In the early 20th century Shanghai emerged as a major trading city known around the world for its cosmopolitan mix of peoples and vibrant style. As international investment poured in, and British, French, American and other entrepreneurs developed the city, they brought with them foreign cuisines that became widely accepted by the food-loving Chinese, adding to famous food traditions from Huaiyang, Canton and Zhejiang to create a smorgasbord of restaurants offering superb dining to suit all tastes.
Today there are so many excellent restaurants in Shanghai it’s almost impossible to give anything more than a broad overview of the city’s culinary landscape, but we’ve collected a few personal picks that give a taster of Shanghai’s stylish dining options.
LAGO by Julian Serrano
Talented US chef Julian Serrano recently introduced his famous restaurant from Las Vegas to the Bellagio Shanghai, bringing a dining concept that highlights Italian small plates and side dishes – following the modern trend of “appetizers as the new main course.” LAGO offers Italian dishes such as vitello tonnato (cold sliced veal), strozzapreti pasta and ABG dry-aged tomahawk steak, and if you love dessert, you shouldn’t miss the classic Italian affogato.
The restaurant’s interior design has a space-age feeling; walking through the long, glass-decorated tunnel at the entrance you’ll see a shining red-hued wine cabinet, within which more than 300 bottles of wines from around the world are stored (the accent is on Italian, of course). The spacious dining area is connected to an outdoor terrace with expansive views of the Huangpu River and Lujiazui district (there’s also a private dining room).
Open 6:00 PM – 10:30 PM daily
ADDRESS 6/F, 188 Beisuzhou Road, Hongkou District
CONTACT +86 21 3680 6777; bellagioshanghai.com
Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet
The mysterious Ultraviolet is hard to categorize. For starters you won’t even know where it is until your booking is confirmed – and that’s hard enough to do as there’s only one table with ten seats. You also need to pay for your meal in advance at the time of booking.
This three-star Michelin restaurant is more artistic than luxurious, using technology to activate your emotions and trigger your taste buds. During the 20-course feast, graphics are shown on the white walls and accompanied by lights, sounds and smells, activating your gastronomic imagination. Paul Pairet’s avant-garde style surprises you with the taste of each course; combined with sounds and imagery designed to tell a story, it’s a unique multi-sensory experience that’s well worth the extra effort to book.
Open Tue to Sat from 6:30 PM
ADDRESS Meet at Mr & Mrs Bund restaurant, 6/F Bund 18, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road, Huangpu
The “demon chef” Alvin Leung is good at injecting new techniques and flavors into a traditional recipe, creating his own “X-Treme” Chinese cuisine. Bo Shanghai is a secret fine-dining restaurant hidden behind the Daimon Bistro – Leung’s other restaurant – and boasts just 26 seats, with six of them arranged at a live cooking station. The 12-course tasting menu emphasizes the variety of Chinese cuisine, with traditional dishes from China’s eight different regions, put together with Leung’s imaginative fusion skills. A recently launched menu titled “Journey” offers 13 dishes – a mix of reimagined Italian and Chinese recipes.
Open 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM, closed on Tue
ADDRESS Bund 5, 6/F, 20 Guangdong Road
CONTACT +86 21 5383 3656; [email protected]
The Chop Chop Club
The Chop Chop Club is a new carvery by UNICO Shanghai that specializes in grilled meats. Designed for group gatherings, this restaurant is all about the communal or shared dining experience. Signature dishes include char-roasted chicken, char-roasted lamb shoulder and grilled sea bass – with carefully controlled cooking times to keep the meats’ skin crispy and moist. Roasted leg of lamb, barbecued piglet, turbot grilled over an open fire, salt-encrusted snapper, pressure-steamed crab, charred beef tongue and other mouth-watering dishes are all carved on a centerpiece wooden deck.
A new range of bottled cocktails as well as creative cocktails made to order, plus an extensive selection of aperitifs, wines and champagnes accompany the food.
Open 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM daily
ADDRESS 2/F Three on the Bund, 17 Guangdong Road, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Road
CONTACT +86 21 5308 5399; unicoshanghai.com
Shang-High serves classic Shanghainese cuisine with the emphasis on distinctive flavors, creative interpretations and modern cooking techniques. Awarded a Michelin star for the last two years, it is directed by executive Chinese chef Frank Hu, who specializes in creating Chinese cuisine using international ingredients. One must-try dish is his braised beef cheek with black truffles, the supremely tender meat rendered fragrant by the thinly sliced truffles. If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, try the unusual – braised cuttlefish with pigeon eggs or smoked pomfret. Both are iconic Shanghainese dishes, given a modern touch by adding different ingredients.
Open 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM and 6:00 PM – 10:30 PM daily
ADDRESS Level 6, Jumeirah Himalayas Hotel
CONTACT +86 21 3858 0728; [email protected]
Xindalu – China Kitchen is located in Hyatt on the Bund. A popular restaurant with a stylish dining environment, its dishes are made in traditional Shanghai and Zhejiang style, and prepared in the open kitchen. Here, chefs showcase their skill in making hairy crab roe dumplings and pot-sticker pork dumplings – a visual feast preceding a delicious meal. Don’t miss the signature roasted Peking duck (the chef is from Beijing), which is made using traditional ingredients and an apple-wood fired oven to roast the duck. Xindalu also regularly brings out new menus, with seasonal dishes featuring fresh ingredients available only during specific times of the year.
Open 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM and 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM daily
ADDRESS Lobby level, East Tower, 199 Huangpu Road
CONTACT +86 21 6393 1234 ext 6318; shanghaithebund.hyatt.com
Yong Yi Ting
Shanghai and its neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces are known as the home of Jiangnan cuisine. Yong Yi Ting, at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong, specializes in the refined seasonal dishes of this regional food. Consultant Chef Tony Lu chooses the freshest seasonal ingredients to create such classic signature dishes as stewed “lion’s head” pork dumpling filled with crabmeat in sweet soy sauce, and yellow croaker wonton soup with salted vegetables.
Yong Yi Ting is elegantly designed and offers six luxurious private dining rooms, some connected to the outdoor terrace overlooking the garden. There’s also a chef’s live-cooking table and a wine cellar storing a great selection of wines from around the world. A specialty of the restaurant is a choice of 20 precious Chinese teas to pair with your Jiangnan dim sum.
Open 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM and 5:30 – 10:30 PM daily
ADDRESS LG1, 111 Pudong Road (S), Pudong
CONTACT +86 21 2082 9978; mandarinoriental.com