Tackling Hairy Crab
The name says it all. The signature dish of Shanghai is absolutely scrumptious, but it's seasonal (autumn) and best enjoyed at a big local restaurant.
Rooftop Dining on the Bund
Whether it's savoring world-class cuisine on the open-air balcony of M on the Bund, or enjoying a romantic dinner for two catered by world-renowned chefs in the cupola atop Three on the Bund, dining high above Asia's most famous street is a heady experience not to be missed.
Eating Xiaolong Bao
Unless you're a vegetarian, not trying Shanghai's favorite (pork) dumpling while you're here is tantamount in some circles to not having visited Shanghai at all. The "little steamed breads" spill broth in your mouth when you bite into them. You can find them everywhere, but Crystal Jade Restaurant serves up the best in the city.
Savoring Shanghai's Street Food
This activity could well top all of the others in this category, so fun and delicious is it to snack your way through town on dishes that you'll likely not find at home. You aren't required to try the chou doufu (stinky tofu), but do have the shengjian bao (pork-stuffed fried bread dumplings) and jidan bing (egg pancake). The more locals in the part of town, the more likely you'll find it on any street. Or head to Sipailou Jie in the old Chinese city or the corner of Changle Lu and Xiangyang Lu in the French Concession.
Dining in a Colonial Mansion
These days, it's easy to find a restored old mansion for dinner, but two standouts that combine just the right colonial ambience with delicious food are Fu 1088, serving excellent Shanghainese cuisine in private dining rooms in a restored mansion, and el Willy, dishing out tapas and paella in the loveliest of garden settings.
Best International Dining
Laris at Three on the Bund and T8 in Xintiandi top the list for their consistently creative and tasty global cuisine over the years.
Best Shanghai Dining
It's almost unfair to have to pick one or two since the city abounds in restaurants serving delicious local fare. But I like Fu 1088, which has the best smoked fish in town, and a colonial mansion setting to boot, for elegant contemporary Shanghai cuisine, and the longstanding Jishi for no-frills down-home cooking.
Best Room with a View
Competitors try, but it's hard to beat Shanghai's grand dame of world-class Continental dining, M on the Bund, for its glamorous rooftop setting and Bund and riverfront views.
The most famous teahouse in China, with its eaves soaring over the pond by Yu Yuan (Yu Garden), is Shanghai's own Huxinting, a welcome haven in the crunch of Old Town shopping and mass tourism.
Best Xiao Long Bao (Dumpling)
Crystal Jade Restaurant in Xintiandi claims the crown with the thinnest dumpling wrapper in town, and perfect xiaolong bao that are served at just the right temperature. The Taiwanese joint Ding Tai Feng (Din Tai Fung) comes in a close second.
The best Cantonese restaurants are still to be found in hotels, and there is none better than Yi Long Court at the Peninsula Shanghai, where traditional and new Cantonese dishes are prepared with the greatest care and judiciousness by master Hong Kong chefs.
Mr & Mrs Bund, Paul Pairet's modern French eatery, takes the prize for its creative and delicious cuisine that's all the more fun for being shared, and available till the wee hours of the morning. Jean Georges at Three on the Bund proves a worthy challenger with superb and creative entrees and wickedly sinful desserts.
Best Asian (Non-Chinese)
Simply Thai, with several outlets, serves consistently delicious, authentic Thai food in the most charming of environments. Outside of hotel restaurants, the best Japanese cuisine and freshest sushi can be found, if you're lucky enough to get a seat, at Sushi Oyama. Chor Bazaar is your best source for tasty Indian fare that is easy on the wallet.
Best Tongue Twister (Due to Spicy Food)
For the spiciest Chinese food, Di Shui Dong will give you chilies straight up by way of Hunan Province. Your sweat glands will be working overtime.
The French Concession Zao Zi Shu takes its mission seriously (its name is also a pun that exhorts diners to become vegetarians as soon as possible, zao chi su). There's no smoking, no MSG, no alcohol, and no dairy, but plenty of organic tea, fruit appetizers, flavorful vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu doubling as meat.
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