We don’t have kitchen this summer. We are eating out every single day. (!) So, I wrote some restaurant advice for the Guy’s colleagues. Who knows? Maybe the advice will be useful or interesting for others. So, here it is…
SECTION 1: Pleasant nearby restaurants
I’ll start with pleasant, reliable (if not quite award-winning) restaurants within walking distance of ECNU, organized by location.
Global Harbor Restaurants (the big new mall at the corner of Jinshajiang Lu and Zhongshan Beilu)
Spicy dip. Our favourite place in the big food court on floor 1B of Global Harbor is Spicy Dip. The deal is, you take a tray and fill it from an array of noodles and raw foods on skewers. You hand the tray to the customer service person. S/he asks you something like “la da ma?” (spicy?), you nod or shake your head as appropriate, you get a tag with a number on it, and the tray goes in a queue with others. When your turn comes, true to the name of the restaurant, the cook dips all the ingredients you selected into a boiling broth until they’re all perfectly cooked, then fills a bowl with them. You trade your numbered tag for the bowl, and then add whatever toppings you like. Really tasty, and no language skills in particular required. Two warnings: (1) They don’t accept cash. You must go to the cashier just outside the food court and purchase a card. This reloadable card is good for any of the restaurants in the food court. It’s a handy card to have in this neighbourhood. (2) The spicy sauce really is spicy, as are both of the types of chillis available as free extra toppings. Start conservatively and then ramp up the spicing once you know what you’re dealing with. Cost about 25-30 RMB per person (without a drink).
The Japanese udon noodle place also in the Global Harbor food court is quite good, authentic tasting and cheap (about 15-30 RMB per person).
Spicy. Global Harbor has a new restaurant (on the 3rd floor, I think, but I might be misremembering) called Spicy. The menu looks great – mostly Hunan and Szechuan food (see South Memory entry below for notes on Hunan food), with English translations in the menu. We tried to go last week, but it was bursting at the seams with customers, with easily 20 people sitting on benches outside the restaurant waiting to get in. Not having tried it yet, I can’t endorse it, but the combination of the good menu and the eager crowd waiting for seats suggests to me that the food is good. Worth a try. Prices looked to be around 75 RMB per person.
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Jinshajiang Lu Restaurants (All of these are on the same side of the road as ECNU)
Muhamat Restaurant. Food from Xinjiang Province in China’s northwest combines elements of central Asian and Han cuisine, as well as introducing some novel elements of its own (chewy hand-pulled noodles and black lager are two examples). In general, too, Xinjiang food is halal due to the province’s large Muslim (mostly ethnic Uyghurs) population. So, expect lamb, not pork, if meat’s your thing. Muhamat is probably the best Xinjiang restaurant very close to ECNU. They have a varied menu (with English!) of meat and veg dishes, and a Xinjiang version of a tandoor out front, where they bake their flatbread and cook skewers of meat to order. We love the eggplant and green peppers, the spicy green beans, and the Kazhak style potatoes. The meat-eaters among us love the fresh and varied meat skewers. About 50 RMB per person. Jinshajiang Lu near Yangliuqing Lu.
Uyghur noodle place. I don’t know this restaurant’s name because the sign is in Chinese only; so, here’s a photo: This place, located right beside a small electronics store a stone’s throw from Global Harbor (the restaurant isn’t far from Zhongshan Beilu on Jinshajiang), is cheap, fast, friendly and tasty. Uyghur noodles (or rice, if you prefer) topped with various tasty stews and things. No English, but there are photos on the wall you can point to. (The dish with the potatoes, the photograph of which hangs over the tiny kitchen, is delicious!) About 15 RMB per person.
Snoodle. Nothing special, but it’s pleasant, easy, consistent and completely non-scary. A bright, cheerful little noodle chain restaurant with friendly , helpful staff, cheap, tasty comfort food, English in the menu, and low prices. And it’s just around the corner! Jinshajiang at Zhonghan Beilu.
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Zhongshan Beilu Restaurants (i.e., the road under the elevated road) All of the places listed below are located between Jinshajiang and the campus main gate.
Christine’s. Downstairs, you can get decent western sandwiches for 20 RMB (and other Western goodies, at various counters on the main floor). Upstairs, there is fast, free wifi, tons of comfortable seating, wall sockets, coffee and other beverages, and hardly any other customers. It’s a quiet comfortable place to work, and they’ll let you sit as long as you want if you buy a drink. The chrysanthemum tea is really lovely, lightly sweetened and with other flowers added to the chrysanthemums.
1 *something something* Kitchen. I don’t really know the name. Here’s a picture: Foodwise, this place is just ok (but it really is ok). What it has going for it is that it’s easy for non-Chinese speakers to wrangle. Pick up a tray and move along the cafeteria style counter, pointing at the things you’d like. Pile them all on the tray, and then pay a pittance for them at the end. About 20-25 RMB per person. If you buy a drink and you want it cold, be sure to point to the fridge. The default setting for drinks here is room temperature.
Delicious street grills. Ok. Not really a restaurant, but you could do worse than selecting a bunch of tasty skewers from a street vendor like the one pictured below (the Kid thinks this is the best street grill kiosk on Zhongshan Beilu) and have him grill them off for you over open flames. If you want ‘em spicy, point to the salt shaker thingy. Super cheap – about 1-2 RMB per skewer.
