Shanghai's faddish restaurant scene continues to move slickly up the gears with a determination to impress foodies from all shades of the culinary spectrum. Food fashions sweep through the city's kitchens, rewriting cookbooks and dumping yesterday's flavours into the pedal bin. Restaurants open and close with metronomelike regularity, so expect gastronomes to be tripping over themselves to book tables at the latest and snazziest by the time you read this. Plug into the current trends by reading That's Shanghai and its annual Shanghai Restaurant Guide (Y50).
While travellers budgeting for extravagant dining will be mesmerised by the sheer variety, tight budgeteers will find a similarly mindboggling choice from side street food markets and hole-in-the-wall restaurants to huge food malls and chain noodle restaurants such as Ajisen. In pricier restaurants the set lunches offer the best value; dinners are often double the price. Local supermarkets are in almost every residential area and often stock many Western food items.
Sample Shanghai's favourite dumpling, xiaolongbao , copied everywhere else in China but only true to form here. A steamer of four costs just Y5; packed with scalding meat juices, bite with caution. Also look out for skewered lamb kebabs, grilled up by streetside chefs from Xinjiang, sprinkled with chilli and cumin.
The Bund & East Nanjing Rd
A lot's cooking near the Bund: Chinese fast food, bars, coffee shops and a fast-expanding troupe of elegant Western and Chinese restaurants, staking out territory along a sumptuous skyline.
For all kinds of cheap eats try the Zhapu Rd food street : near the Pujiang Hotel, or the Yunnan Rd food street , not far from Renmin Sq.
Shanghai No 1 Food Store: It's a riot, but this is how the Shanghainese shop. Trawl the ground floor for egg tarts, scrummy Beard Papa cream puffs, micropizzas, strips of zhuroufu (Steffi; dried sweetened pork) and dried seafood, or pop a straw into a thirst-quenching coconut.
Megabits : King of the food courts, Megabite offers Chinese and other Asian food in abundance for poorly financed and busy diners, with handy branches around town. Prepay, grab a card and head to the stall of your choice for on-the-spot service. Chefs cook it all up in front of you, dispensing with menus. There's also a branch at Carrefour in Gubei (Map pp236-7).
Ajisen :Simply hopping come weal time, this Japanese chain escorts diners to the noodle dish of their choice via easy-toe
photo menus and diligent squads of staff in regulation black T-shirt and jeans. Dishes perfectly resemble their photo-menu variants, so a further thumbs up for that. Oodles of branches around town, including two near Shanghai train station.
M on the Bund : With table linen flapping in the breeze alongside exclusive rooftop views to Pudong, the grand dame of the Bund's elegant formula still elicits applause from Shanghai's gastronomes. Park yourself in a wicker chair, reach for the mismatched bone-handled cutlery and treat yourself to a two- or three-course set lunch, or go the whole hog on the crispy suckling pig. Reservations a must; alcoholic refreshments available in the ravishing Glamour Bar (p266).
Sens & Bund : The opening of this fine French dining creation from Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, situated deliciously on the Bund, was greeted with euphoria by Shanghai's food-lovers. Reserve way ahead if you want a table overlooking the river.
Bai's Restaurant: This alley-end Bai family restaurant matches its small personality with only a handful of tables, but the food is deservedly popular, so book ahead. Try a few of Bai's fried savoury pork ribs. Photo menu.
Dongbeiren : Thejiaozi at this sprightly outfit are as true to the Chinese northeast as the Dongbei waiters. Besides tummy-filling lamb, pork and beef dumplings, aim for the tender Sun Island flaming dragon fish or the hefty boneless pork knuckle, but pass on the dry lamb kebabs. Further branch at 46 Panyu Rd ( 5230 2230).
Paul : Join the queue of francophones at this popular bakery for a coffee eclair, maca-ronpistache, or a plain croissant or baguette, or maintain your poise perched outside with a coffee.
