Best Bites of 2016 in Shanghai | Culinary Backstreets
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Shanghai’s dining scene was abuzz with controversy this fall as the Michelin Guide landed in the city for the first time ever. You can’t please everyone, but no one seemed happy with the disproportionate number of Cantonese restaurants that were recognized.

Thankfully, there’s still plenty of delicious variety in the city, starred or not, and we continued to chow down across the price and regional spectrum.

A Da Congyoubing, photo by UnTour ShanghaiA Da Cong You Bing

After 34 years of making the cult favorite scallion oil pancake, Mr. Wu was shut down by the government in September for not having the proper licenses. Thanks to the serious outcry from the city’s dedicated foodies, the district government helped the vendor expedite his licensing, and delivery start-up Ele.me found a new spot for him just a couple blocks from his apartment. He reopened to long lines of hungry Shanghainese diners in late October. After thinking I would never get to taste an A Da congyoubing again, that first bite into the savory pancake at the new stall was easily my best bite of the year.

Liu Dao Men

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is one of my favorite cities to slurp noodles (and UNESCO’s first city of gastronomy in Asia). So when I heard that a restaurant in Changning district was serving up authentic bowls of Chengdu-style street noodles, I was in. Liu Dao Men does not disappoint. Owned by a middle-aged rocker from Chengdu, Liu Dao Men does the best bowl of wǎn zá miàn (碗杂, spicy chickpea and minced pork noodles) in town and maybe the only decent tián shuǐmiàn (甜水面, literally “sweet water noodles,” served with a sweet and spicy sauce).

FU 1088

If you’re looking for the best Shanghainese food in this city and money is no object, then the FU group of restaurants (1015, 1039, 1088 and He Hui) are the places to go. FU 1088 is the cheapest of the bunch, requiring a minimum of RMB 400 (US$58) per person, not including alcohol. This year I was lucky enough to order and partake in a meal for 20 on someone else’s expense account. What does a food budget of RMB 8,000 get you here? The chance to order practically the entire menu at one of the city’s best restaurants, and thus many of my best bites of the year. Must-orders include the whole steamed shad (蒸鲥鱼, zhēng shí yú), stir-fried crab roe served with toast (清炒蟹粉, Qīng chǎo xièfěn) and tea-smoked eggs with caviar (鱼子熏蛋, Yúzǐ xūn dàn).

— Jamie Barys

Anthologia, photo by UnTour ShanghaiAnthologia

Anthologia hit the Shanghai dining scene in early 2016, bringing an audio-visual experience to Japanese fine dining that draws easy parallels to the much-lauded Ultraviolet. With just one seating per evening in an intimate tiered seating arrangement complete with stage and 180 degrees of floor-to-ceiling projection screens, Anthologia serves eight impeccable courses backed by trippy visuals, brief chef prep-work on stage and insane presentations.

Though the menu changes seasonally, our best bite was a generous portion of chilled hairy crab topped with roe on a bed of Inaniwa udon, delightfully presented with dry ice vapor pouring into the whole restaurant while the projection screens sent us flying over mountaintops. It’s an over-the-top experience to be sure, but worth the trip to impress a date or out-of-towners who don’t fully understand the range of dining experiences available to the lucky citizens of Shanghai.

Tai’an Table

If the name rings a bell, it’s probably because this autumn, Tai’an Table made international headlines after it was forced to shutter just one day after receiving a Michelin star (the first ever edition for Shanghai). Luckily, I had booked earlier this summer for another indulgent, multi-course affair helmed by the previously-starred Stefan Stiller. With the bar-stool seating and open kitchen, another style of dinner theater played out in front of me as Stiller and his chef de cuisine plated the intricate and delicious parade of dishes. Although I enjoyed all 14 courses, a highlight was the sweet finale, a cream cheese-umeboshi (pickled plum) brittle of sorts, studded with freeze dried strawberries and a dusting of matcha. Weird, wonderful and definitely memorable.

— Kyle Long

and Jamie Barys and Kyle Long

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