UnTour Food Tours in Shanghai hits dozens of local gems — from street food stalls to hidden neighborhood hole-in-the-walls. Jamie Barys, co-founder and Chief Eating Officer, put together a list of her favorite Shanghainese restaurants.
SHANGHAI – Ever since it went from a sleepy farming and fishing village to a lively trading port in the 1500s, Shanghai has attracted outsiders who leave their mark on the city's culinary scene. Shanghainese cuisine, like the city, grew out of this melting pot of migrants both foreign and domestic. Those living outside the country's biggest city dismiss Shanghai cuisine as bastardized by Western influence, but dig into the best restaurants in town and you'll find sweet and sour flavors that will impress anyone in the world.
41 Tianping Rd., Xuhui District; +86-21-6282-9260
If you don't speak Shanghainese, don't expect a warm welcome at this ramshackle restaurant. What you can look forward to are some of the city's best takes on classic benbang (local) dishes, like red-braised pork and eight treasures duck. Order the opium fish head and prepare to be wowed.
Fu Chun Xiao Long
650 Yuyuan Rd., Jing'an District; +86-21-6252-5117
No matter what time of day you arrive at this Shanghainese snack shop, stacks of xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) are steaming in the kitchen and a steady stream of grannies are loudly slurping the pork stock out of their wheat wrappers. The restaurant also sells old Shanghainese dishes that you can't find anywhere else, like "partner" soup with tofu and sausage.
328 Jianguo Rd., Xuhui District; +86-21-6471-3819
Technically, this well-run eatery is owned by a Taiwanese restaurateur, but the menu is all Shanghainese. The kitchen eschews MSG and only uses bottled water when boiling their trademark scallion oil noodles, but it's the traditional flavors that keep the locals coming back for more.
375 Zhenning Rd., Jing'an District; +86-21-5239-7878
Chef Tony Lu is the closest thing Shanghai has to a celebrity chef. His empire of Fu restaurants (plus Yong Yi Ting — see below) are all worth a visit, but Fu 1088 gets our vote. There's a minimum RMB 400 spend per person, not including alcohol, but the setting alone (an old Shanghainese villa decked out with art deco antiques) is worth the hefty price tag.
Ding Te Le
494 Huaihai Middle Rd.; Huangpu District; +86-21-5107-9177
This 24-hour noodle shop serves nongtang cai (Shanghai alleyway cuisine), and brings together some of the best international homestyle dishes. Their fried five-spice pork cutlets, a dish left over from the German expats of the 1920s, come with a splash of Shanghainese Worcestershire sauce, a spicy soy sauce inspired by the Brits' favorite condiment.
2378 Hongqiao Rd., Changning District; +86-21-6268-6583
This time capsule was the second private restaurant to open in the Hongqiao area after Reform & Opening in the early 1980s. The owner still holds court in the smoky dining room, glad-handing regulars and welcoming new diners with tales of the old days.
Yong Yi Ting
111 Pudong South Rd., Pudong District; +86-21-2082-9978
With a menu designed by Chef Tony Lu, Yong Yi Ting was always going to be a hit, but its stunning interior at the Mandarin Oriental has made it a must-visit for diners around the world. The chef's playful take on the dessert menu offers ice cream flavored to taste like White Rabbit, a ubiquitous local gummy dessert that delights children and adults alike.
Da Hu Chun
89 South Yunnan Rd., Huangpu District; +86-21-6311-5177
In addition to the famous xiaolongbao, Shanghai is also home to its cousin: shengjianbao. The pan-fried dumpling is stuffed with a ball of pork and juicy stock and sprinkled liberally with sesame seeds. You won't find a better version than at this hole-in-the-wall spot (which also has the distinction of being named a "Time-Honored Brand" by the government).
240 Jinxian Rd., Jing'an District; +86-21-6255-0371
When autumn rolls around, so does hairy crab season. You'll find the crustacean served in a variety of ways on most Shanghainese menus in town. Don't expect the interior of Hai Jinzi to blow your mind (they've gone with a dusty Tsingtao bottle look), but the hairy crab roe scrambled with eggs will change the way you see breakfast.
124 Jinxian Rd., Jing'an District; +86-21-6256-0301
Just a half block from Hai Jinzi is this tiny restaurant. With only four tables, a bad paint job, and one waitress/owner barking commands at the chef, Chun offers the quintessential Shanghainese experience. There's no menu; the owner just asks if you have any dietary restraints and then brings you what's good. Which is everything.
109 Huangjiaque Rd., Huangpu District
The name of this snack shop is "Ear-Slap Wontons" because the owners claim their peanut sauce-drenched dumplings are so delicious that you wouldn't let go of them even if someone slapped you across the face. Their original location on a local food street fell victim to the city's urbanization in 2016, but they've opened a new shop just a couple blocks away.