The 22 Best New Shanghai Restaurants to Open in 2019

By That's Shanghai, December 27, 2019

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The good, the bad and the ugly. The weird and the wacky. As is the That’s tradition, we’ve compiled our 2019 China Year in Review series. So sit back, relax and relive the highs and lows of the last 12 months.


We've eaten our way through 43 reviews this year – some of them meh, some of them amazing – all with the point of shining a light on restaurants really worth going to. That makes this article one of our favorites for the whole year. Hope you like 'em as much as we did. 

Azabu Dining

DSC06248.jpgImage by Cristina Ng/That's

For a while, Shanghai was all about contemporary izakaya-style venues like Jeju Izakaya and Oha Eatery. We were patiently waiting for the next hot one to appear, when Azabu Dining snuck in below the radar. They opened at the end of last year on Nanchang Lu, across from Turkish institution Pasha. Combining Japanese ingredients with French and American influence, Azabu turns out several intriguing small bites and traditional Japanese standards in a serene setting.

Standout dish: kampachi with homemade tofu skin (above)

See listing for Azabu Dining.


Bistro Bonbon


Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

We first started hearing murmurs of a cozy new joint with small plates bearing the flavors of Taiwan about a year ago. Alas, before we got the chance to visit, they closed. It seems their popularity overran the original Bistro Bonbon’s size. Now relocated within Julu 758 in a slightly larger space, the restaurant is back serving up the greatest hits of the island’s cuisine.

These recipes come straight from proprietor Jason Tsai’s mother. While Mama Tsai isn’t a professional chef, her methods (executed by local chefs) certainly make for a lovely meal.

Standout dish: Taiwanese fried chicken with basil (top left); braised trotters

See listing for Bistro Bonbon


BOR Eatery

WechatIMG575.jpegImage by Cristina Ng/That's

After three years of cooking ‘New Nordic’ cuisine at Pelikan, Danish chef Kasper Pederson has moved his entire team to Anfu Lu. Perched above Funk & Kale, which is also backed by the Wagas slash Mr Willis dining empire, BOR Eatery inhabits a light-drenched space broken up by the graceful curves of Scandinavian design. And yet, the food veers off the Danish track laid by Pelikan, completely unleashing Pederson’s creativity. 

Standout dish: Pelikan beets, beets, beets, hot smoked salmon (above)

See listing for BOR Eatery


Bun Cha Cha


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

You will find Bun Cha Cha in the basement of Lippo Plaza, just south of People’s Park, among the swath of neon-signed shopping malls on Huaihai Lu. Dreamt up by chef Danyi Gao (of Shake fame) after a visit to Vietnam back in 2017, she was compelled to reinterpret the healthy Vietnamese staple, bun cha, for Shanghai. 

The restaurant’s focus on perfecting a single dish with a harmonious balance of nuanced flavors, unique textures and herbaceous aromas, and served with a cold dipping sauce, as opposed to the ubiquitous hot bowls of pho Shanghai-dwellers associate with Vietnamese cuisine, is unique enough to give this new concept restaurant life.

Standout dish: the namesake dish (above)

See listing for Bun Cha Cha


C Pearl


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

This seafood-focused venue is also brought to you by the group behind Osteria and The Plump Oyster. Originally led by Australian forager and (former) group executive chef Elijah Holland, the passion he passed on for house-made items is evident in the charcuterie platters and bread baked from freshly milled flour. You can also expect herb-forward gin and tonics from the garden he planted at their open-air pop-up restaurant, Botanik.

Standout dish: handmade shells with sea urchin, mushrooms and salmon roe (above); house-made charcuterie

See listing for C Pearl


Dodonpa


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

As one of the first tenants open for business in the new mall One Museum Place, Dodonpa is well-positioned to satisfy the hunger of the neighborhood’s office workers. This bento-based joint comes from the same team as Ifuku and Ifuku Isaribi, including their namesake chef. As for the ninja theme? Well, these folks see similarities between the lives of frazzled Shanghai worker monkeys and ninjas. While we aren’t currently planning any sneak attacks, we do think we are both equally deserving of a good lunch.   

