We live in Laoximen where the old west city gate of Shanghai was. This puts us walking distance from Yu Garden, one of Shanghai’s most popular attractions, and walking distance from Xintiandi, a favorite hangout for foreigners. But what I love most about where we live is the combination modern convenience with the picturesque old city around us with its chaotic but efficient markets and bustling street life. And I love the many places to eat that are walking distance from our apartment.Here are some recommendations for this region.
In Xintiandi, my number one recommendation for quality and value is Bellagio Cafe, a bright, clean, and delicious Taiwanese restaurant that has nothing to do with Italian food in spite of its Italian name. While Xintiandi tends to be very expensive, this place is not. Numerous delicious dishes are available for 30 to 50 RMB. Like many Chinese places, you will enjoy it most fully with a group so you can try lots of dishes. I took five people there two weeks ago, reserving a private room, and we ordered more than we could eat for a total of 570 RMB. Last night we managed to squeeze 13 people into the same private room that really should only seat 8, maybe 10, and we ordered many dishes, plus watermelon juice and their famous shaved ice desserts including mango ice, peanut ice, and strawberry ice (best!). Bill for the group of 13 was 1170 RMB. That’s less than $15 a person, and they were full and happy.
Bellagio is at 68 Taicang Road. A map and further details is available at SmartShanghai. There is also a Bellagio Cafe in the Hongqiao area that I’ve tried also. Very good.
Things to avoid: the shrimp with fried bread (youtiao) is a little disappointing. Favorites to try: The fish covered in red sauce. I think it’s yellow croaker, a favorite fish. It’s been deboned and is so tender and flavorful. The hakka soup and the bitter melon soup are both really good. Many Westerners are not used to bitter melon, but it’s a taste worth cultivating. The “three cup” chicken is also very flavorful. Their kong pao shrimp is also superb. Service is outstanding.
In the heart of Xintiandi, where things get really expensive, the 1930 Shanghai restaurant offers surprisingly inexpensive basic Chinese food and live entertainment at night. Food is simple but good. Small menu but very fun place.
Paulauners is a German restaurant almost next to 1930 that has relatively inexpensive dishes. Cost without drinks will be around 150 RMB or so per person. Fast service and good quality.
Back in the Laoximen area, Da Ma Tou Restaurant on the corner of Fuxing and Xizang South Road is a bustling, inexpensive, high-quality Chinese place with great desserts (mango ice, etc.) and many inexpensive items. They do have a dimsum menu if you can read Chinese, and a picture menu as I recall. Many inexpensive items.
Our favorite new discovery is on Fangxie Road, where there are several restaurants largely undiscovered by Westerners. Yunse Restaurant just opened and is delightful and very inexpensive. You can have a really delicious plate of wild mushrooms for 20 RMB. Many items are in the 20-35 RMB range. The mango ice is 25 RMB and the best I’ve tasted, I think. Big enough for two or three people. We’ll be trying more dishes shortly.