Wiiyue Renjia : Stuffed away down an alley off Huaihai Rd, and at a handful of other locations, this pocket-sized noodle house is the best thing since sliced bread. The calming traditional Chinese decor is perfectly complemented by steaming bowls of wholesome noodles. You may have to share your table with a stranger or two, and decoding the cryptic Chinese menu can short-circuit your brain, but our advice is to go for theyuxiang rousimian (ft fF^j££jIf; fish-flavoured pork strips with noodles; Y13) and the fine bite-sized chunks of congyoutang huntun (M$\ffiiffifflL; wonton soup with onion; Y6). The excellent xidbao shanbei mian comes with shrimp and fried eels in an oniony fish soup (Y16).
Baoluo Jiiilou : Gather up a boisterous bunch of friends and join Shanghainese night owls queuing down the street all through the night to get into this amazingly busy place. Open till 6am, it's a great place to get a feel for Shanghai's famous buzz. Try the excellent ruishi niupdi (Sfzt^S; Swiss steak) or the baoluo kaoman .
Dishuidong : Shanghai's favourite Hunanese restaurant is surprisingly low-key, but the menu is sure-fire, albeit mild for one of China's spiciest culinary traditions. The mala doufu hits the mark; flesh out the meal with the mdogong hongshao rou (stewed pork in sauce of Chairman Mao's style).
Boduo Xinji : Glance through the window of this cramped outpost of Cantonese/Chaozhou cuisine and note the ease with which it takes Shanghai's notoriously fickle diners hostage with a much loved, spot-on menu. Three branches in town.
For light and healthy Chinese organic vegetarian food, with zero meat and precious little oil, this bright place has excellent dishes, including sweet Wiixi spare ribs stuffed with lotus root. No alcohol and no smoking it may be, but there's an English menu and the health-conscious, ecofriendly mentality extends all the way to the toothpicks (made from corn flour). Further branch at 258 Fengxian Rd
1221 :is excellent, as are the drunken chicken and ydutido niurou . The pan-fried sticky rice and sweet bean paste (from the dim sum menu) makes a good dessert. It's also worth ordering the eight-fragrance tea just to watch it served spectacularly out of 60cm-long spouts. The service is excellent.
Simply Thai : Everyone raves about this place for its delicious, MSG-free dishes and crisp decor. There's nice outdoor seating, a choice of 55 different wines and lunch specials are good value. Look out for Monday bargains (5pm to 7pm), with 50% off dishes on orders over Y60 per person. Further branches in Xintiandi and Hongmei Rd Entertainment St.
Lost Heaven : Dai and Miao folk cuisine from China's mighty southwest, served up in appetising surrounds. Photo menu.
Azul :This Latin place is popular for its fresh New World cuisine and hip decor. Downstairs is the cool tapas bar and lounging area, while upstairs is Viva, a more formal space with a creative menu.
Sasha's:Total tender loving care has been thrown at Sasha's, a gorgeous, high-ceilinged French Concession refit cafe that once housed Soong family scions. It's pricey but requires minimal effort to get into its soothing groove (wood floorboards, abundant natural light, lovely garden). There's also a restaurant upstairs (open 6pm to 10.30pm).
Vedas: Shanghai's standout curry house is seductively designed with an inviting wood finish and open kitchen. At the cooler end of the curry spectrum, the dishes won't scorch your tonsils: the chicken korma is smooth and tasty, but things get fiercer with the lamb vindaloo.
A Future Perfect:Winning spot buried down an alley next to the charming Old House Inn with an unfussy, appealing menu and enticing courtyard garden aspect for alfresco meals.
Mesa : All space and light, Mesa's impressive continental menu and weekend brunches work their magic best after aperitifs at its adjacent bar, Manifesto. In warm weather, the voluminous interior further spills out onto the terrace decking above Julu Rd and the play area for kids is a source of joy for overstressed parents.
T8 :Dishes here are best described as modern Mediterranean fusion with Asian influences, while the luxurious, seductively dark inte-rior combines with subtle flavours and choice presentation to craft a culinary phenomenon. Dress to impress.
Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant : Take your place in the queue of regulars trailing from this place opposite the Huxinting Teahouse and fill yourself up with more than a dozen xiaolongbao for a mere Y8. Upstairs offers seating to the scrums.
