Eat your way around Asia: Shanghai

Time Out Shanghai's editors select the city's best dining joints

Beijingers may sneer that Shanghai doesn’t have the same range and quality of Chinese food, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty of culinary delights to offer.

Cheap eat

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For a dumpling joint that delivers tasty dishes, a healthy dose of old Shanghai atmosphere and dirt cheap prices, Lin Long Fang’s original branch on Jianguo Dong Lu is hard to beat. It’s one of the city’s oldest – and still most popular – purveyors of steamy soup dumplings xiaolongbao (9-20RMB for 12; pictured above). Don’t miss the delectable egg and pork or the pure crab fillings.
Meal for two, 30RMB.

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INSIDER TIP If you’re coming for lunch, get here early or late – a line of locals regularly snakes out the door from around midday. Not only will this help you score a table, but you’ll also get an unrestricted view of the dumpling makers at work inside the restaurant.


Casual dining

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This homely little Shanghainese joint on the leafy former French Concession street of Jianguo Lu serves up our city’s cuisine in charming surrounds and without some of the unwanted trappings that often come with it (there’s no smoking, no MSG and the kitchen uses quality oil and filtered water). We like so many dishes here we could list almost half the menu. But, in a city with a trillion ways to cook hongshao rou (braised pork belly), Jianguo’s take really holds its own: its sauce is neither over-sweet nor gloopy. It has a rich depth and instead of a whole hen’s egg, the pork belly chunks are braised with delicate quail eggs.
Meal for two, 250RMB.

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Jianguo 328's fermented tofu

INSIDER TIP Jianguo is a popular spot – even (soon-to-be-ex) British Prime Minister David Cameron paid a visit – so during peak meal times you may have to wait for a table. But we promise it’s worth it.

Fine dining

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Elefante's crab salad

French chef Paul Pairet’s extraordinary ‘multi-sensory’ dining experience Ultraviolet was the only restaurant in Mainland China to make it onto the World’s 50 Best list last month. Yet for those of us who don’t have upwards of 5,000RMB to drop on a single meal, we recommend heading to Elefante for a taste of what Shanghai’s international dining scene has to offer. Set in a gorgeous former French Concession villa, Elefante is Spanish chef Willy Trullas Moreno’s culinary playground, with a host of delicious tapas and Mediterranean dishes such as gambas fritas and the huevos fritos with 36-month Elefante Ibérico (a must-order).
Meal for two, 600RMB.

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COME FOR Brunch in the courtyard. Every weekend Elefante hosts a colourful food-truck brunch in its leafy courtyard space, with regular popups that show off Shanghai’s clique of diverse and talented chefs. DJs set a relaxed and celebratory tone that can lend itself to a little too much sangria.
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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