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

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

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

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

Scams in China (and Beyond): Some Tips

There are many scams that newcomers here must learn to avoid. The classic scam involves English speakers inviting Westerners to come to a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. After a cup or two, there’s a bill for a huge amount, with some hefty bouncers there to enforce payment. Ouch.

Online shopping in China or with Chinese companies can be a big risk. Here is a list of Chinese retail websites that are reported to be fraudulent. One friend of mine bought a computer on one of these sites and lost his money. One of the warning signs that he should have known about: they told him they don’t accept credit cards but needed the money sent via Western Union. That’s the same as handing someone cash. No recourse. No protection. Don’t ever buy anything via Western Union payments! Ever.

If you are coming here for a job, there a plenty of crooks that will sign up foreigners for jobs here that turn out to be closer to slave labor. They promise to get a visa faster than should be possible, and some smuggle people into the country illegally or bribe an official at a “diplomatic desk” to get the victim into the country. They then keep the person’s passport, making the person completely vulnerable and at risk of imprisonment or deportation if they don’t cooperate, etc. It’s human trafficking. Don’t fall for these scams. They are aimed largely at people from less developed countries.

Remember, there are people looking for ways to exploit you. Be suspicious. Be nervous. Don’t give your passport to people you don’t trust. Don’t pay people in advance with cash. Don’t let a charming smile lure you into an out-of-the-way place where you’ll have to pay a lot for your tee, or pay even more to replace your teeth. China is a great place abounding in kind, honest people, but the few crooks here and everywhere else force us to stay on our guard at all times. Be careful.

By |February 11th, 2014|Categories: China, Scams, Shopping, Travel tips|Tags: , , |Comments Off

A Few Odd Shots Around Shanghai

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By |February 10th, 2014|Categories: Photography|Tags: |Comments Off

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

Outstanding Buffets in Shanghai: Latina, Azur, Shangri-La, The Cook

Shanghai offers a variety of great buffets for wonderful meals when you’re hungry or need a lot of options for hard-to-please guests. When someone else is paying, my favorite is the expensive and overwhelming buffet at 2nd-floor cafe in the Shangri-La Hotel in PuDong. Exotic seafood, sushi, various Asian and European foods, and stunning desserts. I took a friend there for lunch and it was something he’ll never forget. But I won’t forget the 900 RMB bill, either (included 2 fruit juice drinks that added 160 or so to the bill). Too expensive for me. A similar offering is available at The Cook at the Kerry Hotel in PuDong, where I was truly delighted with the fresh seafood, the many other cuisines, and the great gelato and desserts. I was also delighted that someone else was paying.

When I’m paying, my favorite place to go now is the buffet at Latina in Xintiandi. Perhaps Shanghai’s best value. The buffet alone is 128 RMB plus a 15% service fee. The choices include several great meat dishes, some sushi and smoked salmon, and a big mix of vegetables, deserts, salads, and other foods including a favorite from Brazil, feijoada. Healthy, filling, delicious. For 398 a person you can have all the fresh roasted and barbecued meat that is brought to your table by waiters. I skipped that and stuck with the buffet. A remarkable value. Good service, efficient, clean, and very fun.

For salad bars at lunchtime, the Azur at the Renaissance at Zhongshan Park is remarkable and has one of Shanghai’s best views. 160 RMB per person, but often half price on Mondays for lunch. The dinner menu is different. I only go there for lunches. Organic greens, many good options, and ice cream. Fun.

By |December 7th, 2013|Categories: China|Tags: |Comments Off

Update on the Farmer’s Son, Recovering from Surgery #1

I’d like to introduce you to the most self-reliant people I have ever met. Noble people who have a message to some of my readers and friends: “Thank you for helping our son!” This is the family we met in Shanghai, where destiny and, in my opinion, the hand of the Lord brought us together. It is the family I previously discussed whose son has long been in need of surgery to correct a serious deformation of his leg (see the story here). We came to visit and see how their son is recuperating from a first flawed surgery. He is recovering well and is now able to stand, with the help of his friends. With a future surgery, we hope he will be able to walk more normally.

We left our comfortable, convenient city of Shanghai Friday night and flew out to Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, a smaller city with just 5 million people. From there we took a train to a much smaller town that many people here have never heard of, though it is about the same size as my hometown of Salt Lake City.  From there we took a car into farm territory and arrived at a tiny little farming village of just 180 people, with a handful of cement and brick buildings clustered together.

After living two years in one of the world’s largest cities, spending some time in a tiny farming village was a completely different experience, and probably our most magical time in China so far. Along with some gifts, we brought them some cash that some of you donated to help them pay the debt they have for the surgery their teenage son had in Shanghai. And now we are preparing for the next surgery that he going to need, this time the most important surgery, the operation to rebuild his knee that has been grossly deformed ever since a severe infection when he was a toddler.This family may be poor in monetary wealth but they are rich in the the things that matter most like love, integrity, and, as we also discovered, good food. Lots of good food that they planted and prepared themselves. The rice, the peanuts, the bitter melon, the various greens, the two kinds of herbal tea we tried, the beans, the chicken, the eggs, etc. I didn’t ask where they got the water snakes that turned out to be one of the especially delicious parts of our second meal in their home (I’m serious–I was really surprised), but I suppose they captured them out in their rice paddy. A small fraction of our feast had been purchased or traded with neighbors, but the vast majority was the work of their toil.