James. A big, comfy ex-pat bar that opened just a month ago. Very cheap Western food and drinks, and nightly special. Cheap mojitos on Tuesdays. Wednesday is ladies night – “ladies” who wish to do so can pay 50 RMB for unlimited cocktails between 8pm and midnight. American and full English breakfasts earlier in the day. Billiards, big screen tvs (perfect for the remaining World Cup matches) ersatz karaoke from time to time… Staff is very friendly and accommodating.
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SECTION 2: Really good (but generally affordable) restaurants easily accessible by metro (All of the following restaurants have English menus.)
The Tandoor (Indian). French Concession. This is the very best Indian food I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot). The spices are wonderfully rich and complex. The service is impeccable too. It’s pricey, though. A fairly restrained dinner for two with a couple of drinks could easily cost 700 RMB. Still, well worth visiting at least once when you’re in Shanghai if you enjoy good Indian food. 59 Maoming Nanlu. (Inside the grounds of the JinJiang Hotel.) 021 6472 5494. Accepts foreign credit cards.
Southern Barbarian (Yunnan). French Concession. Yunnan cuisine is quite distinctive among Chinese regional cuisines. It’s delicate, well-structured and fresh. Key Yunnan ingredients include flowers, wild mushrooms and shreds of Yunnan ham. Southern Barbarian has a wonderful, varied menu, and the food is great. The atmosphere is clean and minimalist. The spotless kitchen is enclosed in glass; so, you can even watch your meal being cooked. An evening meal costs about 100 RMB per person, including a domestic beer. (Lots of great import beers on the menu if you don’t mind the prices (45 RMB and higher). The restaurant is hard to find. It’s inside a kind of “art mall”, up on the second floor. You have to walk through the mall to a kind of inner courtyard to reach the stairwell to the restaurant. Don’t let the smell in the staircase put you off. There’s a wc at the bottom that kind of stinks the place up. But SB itself is really clean and lovely. Small and popular; so make reservations or go on the off-hours. Enter at 56 Maoming Nanlu or 169 Jinxian Lu (after 9pm use Jinxian Lu entrance). 021 5157 5510. Cash only.
Xibo. (Xinjiang) Jing’An District. There’s lots of quite tasty Xinjiang food available near ECNU. Xibo is a bit more sophisticated, though. It’s kind of “Xinjiang Fusion.” The atmosphere is sleek and hip. The food features all the Uyghur favourites and some inventive twists. We loved the surprisingly light pumpkin dumplings, and the delicate olive pancakes (sort of Chinese soft tacos). I’m a vegetarian but my omnivorous fellow diners went mad for the flat bread stuffed with lamb and cheese. About 150-200 RMB per person, including drinks. The service is great too. The restaurant is spacious, but super popular; so reservations are a good idea. 3rd floor, 85 Changshu Lu. 021-54038330. Accepts foreign credit cards.
New Age Veggie. French Concession. (Asian vegetarian) A wide range of Asian and non-Asian dishes cooked in the Buddhist vegetarian tradition. One of our very favourite restaurants in Shanghai. We’ve been utterly wowed every time we’ve gone, as have our guests (regardless of whether or not they’re vegetarian). Frankly, the chefs must be alchemists. There is no other explanation for the amazing flavours and textures they are able to produce using solely vegetarian ingredients. Even their vegan salmon sashimi (!) is plausible and tasty. Wonderful teas and fresh squeezed juices too. Wonderfully flavourful, satisfying food in a comfortable atmosphere with a great view of Huaihai Zhong Lu and all its swanky stores. Note: no alcohol served here, although they do offer de-alcoholized wine and beer. No reservations necessary. About 100-150 RMB per person. 5th floor. 988 Huaihai Zhong Lu. I don’t know whether they take foreign credit cards, but I’m guessing not.
South Memory (Hunan) Multiple locations. South Memory is a wonderful chain of Hunan restaurants with tasty food, very good prices and a nice atmosphere. Hunan food is very spicy. Pork, fish and chillis are the most popular ingredients (although there is plenty at South Memory for vegetarians like me to enjoy). South Memory does a really good job of what are arguably the two most popular and iconic Hunan dishes – fish heads with two colours of chillis and noodles, and spicy eggplant with ground pork. Everything else at South Memory is yummy too. South Memory is one of my family’s go-to favourites when we’re in Nanjing or Shanghai. About 50-100 RMB per person. No foreign credit cards.
Lost Heaven (Yunnan). Huang Pu District. See all the notes about Yunnan food above. I haven’t tried the food at Lost Heaven. Marcia has. She said it was delicious, but expensive by Chinese standards. The atmosphere is jaw-droppingly gorgeous and the location is great for Bund-walking and Pudong-watching. While I haven’t tried the food, I’ve been to the rooftop cocktail lounge a couple of times. It’s wonderfully luxurious — burbling fountains, live bamboo clusters, big couches with beautiful, embroidered cushions, dim lighting and tastefully ambient music. And you can see the lights of Pudong and a few Bund rooftops from your seat. The cocktail menu is extensive and inventive, if pricey – about 70-80 RMB per drink. 17,Yan’an Dong Road,Shanghai. 021 63300967. Foreign credit cards accepted.
Legend Taste (Yunnan) Jing’An District. Another really tasty Yunnan place. This one has a kind of chill, batik, hippy vibe. It’s on a ground floor in a quiet, tree-lined neighbourhood and (if memory serves) it has a small patio. Lovely, hospitable service. Our favourite dish when we went last year was a cold tofu and eggplant dish. While you may not think you want either of these ingredients cold, the dish is a knock-out. Reservations are a good idea. 1025 Kangding Rd. 021 5228 9961. I don’t know whether or not they take foreign credit cards, but there’s a pretty good chance.