West Nanjing Rd & Jing'an
Gongdelin Vegetarian Restaurant : The podgy effigy of Milefo (the laughing Buddha) and the faint aroma of temple incense hint at the Buddhist creed of this elegantly refitted vegetarian restaurant, housed in a redbrick building dating from 1922. The fleshless food - served in a graceful environment of stone flagging and water features - delivers shots of good karma and energising meat-free calories. The sign says 'Godly Restaurant'.
Element Fresh : The focus at this bright and stylish spot is on healthy sandwiches, fresh juices and imaginative smoothies for the young laptop crowd. Spoon up some homemade hummus (Y54) or chill out with a cooling salad. Other branches are at the Superbrand Mall in Pudong and Grand Gateway in Xujiahui and there's an express branch at 279 Wuxing Rd .
City Shop : For obscure foods from home or Western pharmaceutical items in a hurry, this chain is convenient but items are priced to the hilt. Free delivery service. Other branches include the shop in the basement of Times Sq, 99 Central Huaihai Rd .
Pudong New Area
On 56 : If it's a special night out with a view you're after, the steakhouse Grill, Japanese Kobachi, Italian Cucina and Cantonese-style Canton restaurants at the Grand Hyatt really can't be beaten. The breathtaking atrium is a great place to meet. On the 54th floor, the Grand Cafe (open 24 hours) offers stunning views through its glass walls, and a good-value buffet (weekdays/weekends Y198/268).
Carrefour : with eight branches in town, the French hypermarket giant has very reasonable prices for its excellent selection of food, clothes and household items.
Uighur Restaurant : Perhaps the only thing interrupting your enjoyment of a whole shoulder of lamb and spicy tiger salad are the waiters dragging diners off for a whirl to Uighur folk songs.
Donglaishiin : Mongolian-hotpot king Donglaishun is the perfect antidote for those clammy, frigid Shanghai winters, but any season will do. There's no English menu so hand gesticulations may be required. Look for the green sign across the road from Ajisen.
Ye Olde Station Restaurant :With dark green shutters and a cream exterior, this is actually a former convent, across the road from the Bibliotheca Zi-Ka-Wei. The Shanghai cuisine is unsurprising, but the setting and period features, such as the original tiled floors and upstairs chapel, are unique. Book a table in one of the old train carriages in the rear garden.
Lianhua Supermarket : One of many branches in town with a huge stock of reasonably priced goods and a great deli. Look out for Beard Papa's gorgeous cream puffs.
DRINKING Cafes & Teahouses
Boonna Cafe : The quietly trendy Boonna is set back from the action on leafy Xinle Rd. Shell out a mere Y10 for the house coffee, leaf through the appetising menu and book exchange, and applaud an excellent choice of music. Patrons get a free 30-minute chunk of internet use. Further branch at 57 West Fuxing Rd ( 6433 7142). Wi-fi and bilingual staff.
Bund 12 Cafe: With a lovely terrace and an inimitable location within the Bund's HSBC building, this is a soothingly civilised coffee spot.
Kommune : This trendy spot with aluminium furniture is ideal for a coffee or fruit juice (as well as full-on Y48 Sunday big breakfasts) in the Taikang Road Art Centre .
Vienna Cafe : A deft blend of sophisticated and casual, this is the ideal bolthole from Shanghai's shrill urban vibe. Chinese movie night of the Wong Kar-wai variety every Thursday (8pm to 11pm).
Bandu Cabin : Welcoming low-key Moganshan Road Art Centre enclave with pine tables, low-cost menu (noodles, sandwiches, coffee) and traditional Chinese musical events on Saturday evening.
Old Shanghai Teahouse : Heading up here is like barging into someone's attic, where ancient gramophones, records, typewriters, fire extinguishers and even an ancient Frigidaire refrigerator share space with the aroma of Chinese tea.