This rugged, self-sufficient family was impressed us with their love, goodness, and their competence in what they do. When we spent time with them in Shanghai, they seemed lost and confused, truly in need of someone to help look out for them, but on the farm, in their environment, they stood as masters, savvy, wise, competent, and fascinating. They were not the ones helping and lifting us.

They took us around to the various parts of their territory to show us the many crops they raised. We met relatives and friends with whom they share and cooperate, a wonderful example of what a community based on solid family values and love for one another can be. This was a happy place with the elderly and children spending time together, passing on values and principles. I saw no televisions. Water came from a well requiring a rope and a bucket. Luxuries were scarce. Chickens were abundant and roamed freely in some of the homes.

They were poor by our standards and by Shanghai standards, but they had everything they needed, with the obvious exception of competent health care for serious issues. Another child there was in need of surgery for a foot problem (I think it is clubfoot). With some additional help (use the PayPal button at the right if you wish), we can assist our family in getting the surgery they need for their son. If by chance we get more than is needed, I think this village will be a worthy target for ongoing external support. And perhaps some of you can join me one day in a future visit to this little piece of heaven on earth, hidden in the middle of China.

The foreign friends they wish to thank include some of you from the States and also some friends from Taiwan living here in China who have been wonderfully generous. Thank you!

A few photos follow. Note the fireworks exploding in the second picture: we got the fireworks treatment when we arrived and when we left. I think fireworks help drive away evil spirits. Did it work? You’ll have to be the judge. Maybe it takes two applications to be effective.

I should also mention the sweet woman in blue. She was so curious to meet us and so warm. After she met us, she went home and wrote a letter that she brought to us later in the day expressing her happiness to have us as new friends. It was such a kind letter. Really one of the sweetest, most gracious people I’ve met. She apologized that she only had two or three years of education and wasn’t cultured, but I wish everyone had that much culture.

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By |June 26th, 2013|Categories: China, Health, Photography|Tags: |Comments Off

Beware Asking the “King of Questions”: Twilight Zone Chat with Skype Customer Service

Today I thought I was entering a chat room with Skype’s technical support and customer service team. It looked like a chat room, but it was actually a journey into the heart of the Twilight  Zone.

While at the Los Angeles Airport, I was about to use the free wireless service provided here when suddenly Skype opened a window offering to connect with Skype Connect, a service I never want to use Skype Connect because I consider it way too expensive. The dialog box only had a connect button and no button that I could see to cancel or refuse the connection. While looking for a way to get out of the offered service, the dialog box disappeared and was replaced with a message saying that I was now connected. This is what I consider to be malware behavior. I immediately quit Skype, but then was wondering if this malware-like system had accrued unwanted charges. I looked for billing information in my Skype account but couldn’t find anything to answer my question. I was ticked off enough to want to know and not just let them bill me for unwanted services using a malware approach, so I went to Skype’s technical support page and launched a chat session with their support service. To do this, one must enter one’s Skype user name and password. In theory, you might think that the Skype customer service representative who you chat with should know who you are. In theory, one would also think that they should be able to answer a simple question: was I billed or not? That all sounds nice in theory, but theory isn’t always what we find in the Twilight Zone.

In my chat session, I would be asked again to provide my user name. Then I would be asked for my name. Then later I would be asked for my user name again. And then for my name again. And then, after a series of equally informative and entertaining inquiries of this nature, I would be told that it would take just a few minutes to find an answer to my question, and then when I checked to see if they even knew what question they were actually answering, I found out that they “don’t answer this king of questions.” Wow, I guess I really did it this time. I thought I was asking something simple, like was I billed or not, but this is actually the “King of Questions”–at least in the Twilight Zone of Skype Customer Service.

By the time my free internet access died, I would find out nothing about whether I was billed. I did learn a few things about Skype, but encountered some giant mysteries, like how a their reps can lose track of so much info so quickly, and why they won’t tell you at first when you’ve asked an unanswerable King of Questions. I am left with gaping mysteries, but I still learned enough to make me want to switch to some other service. The Chinese QQ system is said to be superior in many ways, and that may be my next stop. Other recommendations?

 

 

By |April 27th, 2013|Categories: Products|Tags: |Comments Off

A Jewish Deli with Montreal-Style Smoked Meats Comes to Shanghai

Tock’s, a Montreal deli, is a new sensation in the heart of Shanghai, our first Jewish deli with authentic Montreal-style smoked meats. Delicious! They import their beef from Australia (soon to be Calgary, Canada) and cure and smoke it on site. Turkey is also imported. Their duck comes from a certified organic, superior-quality site in Guangzhou. I’ve met some of the North American team behind this ambitious operation and they impress me, as does the food. Such great smoked meat, available in low fat, medium, and high fat versions.

The smoked meat sandwich is very popular at 75 RMB (95 for the giant size). I’ve enjoyed the smoked meat platter with beef and turkey (75 RMB, with other combinations possible) and their delicious chef salad for 55 RMB. Good service and a fun, bustling operation. Great for lunch. Not open for dinner at the moment, but will be in a few weeks.

231 Henan Zhong Road, just a little north of the Bund Center and not far from Nanjing Street.

 

By |April 24th, 2013|Categories: China, Food|Tags: |Comments Off

Dining in in the Laoximen and Xintiandi Area of Shanghai

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.

 

By |April 16th, 2013|Categories: China, Food|Tags: |Comments Off