This tiny restaurant in the former French Concession has been delighting visitors with its Shanghainese cooking for more than two decades. The red-braised pork with cuttlefish, a classic dish, is suitably dark and treacly, while appetisers such as lotus root stuffed with glutinous rice reflect the local predilection for sweetness. Balance these intense flavours with light dishes such as shepherd’s purse with bean curd or a delicate soup of salt pork and winter melon.
41 Tianping Lu (nr Huaihai Xilu), Xuhui District, +86 21 6282 9260
Din Tai Fung
It’s cheating, really, to include this Taiwanese chain in a list of Shanghainese restaurants – except that its version of Shanghai’s best-known snack, the “soup dumpling”, is famously more exquisite than the original. So come here for xiaolongbao (aka xiaolong mantou), twirly steamed dumplings filled with pork, crabmeat and piping-hot stock.
11A, Second Floor, Bldg 6, Xintiandi South Block, 123 Xingye Lu, Luwan district, +86 21 6385 8378
Yang’s Fried Dumpling
The decor of these cafés may be perfunctory, but you’ll be here for only one reason: to guzzle shengjian fresh from the pan. These juicy, pork-stuffed buns are more substantial than xialongbao. Steamed and pan-fried, they have crisp, golden bottoms. Dip the sesame-speckled beauties into rice vinegar before tucking in.
97 Huanghe Lu, Huangpu District, +86 21 5375 1793
Jade Garden (Su Zhe Hui)
Shanghainese cuisine is a compilation of influences from old gastronomic capitals such as Yangzhou and Suzhou, with a few western touches. The Jade Garden draws on this rich heritage: specialities include Reeves shad or hilsa herring steamed in its scales with rice wine and fermented glutinous rice, and a scrumptious black barbecued pork from Suzhou. Snacky sides such as noodles in spring onion oil are also delectable.
288 West Nanjing Lu, Huangpu, +86 21 3366 3777
Draw up outside this magnificent old mansion, step into the hallway with its tiled floor and wooden panelling, and you could be in the International Settlement of prewar Shanghai. The food is classic Shanghainese with some modern flourishes: try deep-fried fish in sweet soy sauce, tea-smoked eggs and braised bean curd with hairy crabmeat. Service and surroundings are wonderful: the only hitch is a minimum food charge per head that you’ll struggle to reach without ordering extreme luxuries like abalone.
375 Zhenning Lu, Changning District, Shanghai; +86 21 5239 7878
Fuchsia Dunlop is the author of ‘Every Grain of Rice’ (Bloomsbury)