Best Value for Italian Food Near the Bund: Marissa (Marisa) Italian Below Henderson Metropolitan

Directly accessible from the East Nanjing subway station and hidden beneath the Henderson Metropolitan Mall on the lowest level (the same level as the subway foot traffic between lines 10 and 2) is my new favorite place for inexpensive Italian food, Marisa Italian (though I would prefer the spelling Marissa). This new Italian restaurant has really excellent Italian food at budget prices. It is run by a Chinese man from Milan, Italy, who has brought real Italian cuisine to Shanghai with great imported ingredients. My first meal there introduced me to outstanding seafood risotto, my favorite Italian food, for around 50 RMB. Later I tried an inexpensive set meal for about 30 RMB featuring perfect pesto and a good salad. Last night I took my wife there on a date where we had a great meal for 151 RMB. I had the rack of lamb and was really impressed. Perfectly grilled with a flavorful outside featuring a lot of fresh rosemary, and very tasty grilled vegetables. My wife’s lasagna was hearty and good. We shared a large bowl of mushroom soup which is made from a lot of fresh mushrooms without being too fatty, just the way I like it. The fresh apple-carrot juice was also good.

The owner pays attention to service, and service is quite good.

You can get there directly from the East Nanjing subway station by taking the Henderson Mall exit opposite from Exit 2. Or enter the Apple Store on East Nanjing Street and go through it into the mall, then down two levels via the escalator.

The Bund offers several good places with Italian food, and Shanghai has many great Italian choices, but for value and flavor, Marissa Italian is hard to beat. You’ll get twice as much for your buck there as in many other places.

Update, May 21, 2014: I took an Italian friend to Marisa Italian for lunch and he loved it. We had pizza, pasta, and mushroom risotto. Earlier this week, I took a group of 12 people there for dinner. What fun they had! We had several great pizzas that we shared, plus pasta and risotto dishes, and some deserts. The panecotta was remarkably good! The bill for 12 people was 669 RMB, which is amazing.

By | May 8th, 2014|Categories: Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , |Comments Off on Best Value for Italian Food Near the Bund: Marissa (Marisa) Italian Below Henderson Metropolitan

Shanghai Dining: Recent Restaurant Experiences in Puxi

Puxi, the west side of Shangai, is my favorite place to dine (and to live). Incredible variety and typically more convenient than the new city of Pudong. Here are some recent restaurant recommendations and suggestions from dining experiences on the west side.

Top Chef Jacky: A leading Italian restaurant in Shanghai with the best pizza I’ve tasted here, plus the best mushroom soup. Their seafood risotto was excellent (though nothing will beat the seafood risotto I had in Florence, Italy earlier this year!). Top Chef is at 169 Mengzi Road, about 2 blocks south of LuJiaBang / XuJiaHui Road. I get there by taking line 9 to the MaDang Road Station, and then from Exit 3 (Mengzi Road) walking south 2 blocks. Mengzi Road begins where MaDang ends (a name change, it appears) at LuJiaBang Road. Service is excellent. Top Chef has opened an additional location just around the corner from the main site on Mengzi, so if they are full at the latter, they will walk you around the corner to their “secret” additional place. We’ve tried both and both are outstanding.

Sawadeeka Thai: A great new Thai place at the West Nanjing Road subway station. They also have a restaurant on the 4th floor of the SML Center, 618 XuJiaHui Road. This is on the walking street on the south side of East Nanjing Road, just across the road from Sephora’s. It’s at the very end of the building hosting three floors of restaurants, on the ground level. Very good curries. Not too busy yet but they will grow once the word gets out, I think. Just opened in April 2014. Elegant setting, very pleasant, with reasonable prices.

Memory Restaurant: This is a popular chain. I’ve tried a couple of their locations and both were great and very inexpensive. My favorite place is on Shandong Road between East Nanjing Road and Fuzhou Road, a little south of Hankou Road. Shandong Road is a fun street loaded with little restaurants. One of the best is Memory Restaurant which opened there in March. One of my favorites for value and fun. The setting is similar to that of YunSe Restaurant on Fangxie Road (another of my favorites), with fun knick-knacks and lots of wood. It’s busy but efficient. Seems very clean. The menu has no pictures but is in both Chinese and English, with some fun Chinglish for some items. The paper menu is a great souvenir for visiting Westerners. I took a group of six there and ate a lot of food for 300 RMB total, and that included some fruit juice drinks, soups, and lots of main dishes. Great prices!

DaiFuKuya Japanese in the XinTianDi Style Mall, northwest end of the building, also on Ma Dang Road: Fast, fun Japanese place with a good mix of grilled and noodle dishes. We had some good Japanese dumplings and grilled items there. Fast and pleasant with good service. Less expensive than typical XinTianDi restaurants.

TMSK in XinTianDi: One of our favorites for the setting, food, and service. Only had a few minutes in our last visit but they were able to get food to us quickly and it was inspiring. A delicious variation on soup and salad, Asia style. Nice mix of Asian, Western, and fusion items on the menu.

 

By | April 24th, 2014|Categories: Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Shanghai Dining: Recent Restaurant Experiences in Puxi

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.

By | March 31st, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants, Shanghai|Tags: , , |Comments Off on Tai Fei Ge (泰妃图) Thai Restaurant Opens at Hongyi Plaza Above East Nanjing Subway Station

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!

By | March 8th, 2014|Categories: China, Food, Restaurants|Tags: , , , , |Comments Off on Beyond the Clouds: Exposing One of Shanghai’s Fine Culinary Secrets

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: , , |Comments Off on French Food in Shanghai

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: |Comments Off on The Quest for Italian Food in Shanghai: Two More Tries

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

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: , |Comments Off on Origin Disappoints

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, or might be tied with Ice Season. At both places, I have tried several flavors and found none to be bad and several to be really excellent. I thought Le Creme’s 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 to Le Creme Milano 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.

Ice Season is a larger chain, I think. I’ve tried it at East Nanjing Road in the Henderson Metropolitan mall that has the Apple store. They are on the 2nd floor near an escalator above the main entrance on East Nanjing Road. I’ve also tried then in Jinqiao and People’s Square. Great flavors and quality.

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: , |Comments Off on Good Gelato in Shanghai? Yes, It’s Possible!

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|Comments Off on Dining in Shanghai: Xintiandi’s 1930 Offers Inexpensive Chinese in a Prime Location

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|Comments Off on Piro Restaurant: Hamburger Heaven in Shanghai’s French Concession

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