Shanghai Restaurants

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Shanghai Restaurant Reviews

You'll notice that most Chinese restaurants in Shanghai have large, round tables. The reason becomes clear the first time you eat a late dinner at a local restaurant and are surrounded by jovial, laughing groups of people toasting and topping off from communal bottles of beer, sharing cigarettes, and spinning the lazy Susan loaded with food. Whether feting guests or demonstrating their wealth, hosts will order massive, showy spreads.

Shanghai's standing as China's most international city is reflected in its dining scene. You can enjoy jiaozi (dumplings) for breakfast, foie gras for lunch, and Korean beef for dinner. It's traditional to order several dishes to share among your party. Tipping is not expected, but sophistication comes at a price. Although you can eat at Chinese restaurants for less than Y30 per person, Western meals go for Western prices.

Most restaurants in Shanghai offer set lunches—multicourse feasts—at a fraction of the dinner price. Also, check out the dining section of City Weekend, That's Shanghai, Time Out Shanghai, or Smartshanghai.com, all of which list dining discounts and promotions around town.

On the Menu

Shanghainese food is fairly typical Chinese, with dark, sweet, and oily dishes served in great abundance. The plates can be quite small—it's not unusual for two diners to polish off six different dishes. The drink of choice is huangjiu, or yellow wine. It's a mild-tasting sweetish rice wine that pairs well with the local cuisine.

Sometimes the finest dining experience in the city can be had with a steamer tray of xiaolongbao—Shanghai's signature dumplings, which are small steamed buns filled with pork and crab meat in broth. They're best eaten by poking a hole in the top with a chopstick—watch out, they're hot!—and sucking out the innards. Match dumplings with a cold beer. River fish is often the highlight (and most expensive part) of the meal, and hairy crab is a seasonal delicacy.

Meal Times

Dinner hours in restaurants begin at around 5 pm, but often carry on late into the night. Many of the classic restaurants popular with the Shanghainese only close after the last diners have left, which sometimes keeps them open until the wee hours of the morning. Generally, though, dinner is eaten between 6 and 11 pm.

Prices

Even in the fanciest restaurants, main courses are unlikely to cost more than US$50. However, famous restaurants charge as much as the international market will bear—prices that often don't reflect the quality of the dining experience. If you're looking for an excellent meal and you don't care about the restaurateur's name, then exceptional dining experiences can be had for half the price.

Great local food can be found for supremely cheap prices (starting at 20 cents per dish), both on the street and in sit-down restaurants. The experience of eating at a small restaurant is pure China.

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Shanghai Fodor's Choice Restaurants

  • Gongdelin
    • $
    • Nanjing Dong Lu and The Bund
  • Mercato
    • $$$
    • Nanjing Dong Lu and The Bund
  • Simply Thai
    • $$
    • Former French Concession
  • T8
    • $$$
    • Xintiandi and City Center

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