Shanghai is awash with watering holes, their fortunes cresting and falling with the vagaries of the latest vogue. Perhaps because of Shanghai's notoriously boggy foundations, bars regularly sink without a trace, while others suddenly pop up like corks from nowhere. Today the city has an inventive and wide-ranging concoction of different bar types, from gritty student dives through solid Irish pubs and sports bars to jazzy cocktail bars, seductive wine lounges and elegant, fashion-conscious establishments operating from often grandiose concession-era buildings. Drinks are generally pricey, retailing for around Y40 at most popular bars, so happy hour visits (typically 5pm to 8pm) can be crucial. Bars usually open late afternoon (but many open earlier), calling it a night at around 2am.
Captain Bar : There's the odd drunken sailor and the crummy lift needs a rethink, but this is a fine Bund-side terrace-equipped bar atop the Captain Hostel. Come for phosphorescent nocturnal Pudong views without wall-to-wall preening sophisticates.
New Heights : The terrace of this wildly popular restaurant-bar pretty much has the definitive angle on Liijiazui's neon nightfall overture.
Glamour Bar : Michelle Garnaut's stylish Bund bar moved down a floor from its formerly cramped quarters to this splendidly restored space centred on a dazzling stainless-steel bar issuing a steady stream of colourful cocktails.
Barbarossa : Bringing a whiff of Middle Eastern promise to the Pearl of the Orient, this Moroccan-styled bar-restaurant sits pond-side in Renmin Park like something from a mirage. More than a mere novelty, there's excellent music, fabulous outside seating and remarkable evening views.
O'Malley's Bar : The Irish pub theme straddles China from Qingdao to Chengdu like a gigantic, synthetic Celtic harp, but few come with such enticing lawns or the classy French Concession perch. The fantastic kids' club goes down a real treat with expat families, but the hefty meat breakfast could be a challenge for all but the most unrepentant carnivore.
Big Bamboo (:Huge, extroverted sports bar ranging over two floors with beefy American menu (set lunches 11am to 3pm), mammoth sports screen backed up by a constellation of TV sets, Guinness, pool, darts, DJ and live music nights. Smaller branch on Hongmei Rd Entertainment St .
Arch :Stylishly ensconced on the ground floor of a flatiron building, Arch remains deservedly high on any popular survey. Thursday is film night down in the basement.
Face Bar : Wonderfully installed on the ground floor of a 1936 mansion, Face exudes a languorous sophistication and a soothing colonial charm. It's elegant, decorated with chinoi-serie and staffed by polite waiters. Prices aren't cheap (turn up for happy hour), but there's nowhere better to take a date or laze in front of a manicured lawn on a summer's afternoon. The excellent but pricey Lan Na Thai ( 6466 4328) and Indian-style Hazara ( 6466 4328) restaurants offer top cuisine in the same building.
Time Passage : If you like cheap beer (ultracheap 6.30pm to 2am Monday through Wednesday), an undemanding, lived-in ambience and John and Yoko posters, this student-set bar has been charting its passage since 1994. Despite the address, the bar is actually on Caojiayan Rd , smacked by balls from the adjacent tennis court. Live music - often impromptu - takes to the air every Friday and Saturday after 10.30pm, while Tuesday evening is cut-price pints night.
C's :In every detail the exact opposite of the Glamour Bar, this grungy basement intermingling of ultracheap booze (Y10 beers), graffiti-covered walls and paralytic students is worth a glance or two for its anarchic, subcultural dungeon vibe. Just try not to get lost in the murky, warrenlike interior.
Bund Brewery : Popular Bund-side bar-cum-restaurant with its own much-drunk microbrewed ales.
There's something for most moods in Shanghai: opera, rock, hip-hop, techno, salsa and early morning waltzes in Renmin Sq. None of it comes cheap, however (except for the waltzing, which is free). A night on the town in Shanghai is comparable to a night out in Hong Kong or Taipei and it's not getting any cheaper.
Venues open and close all the time. Check out the Shanghai entertainment magazines (see p245) for guidance.
Apart from the places listed here, other bars, cafes and restaurants, such as Glamour Bar (jazz; opposite) and Bandu Cabin (traditional Chinese music; opposite) stage musical performances.
JZ Club : Clued-up setting for contemporary jazz sounds with an enthusiastic following and Monday open-mic nights.
House of Blues & Jazz : Serious jazz- and blues-lovers should make a beeline to this restaurant and bar where the in-house band (which changes every three months) whips up live music from 10pm to lam.
