Chinese, Russian and Ethiopian restaurants have been reviewed by me on another site that I write for, The Trainee Chef. More to come from this new venture!
Read my review below of the best “Chinese” restaurants in Shanghai, or click the link
The first thing that struck me on arriving in Shanghai three years ago and eating out was that everything I had thought about Chinese cuisine (or eaten) was in fact likely to have been based on a fabrication.
My favourite dim sum place on the high street back home? The local noodle shop? Firstly, they’re likely to be specifically Cantonese or Singaporean food, not “Chinese” and secondly, they’re likely have been adapted and adulterated to suit local tastes. After all, the Chinese have been in London since Shakespeare’s time, and in America since the late 1800s; and of course the cultural revolution of the 1980s saw vast numbers leaving mainland China to set up business throughout the rest of the world.
“Chinese food” is a bit like saying “western food”. And like that, there’s more to it than just dumplings and noodles. But this is being covered by the rest of the team throughout the month on the site, so I will stick to my task: identifying the best restaurants in Shanghai that explore the flavour of the rest of China.
Lost Heaven (Shanghai, Beijing)
Often the first port of call for out of town guests when being introduced to “Chinese” food, Lost Heaven specialises in Yunnan cuisine. Filled with rich earthy flavours and cleansing spices, it’s close in many ways to Tibetan, Burmese or Thai foods, using as it does, lime, lemongrass, red chilli and coriander. But it’s the variety of mushrooms, the use of tea as an ingredient and combination of mountain flavours that really set Yunnan dishes apart from the rest of the world.
Set in an atmospheric, beautiful dimly lit lane house in the French Concession, Lost Heaven’s presentation is part temple, part lounge bar, and presents itself as one of the best date nights you could ask for. Aside from exotic cuisine, it also serves outstanding cocktails. Their signature drinks blending, gin and purer tea, or lemongrass, chilli and vodka, are the best.
So, what should you eat?
Burmese Tea Leaf salad is an outstanding dish with, yes tea, but also shredded cabbage, fish sauce, peanuts, and something else… salty, crunchy bits that derive from lentils. We have asked on many occasions, but there doesn’t seem to be a known English translation. That’s part of the charm of Lost Heaven, and indeed eating out in China – you never quite know what you’re getting!
Da Li style Chicken is a crispy, citrus skinned, red pepper and green onion coated dish, complimented with garlic and ginger. It may sound like something from your local, but it’s the subtlety that sets it apart, surprising you as it does with the depth of flavour.
Reservations are a must (there are two locations in Shanghai and one in Beijing, but below is my favourite venue)
Phone – 0086 (0) 21 6433 5126
Address – 38 Gaoyou Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu 高邮路38号, 近复兴西路
Price – mid to high
Di Shui Dong (Shanghai)
There is one reason to place this local, low key, relatively cheap restaurant as one of the best in the whole of China: the ribs.
I know people who have hand-carried them back from China to share with old China hands now living back West. I personally have ordered a delivery of them only to place a second order before the first had even arrived at my house. And if those personal recommendations are not enough, CNN Traveller has them as number 19 on the list of 50 reasons why Shanghai is the world’s number 1 city. Yep.
These ribs are not appetisers. These are juicy, meaty, spicy, cumin coated, grab with both hands (and stock pile on your plate before they get taken), falling off the bone bad boys. Worth the trip to Shanghai alone.
Phone – 0086 (0) 21 6253 2689
Address – 2/F, 56 Maoming Nan Lu, near Changle Lu 茂名南路56号2楼, 近长乐路
Price – cheap
(here’s a recipe for those who want to give them a go at home:http://dadinnerblog.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/shanghai-food-hunan-cumin-ribs-di-shui-dongg-style/)
More Turkik or Arab in style than what you might have thought possible of Chinese foods, Xibo serves Xinjiang cuisine. Xinjiang people live mainly in the northwest of China, bordering and taking influence from Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet and Qinghai. It was the entry point of the Silk Road into China and as you might expect remains an incredible collision of cultures, foods and commerce.
Famed for their spicy lamb chops, fried bread and home made yoghurt, Xibo serves a finer, fresh style of Xinjiang food than anywhere else, catering for a more sophisticated palate. Mind you, it’s not Michelin cuisine by any stretch. They balance grilled meats with considered vegetable dishes such as delicate pumpkin dumplings and aubergine and pepper salad, and the moreish green bean and minced lamb crepes.
Phone – 0086 (0) 21 5403 8330
Address – 3/F, 83 Changshu Lu, near Julu Lu 常熟路83号3楼, 近巨鹿路
Price – cheap to mid