Standout dish: chargrilled eel bento (above), soft-boiled egg and miso pork cutlet with rice

See listing for Dodonpa


Hao Jiu Hao Cai Chicken Company


Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

We have never, ever gone to Found 158 looking for Chinese food, but the long, long lines at Hao Jiu Hao Cai Chicken Company could not be ignored. The signature dish, gai bo (chicken pot) is the reason they wait. All the rage about four years ago in Hong Kong, this Cantonese take on a Sichuan number starts as a casserole in a thick and complex caramel brown gravy. Here, the closely guarded secret sauce tastes of doubanjiang (Sichuan spicy soybean paste), mellowed with oyster sauce, soy sauce and chu hou paste. There are visible chunks of ginger and green cardamom pods, an unmistakable Sichuan peppercorn tingle, and fragrant hints of star anise, cinnamon and fennel, suggesting five-spice powder.

Next, the server scoops in more secret sauce and pours in chicken broth for part two of the meal, where typical hot pot ingredients such as beef balls (RMB68), frozen tofu (RMB12), winter melon (RMB12) and lotus root (RMB16) are poached in the stock.

Standout dish: that winner of a chicken dinner (above) 

See listing for Hao Jiu Hao Cai Chicken Company


Head in the Clouds

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Image courtesy of Head in the Clouds

If you’ve passed the corner of Zhenning and Dongzhu’anbang Lu on a sunny day recently, you’ll have noticed Head in the Clouds' huge daytime crowd. The cafe and bistro has been a huge hit on Chinese social media thanks to its photogenic brunch menu and its large terrace, bolstered by a welcoming, modern, high-ceilinged design. 

Aside from its wanghong brunch offerings, Head in the Clouds also serves a rotating menu of Western bistro-style fare with a general focus on Mediterranean flavors has enough flourishes to remind you that you’re still in Asia.

Standout dish: pumpkin trio (above)

See listing for Head in the Clouds


Heritage by Madison

WechatIMG12.jpegImage by Cristina Ng/That's

When Austin Hu was still in the planning stages of Heritage by Madison, we asked him about the concept. “It’s all in the name,” was his reply. The heritage in question is the chef’s own reflection on his time spent in China, the US and Japan. Over the past 10 years, we’ve witnessed flashes of Hu’s character in his food, from boldly using locally sourced ingredients for Western fare at the original Madison on Dongping Lu to sneaking kimchi into monstrous grilled cheeses at Madison Kitchen. In his latest endeavor, Hu moves along similar lines with a bit more finesse and smaller plates.

One of several notable openings in the Bund Finance Center, the notoriously location-cursed Hu has traded the convenience of a central location in favor of a dependable address. Judging from the full dining room, he made the right decision. The recent addition of dim sum trolley brunch service – lubricated with green tomato bloody marys – makes Heritage a worthy weekend destination.

Standout dish: General Hu's cauliflower, san huang chicken with XO aioli and seasoned sesame salt (above)

See listing for Heritage by Madison


HIYA


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

One of three restaurants in The Shanghai EDITION, HIYA is modeled after Chef Jason Atherton’s now-defunct London-based restaurant, Sosharu. Like its predecessor, HIYA is a Japanese-style gastropub designed by Neri&Hu. In Shanghai, the kitchen is helmed by Christopher Pitts who previously worked with Atherton as the chef at Table No. 1. 

It might be confusing to read the words ‘izakaya,’ ‘gastropub’ and ‘Japanese’ and then walk into HIYA. Instead of over-worked salarymen knocking back a few drinks after a long day at the office, you will find a stylish, well-heeled crowd enjoying a good time over fancy cocktails and beautifully presented dishes, while documenting the entire experience with countless selfies and foodporn shots for their Insta-Stories.

Before you dismiss it out of hand for being too hip, the two-page menu featuring sashimi, chilled dishes, 'temacos' (taco plus maki), hibachi and dessert puts the precision of the kitchen on full display. 

