Neighborhood Restaurants

Restaurants near Quintet B&B and around Shanghai’s French Concession neighborhood.

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When you are visiting Shanghai, be sure to try both of these local snacks.  Both of them are types of “bao”, or dumplings, which are typically meat wrapped in flour dough.

Xiao Long Bao 小笼包, or soup dumpling, got its name from the small, round bamboo steam that the dumpling is always served in.  The well-made ones have very thin shells, almost translucent after steaming.  These little pouches are able to hold soup inside because soup jello made of chicken and pork stock is mixed in with fresh ground meat or seafood as filling, so when steamed, the jello transforms into juice.

The most expensive type of xiao long bao is that made with pure crab meat/roe filling.  I have to say they really taste completely different from the pork type.  If you like crab and seafood, you should splurge and try it out.  The taste of xiao long bao is enhanced when you dipped it in Zhejiang black vinegar with sliced ginger.

Places to try them:

Jia Jia Tang Bao 佳家汤包 - 黄河路90号(近凤阳路)  The original shop is on Huang He Rd near the People’s  Park (across from the Shanghai Art Museum off of Nanjing Rd).  They sell only xiao long baos and a couple simple soups.  The line is long everyday around noon and the shop closes when the baos are sold out (which is usually around 5-6pm).

Din Tai Fung 鼎泰丰 - 兴业路123弄新天地南里6号楼2楼(近马当路) Multiple locations in Shanghai with 3 in convenient locations:  Xintiandi’s cineplex builing, near Yu Garden, and Superbrand Mall in Pudong near the Oriental Pearl Tower. Xiao long baos go luxury at this Taiwanese establishment.  If you’re looking for nicer environment and service, and more delicate food and presenation, this is the place.  The prices of the baos are 2x-3x the price at Jia Jia.  This is a full-menu restaurant with noodles, wontons, and rice dishes.

There are also many neighborhood eateries that sell them but most of the time the look and taste are run-of-the-mill.  Another famous place is the Nanxiang Man Tou 南翔馒头 shop in the Yu Garden - constantly mobbed by tourists but I’d say both the baos and service are mediocre.  Go with the above 2 places if you will only try xiao long bao once.

Sheng Jian Bao 生煎包, or fried dumpling, has a thicker and chewier shell than xiao long bao.  Ground pork, chopped cabbage, and/or crab roe are also the usual filling (pork is used A LOT in Chinese dishes).  The dumplings are cooked a batch at a time in a big, round greased pan.  Several rounds of water is added and evaporated as the dumplings are getting cooked, creating a golden, crispy bottom.  Scallion and sesame seeds are usually added to enhance the aroma and look.  When eating the dumpling, you can dip it black vinegar for taste.

Places to try them:

Yang\'s Fried DumplingYang’s Fried Dumpling 吴江路54-60号(近南京西路) - the original shop is on Wujiang Rd near Nanjing W Rd subway station.  There’s always a long line of people waiting outside.  They also opened a newer shop inside the InPoint Mall, which is also on Wujiang Rd but in the new building on the next block where KFC is located.  There’s also one branch across the street from Jia Jia on Huanghe Rd but you might not have the stomach to eat all these dumplings at the same time!

Shanghainese restaurants also do good rendition of fried dumpling, two good places to try are Baoluo Restaurant 保罗酒楼 on Fumin Rd and Nanling Restaurant 南伶酒家 on Yueyang Rd, both of which are close to Quintet.

The speed with which restaurants open and close in Shanghai is unbelievably high that even residents like ourselves have a hard time keeping up.  Each week, I have to bike around our neighborhood streets to check out if there are any new store signs put up or constructions started. No wonder every time I went back to my hometown San Jose, California, I was often shocked to see venerable restaurants from my younger days still standing.

This is not to say that new shops are always better than old, but it does speak to the unprecedented number of entrepreneurs who are seizing the opportunity to make it out here in Shanghai. These aren’t the big corporate restaurant chains you see in more matured markets; these are the small guys who started with one concept/location. As the capital to start something in China is still relatively lower than in western countries, many foreigners also jump into the fray. As a result, we witnessed many experiments — some succeeded with flying colors and some crashed and burned. The consumers are (more?) fickle in Shanghai so the businesses have to work extra hard to stay relevant.

Four new additions to our neighborhood show promise and I’d like to introduce to our guests:

1. La Strada - sister cafe of Amokka on Anfu Rd and serves excellent Italian-style thin crust pizzas.  You can also order their pizzas from Amokka, which has a nice upstairs dining lounge.

2. Pho Real - deserves a mention even though it replaced our favorite hole-in-the-wall Xinjiang restaurant.  They serve a set menu which includes light appetizers like spring rolls followed by a bowl of Vietnamese beef noodle soup.

3. Bistro Burger - promises gourmet burgers and fancy milkshakes.  Putting a plug in for our Closed Cafe partner Eduardo and tried out the food at the soft opening.  Reasonable priced and tasty burgers are always welcomed by all ;-)

4. Lapis Thai on Hunan Rd - housed in an ambient villa on Hunan Rd and serving consistent quality food with nice presentation.  I personally think the setting is more beautiful than Coconut Paradise.  Lapis also has another location in Taiking Rd’s Tianzifang.

Judging from the mix, we can use more tasty and stylish Chinese restaurants too~

See more neighborhood restaurants on our Neighborhood Map here.