Downstairs is David Laris' new restaurant, and I felt compelled to go check it out because he's Australian. They're all about "smart and sustainable living", with wall made of recycled boat planks, and eco-friendly furniture, etc. The ambience is very Melbourne-style, and I felt like I wasn't in China. It was raining so unfortunately we couldn't sit outside in their lovely bamboo-surrounded patio, but at least we were cool, comfortable and dry indoors and the large floor-to-ceiling glass panels letting in natural light made us still feel like we were outdoors. The menu is limited, but all the dishes looked interesting. We were surprised that the prices were pretty reasonable. However, we soon realised why - the portions are tiny. I would say they're appetizer size, no where near filling enough to be a normal meal. A bit disappointing, as the food was excellent. If the portions were double the size, this place would easily have scored a full 5 star rating.
I was surprised with how authentic La Creperie was. OK, it's not a very valid statement for me to make, since I've never actually lived in Brittany, France (where the cafe owner hails from). But I say this because the food was totally different in taste and ingredients to anything else I've eaten in my life.
It's primarily a crepe place, serving up a staggering selection of savory and sweet crepes. The cafe is cosy and bustling with diners, and is modelled after the seaside and lighthouse - which is what Brittany is like, I presume. Sometimes, themed cafes are pretty tacky, but La Creperie definitely isn't. It's a laid back, casual cafe that makes for a fabulous weekend brunch. Our waitress spoke fluent English and all the staff were very attentive and polite, with food coming out quickly from the open kitchen.
I've heard SO much about Azul Viva's "fantastic brunch" so we finally managed to make our way there on a rainy Sunday. I've been there twice before but for their tapas dinner, which was generally pretty good. I like their crisp yet relaxed ambience and the polite, English-speaking staff, and was keen to see what they were like during the day for brunch.I'm really glad we booked, because they were a full house! I suppose it's the expat brunch haven in Shanghai ;) At 130元 for 2-courses or 150元 for 3-courses, they're also touted to be fantastic value. So, is that true? Well, yes and no.
I would say first of all that the ingredients are not super-high quality, expensive ingredients, like our flat-out impressive brunch at Cristal. However, Azul's brunch set is cheaper (though only very slightly) so you could argue it's fair. Also, I wouldn't say they're extremely filling - rather, yes, you'll be sufficiently full if you order all the carb meals, but only semi-full if you don't.
I've been to Cristal only once before, and clearly they have massively improved this time round in terms of service and quality of food. It's more of a "nice-dining" restaurant. As in, it's not as exorbitantly priced as fine-dining, but certainly not a cheap cafe. It sits nicely in between and is actually really close to where we live, but we hadn't yet found an occasion to go again. Located on the 4th floor of a shopping mall at Nanjing West station, it's easy to miss and relatively unknown unless you've heard about the restaurant and are specifically going there for a meal. What a hidden treasure :) Last weekend 8 of us decided to try out Cristal's Brunch set menu, which at 178 RMB (3-course) or 198 RMB (4-course) turned out to be ONE AMAZING DEAL that had all of us surprised and delighted. The quality of the ingredients was superb, the presentation was fine-dining style, the service was polite and attentive, and the menu actually underplayed the variety and quantity of food that we would be served. It was flat-out impressive and all of us were raving about the value of the brunch. I am most definitely going back and recommending visitors to go there for a relaxed, sunlit weekend brunch.
Being a vegetarian in Shanghai can be very trying at times! All vegetarians out there have surely been through the same things as me when trying to order food!
So I thought I would do a list of some of the vegetarian restaurants around town. I love going to vegetarian restaurants, because for once I don’t need to call ahead to see if they can give me anything without meat and I have more than the one-token meatless dish on the menu to choose from! Also, I don’t end up walking out of the restaurant after paying the same price as everyone else still starving, while they are all complaining about being full!
The interior of Mythos is such a delight - all in white and Grecian blues, and split into a multi-level restaurant complete with fireplace and a roof-top dining area. It's modelled to be classically Aegean and you could say it's kitschy, but I find it quite adorable. The staff are polite and attentive and the tables are spaced well-apart so you're not interrupted by other loud diners. I like how our seats are large white lounges, so you can curl up whilst you eat. You can see a wonderful all-round view of the Mythos here.The food was good but not outstanding. We weren't reeling with gastronomic delight or anything, but the food was decent and it's a fantastic place to chill out with friends. We had a double date there with friends and it's the perfect place to lounge back on the sofas and have a natter. Other time we took Mom and Dad to Mythos. It was a stunnigly sunny day and instead of cosying up on the plush lounges indoors at night, we went up to the rooftop and ate under the blue sky. It's pretty amazing up there. Views spanning the Huangpu river and across to the huge buildings of the Bund, and just soaking in the sunshine after an incredibly long winter in Shanghai.
