too much. The meal we had last night was OK, but for the guests I had, I wanted and expect something exciting. Nothing of all the dishes we ordered generated any “wows.”

Lost Heaven is beautiful and has a menu to be proud of, but the cuisine doesn’t fit the aura, the expectations, and the price.

For stand-out Chinese cuisine at reasonable, some other choices include Xin Wang (amazing Cantonese), Cui Hua (Taiwanese chain with amazing dishes and great deserts and drinks), and dozens of others all over Shanghai. More on these selections later.

By |September 11th, 2012|Categories: China, Restaurants||0 Comments