Logo : OK, so the cigarette-burned sofas won't wow your Italian date, but Logo proffers a winning menu of late-night live sounds - ranging wildly from Latin American through reggae and punk - to a diverse alternative crowd.
Shanghai's swift transition from dead zone to party animal and its reputation as a city on the move forges an inventive clubbing attitude and a constant stream of clubbers. Clubs range from huge, swanky spaces dedicated to the preening Hong Kong and white-collar crowd to more relaxed, intimate spots and trendy bars that rustle up weekend DJs. There's a high turnover, so check listings magazines for the latest on the club scene. Zi-Ka-Wei. The Shanghai cuisine is unsurprising, but the setting and period features, such as the original tiled floors and upstairs chapel, are unique. Book a table in one of the old train carriages in the rear garden.
Attica : One of Shanghai's hippest clubs, this Bund-side fix-ture combines a hip-hop room, much-loved roof terraces and Pudong views with a vi-brant, young set and a cashed-up crowd.
Bonbon : Shanghai's pul-sating hub for the hip young crowd, with ' discounted admission after 2am.
Pu-J's : The Grand Hyatt's extrava-gant entertainment multiplex brings you venues to suit your mood: jazz, live music, dance and karaoke.
Gay & Lesbian Venues
Shanghai has a few places catering to gay patrons, but locales keep moving around, so check the listings. Men and women, gay and straight are welcome at the places listed here.
Eddy's Bar : A gay-friendly bar-cafe attracting a slightly more mature Chinese and international gay crowd with inexpensive drinks and neat decor.
Pink Home : This welcom-ing and popular bar is next to China's first gay hotel, Hotel 101 (5383 1199/1888; 18 Gaolan Rd).
Classical Music, Opera & Theatre
Shanghai Grand Theatre :This state-of-the-art venue is in Renmin Sq and features both national and international opera, dance, music and theatre performances.
Shanghai Concert Hall : Equipped with fine acous-tics, this 75-year-old building is the venue for regular performances by orchestras in-cluding the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra.
Oriental Arts Centre :Shanghai's latest cultural centre, designed by
Paul Andreu, features a 2000-seat philhar-monic orchestra hall, a 300-seat chamber-music hall and a 100-seat theatre.
Conservatory of Music: Classical and traditional Chinese musical performances are held here at 7.15pm (typically on Saturdays and Sundays, but other days as well). Tickets are available from the ticket office just north of the conservatory, amid the musical instru-ment shops, at 8 Fenyang Rd.
Majestic Theatre : All kinds of performances are held in this former cinema, including ballet, local opera and the occasional revolutionary-style opera. Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre (Shanghai Huajii
Zhongxin : Modern plays in Chinese are staged here.
Only a limited (and generally late) selection of English-language films make it to cinemas; they are often dubbed into Chinese, so ensure your film is the English version . Tickets cost Y40 to Y60; they're often half price on Tuesdays.
Peace Cinema : A useful location at Raffles Plaza by Renmin Sq, with an IMAX cinema (Y70).
Studio City (Huanyi Dianyingcheng; 6218 2173; 10th fl, Westgate Mall, 1038 West Nanjing Rd)
UME Internationa! Cineplex (UME; Guoji Yingcheng; 63841122; www.ume.com.cn; 4th fl, 6, Lane 123, Xingye Rd, Xmtiandi)
Yifu Theatre: A block east of Renmin Sq, this is the main opera theatre in town, staging a variety of regional operatic styles, including Beijing opera, Kunqu opera and Yue opera, with a Beijing opera highlights show several times a week at 1.30pm and 7.15pm. A shop in the foyer sells CD recordings of operatic works.
Chinese acrobatic troupes are among the best in the world, and Shanghai is a good place for performances.
Shanghai Centre : The Shanghai Acrobatics Troupe (Shanghai Zaji Tuan) has short but entertaining performances here most nights at 7.30pm.
Shanghai Circus World : Elegant modern acrobatics with multi-media elements and an impressive modern venue. Nightly shows at 7.30pm.
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