A few friends have been telling me to check out La Strada for months, but we never had a chance to go because it's a little out of our usual hangout areas and we kept getting side-tracked. Boy, am I glad we finally found ourselves there! Owned by Craig Willis (of Mr Willis restaurant above La Strada), the restaurant is casual and bustling with diners when we arrive for dinner. We're lucky to score a corner table by the window despite not making a reservation, and happily settle down to peruse the menu with a glass of wine in hand. The menu is not huge, but since it's our first time, we were happy with the selections available. We are particularly impressed with our pizza, whose base is thin and crispy and isn't at all soggy (so many thin crust pizzas in Shanghai fall prey to the soggy factor). The ingredients are fairly generous though I wish they'd put the ingredients on the outer edge of the pizza too so I'm not left with a large piece of plain crust at the end. The spicy salami and mushrooms are fabulous on the pizza and we merrily devour it.
Gokohai serves Japanese style hot-pot, better known as shabu shabu. Although hot pot season is coming to an end as the weather warms up, Gokohai’s focus on mixed vegetables, wheat-flour noodles and puréed radish and carrot toppings makes this restaurant a fresher alternative. If you call ahead, you can reserve a small Japanese style tatami room, or walk in for a table. Each seat has an individual pot, so you don’t have to fish around your friend for the thinly sliced meat or figure out how to cook something separately for a vegetarian.
For those who think of hot pot as being just giant piles of meat, the menu has well selected pre-set kamaboko (ground fish cake), konnyaku (a grey jelly which is a popular Japanese diet food), vegetables, mushrooms and pressed tofu platters. We also ordered a bowl of prawns (12 RMB), but to be honest we should have ordered one bowl per person. The meat slices were very lean and it wasn’t necessary to scrape any fatty water off the top of the pot during the meal.
Lynn Modern Shanghai Cuisine (whew, what a mouthful!) is a chic restaurant boasting a fabulous location in the middle of the ritzy part of Jingan. The Art Deco decor boasts a modern interior, dark wood tables, and charming private rooms for large groups. We were here specifically for the all-you-can-eat dim sum brunch, though were quite disappointed when we found out that it was now 88元 (up from 78元). Still, the clean and neat restaurant and delicious food made up for it. The dishes were all excellent. You'd expect sub-par quality for all-you-can-eat, but the quality was fantastic. Most of the dishes were delicious, with only a few 'misses'. In particular, I adored the smoked egg, which sounded plain on the menu but we immediately fell in love upon first bite - it's basically a soft-boiled egg, the yolk all creamy and slightly runny. Another winner was the dan dan noodles, slippery smooth noodles resting in a delicious creamy spicy soup. The egg tarts, deep-fried red bean pancake and black sesame sticky rice balls for dessert were also stunners.
Located a short walk away from Nanjing Xi lu station, Yoshizoh is the perfect place for grabbing a little Japanese comfort food. You can find it by looking for the white and red lanterns, noren curtain and a kitchen which is visible through the front window. When the cooks see you heading up the narrow stairway, they all shout out ‘irrashimase!’ and it feels more like you’re heading into someone’s home rather than a restaurant.
The atmosphere is very welcoming and the waitresses are eager to practice their English, Chinese or Japanese with patrons. Expect to be seated amongst Japanese office employees, who ask if you mind if they smoke and then bow in response when you say that you don’t. You can choose to sit in western style tables or in small, individually lit rooms with Japanese style tables. The dark wood furnishings are close enough to feel snug and facilitate conversation, but it doesn’t feel overly cramped.
It's not particularly easy to get a good 'ol steak in China. You pretty much can only find it in fine-dining restaurants.. very very few casual/cheap places have steak, and if they do, you best stay away from it ;) And so we decided to treat ourselves at Moon's Steakhouse. Moon's Steakhouse is a lovely, luxe restaurant with fantastic service (the manager was a total dream) and beautifully plush sofas to relax on. The menu's fairly limited, but it's not a problem because you're on there for one thing - their steaks!
We appreciated the bread basket at the start, though it would have been great served with a soft herb butter, instead of (or accompanied with) the salsa and yoghurt dips. We decided to start off with the Seafood Chowder soup and Minestrone soup, which was a very good idea because we had to wait ONE HOUR for our steaks to arrive. It was unbelievable, and had me quite irate. I would have expected the waitress to warn us or at least apologise, but nada. The soups came out really quickly and so left us with a long and prolonged 1 hour wait. Both soups were nice, but nothing spectacular. They, strangely, came out in small cheap-bistro-style cups... not in a large wide bowl or served with some garlic bread. Tres odd, especially since they were not cheap!