Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email

or

Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Shanghai’s dining scene still contains its share of neighborhood dumpling and noodle shops, but the overall trend is marching towards mall dining and chain stores in the ever-changing downtown, historic and suburban areas. A silver lining: At least a handful of our favorite street stalls have also taken the plunge into new digs, with the same dishes, but shiny (read: soulless) interiors. You win some, you lose a lot sometimes.

Benjia

Heading out to Gubei, Shanghai’s East Asian expat district, for Korean barbecue is one of our favorite meals any day of the week, but this year we brought a friend who took the meal to a whole new level. Alex Xu, the former chef/owner of Baoism turned Yunnan winemaker, smartly skirted the corkage fee by bringing a magnum of 2015 Domaine Marcel Lapierre Morgon. The versatile Beaujolais paired perfectly with our spread of gogi-gui, banchan and japche, and trips to Gubei have never been the same since.

FEAST

Food festivals are still something of a novelty in Shanghai, which made this year’s FEAST even more impressive. Held back in May, the two-day rooftop culinary extravaganza was on point. Our favorite local pop-up Fly By Jing was our first stop of the day for their famous zhong dumplings. These Sichuanese snacks are not available at any of the local restaurants, but Jenny Gao (the force behind FBJ) makes the sauce from scratch. It’s an addictive sweet and savory combination of sweetened reduced soy sauce, garlic, chile oil and Sichuan peppercorns. Fusion versions of Chengdu classic dishes were all the rage in Shanghai in 2017 (hopefully this trend continues for years…), and Taiwanese-American chef Austin Hu’s spicy chicken fingers (a peppercorn-dusted fast food play on lazi ji) was another favorite bite at FEAST. The guava, coconut and pineapple Hawaiian shave ice from Alan Wong’s was the perfect way to end a meal in the hot May sun. We’re still dreaming about it as winter envelops the city.

Jean-Georges

As China moves from a saving economy to a spending economy, conspicuous consumption is definitely on the rise, and more diners are frequenting places that look as good as the food tastes, like the local outpost of the Jean-Georges empire. This is not our usual kind of spot or night out, but for a recent celebratory meal – seven years of food tours in Shanghai! – we couldn’t pass up the insanely good price point of the restaurant’s Friday night Caviar Happy Hour. The combination of holiday decorations, Bund views and extensive cocktail collection (don’t miss the yuzu drop and the ginger margarita) coupled with inventive caviar-topped dishes all at RMB 88 each made this a clear winner. Everything is delicious, but whatever you do, don’t miss the signature, an intricately steamed egg whipped with heavy cream, vodka, salt, lemon juice and butter and topped – of course – with caviar. If there’s a dish that this year summed up for us what eating “local” in the new Shanghai global style means, this might have been it.

Kong Yi Ji

In preparation for hairy crab season, we hosted a dinner with all of our guides at Old Town’s Kong Yi Ji to taste test as much of the menu as possible. From the bamboo braised in pork jus to the shepherd’s purse wontons in hairy crab and goji berry broth, we discovered so many new dishes – plus the best Shaoxing huangjiu options in the city. We’ve been back to Kong Yi Ji multiple times, but nothing beats a jam-packed lazy Susan being spun by people who are obsessed with Chinese food and love discovering new dishes as much as we do.

Night Eats + Wine

What’s better than eating a fabulous meal with ten of your closest friends? Doing it for a worthy cause. This year’s Chi Fan for Charity (chifan means eat in Mandarin), took place in Beijing, Shanghai & Hong Kong, and raised over RMB 200,000 for two worthy charities. Normally only open to restaurant venues, we pushed the organizers to expand the event and were eventually able to participate this year with a special Night Eats + Wine Pairing Tour. We visited our classic evening tour stops, but for each dish we selected an award-winning boutique wine from around China. If you’ve ever thought about pairing hairy crab soup dumplings with a sparkling chardonnay from Shanxi province’s Taigu county – let us assure you, it works. At the second stop we cracked open a bottle (or three) of a 2014 Riesling from Kanaan Wineries in Ningxia to pair with our Xinjiang lamb skewers and hand-chopped wok-fried noodles (丁丁炒面). Pairing wine with regional Chinese cuisine is not an exact science, but we’re happy to be doing our part to test the boundaries of good taste.

Export as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen modeExport as GeoJSONExport as GeoRSSExport as ARML for Wikitude Augmented-Reality browser
Best Bites 2017: Shanghai

loading map - please wait...

Benjia (Original location): 31.172793, 121.374979
Benjia (Second location): 31.208468, 121.414407
Kong Yi Ji: 31.218197, 121.488326
Jean Georges: 31.234289, 121.491065
 
Benjia (Original location)
Address: 1339 Wuzhong Lu, near Jinhui Nan Lu.
吴中路1339号, 近金汇路
Telephone: +86 21 5118 2777
Hours: 10am-11pm
 
Benjia (Second location)
Address: 5/F, 1900 Tianshan Lu, near Yan’an Xi Lu,
entrance at back of driveway
天山路1900号, 近延安西路
Telephone: +86 21 6259 1189
Hours: 11am-10:30pm
 
Jean-Georges
Address: 4F, Three on the Bund, No. 3, Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road
Telephone: + 86 21 6321 7733
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 11:30am-2:30pm; Sat.-Sun. 11:30am-3pm; Mon.-Sun. 6-10:30pm (last order at 10:30pm)
 
Kong Yi Ji
Address: 36 Xuegong Jie, near Confucius Temple
学宫街36号近上海文庙
Telephone: +86 21 6376 7979
Hours: 10:30am-2pm & 4:30pm-10pm (last order at 8:30pm)
Menu: Chinese & Pictures

Related stories

May 4, 2017

Fly By Jing: Sichuan Supper Club

By Jamie Barys
Shanghai -- Whether we’re heading to Sichuan province for a little culinary vacation or just looking for the best bowl of dan dan mian in the city, there’s one person we call for dining recommendations: Jenny Gao. Born in Chengdu and raised in Canada, Gao’s family still lives in Sichuan, and since moving to Shanghai…
Join us for an exclusive visit to this winery followed by a village-style feast.
June 9, 2017

Andro Barnovi: In Service of Wine and Country

By Paul Rimple
Tbilisi -- Drive west of Tbilisi for about an hour on the backroad to Gori and you will find yourself in the heart of the Shida Kartli wine region. It is an awesome expanse of plains, rolling hills, jagged ridges and hidden valleys that provide a myriad of terroirs that grow some of Georgia’s most…
June 12, 2017

Goat Cheese and Fried Honeybees: Shanghai's Top 5 Yunnan Restaurants

By Jamie Barys
Shanghai -- Because of its location, topography and climate, Yunnan province resembles little of what many Westerners think of as “China.” The north is home to mountainous forests full of wild mushrooms and tribes tending goats, while down south tropical flowers and fruits grow in the hot, humid lowlands. More than 25 of China’s 55…