Standout dish: slow-cooked pork shoulder, roasted pineapple and pickled chili 'temacos' (above)

See listing for HIYA


Hu Hu Tang


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

With the arrival of Hu Hu Tang, two of the three floors at 50 Tai’an Lu are under the management of restaurateur Betty Ng. Just below her contemporary Chinese fusion joint Dao Jiang Hu, Ng’s latest endeavor takes a crack at hot pot just in time for autumn. 

At Hu Hu Tang you have your choice of five collagen-based, MSG-free soups: Hainan Wenchang chicken fish maw, Yunnan wild morel, tomato beef, Sichuan spicy mala pork and hot sour fish maw. When the pot comes to the table, your stock is still in gelatin form.

Standout dish: collagen stocks, hydroponic vegetables, homemade meatballs (above)

See listing for Hu Hu Tang


Ifuku Isaribi


Image courtesy of Ifuku Isaribi

Ifuku Isaribi in Plaza 66 is yet another indication that the mall dining train is not slowing down anytime soon. Retaining the most popular dishes from Ifuku in Xintiandi, the company’s second opening is a higher-end robata-ya (grilled meat restaurant) sourcing premium Wagyu, black pork, chicken and more directly from Japan.

Head chef and namesake, Ifuku comes from Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu, where he was born into a family of fishermen. It was there he learned ichiyaboshi – techniques for salting and drying seafood overnight – from his grandmother. Once cured, the proteins are prepared on traditional charcoal grills. 

Standout dish: overnight-dried chicken (above); grilled Wagyu; beef tongue

See listing for Ifuku Isaribi


JUJU


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Mark Klingspon has a reputation for generous hospitality, and this time the mastermind behind The Nest, The Cannery and Rye & Co has brought a bit of Seoul to Three on the Bund. As JUJU, the house that Neri + Hu built for Jean-Georges and Marja Vongerichten’s elegant Chi-Q is nearly unrecognizable. While keeping the Korean barbecue, Klingspon has done away with fine dining trappings, dropping the price point and having Korean and Chinese street artists throw up brightly colored murals on the wall.

Adding to the fun, lining the walls are retro arcade games and self-service fridges filled with Cass Beer (RMB25) and Jinro Soju (RMB50). It’s the largest selection of soju flavors we’ve encountered in Shanghai: grape, cherry, strawberry, grapefruit and peach. Take advantage of the soju collection and try out some Korean drinking games. 

There’s only one way to survive drinking games fueled by a party-worthy playlist of late ’90s/early ’00s hip-hop jams: bottomless Korean barbecue. For the extremely reasonable price of RMB288, you can have as much selected pork, beef and veggies as you want.  

Standout dish: Korean fried chicken (above), octopus pajeon, free-flow beef

See listing for JUJU


Karaiya Spice House


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

After years of running successful Japanese restaurants Haiku, Hatsune and Kagen, the owners have turned their attention to an elegant take on the fiery flavors of Hunan at Karaiya Spice House.

Already open in Beijing, the Shanghai outpost also offers spicy dishes with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients, and what they call ‘Western-style’ presentation (although the dishes still look Chinese).

Standout dish: two-color chili fish (above)

See listing for Karaiya Spice House


La Maruja

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

La Maruja, like taitai in Chinese, has a connotation far beyond ‘housewife.’ She is a powerful, influential, glamorous badass that can move mountains with the snap of a perfectly manicured fingernail. Women want to be her, and men want to be with her, making her the perfect entertainer and host. Helmed by Pol Garcia (formerly of El Patio), this restaurant embodies that sentiment. Imported products are the hero of this sexy Spanish hot spot that pays homage to gastronomic market concepts like Mercado San Miguel in Madrid and Mercado La Boqueria in Barcelona.

There’s a range of tapas starting in the north of Spain from Garcia’s Basque country hometown, San Sebastián. Madrid and Malaga style nibbles represent the central and southern regions. In addition to traditional-style tapas, there are also some more whimsical in presentation and flavor. From an appetite-whetting set of cubed Manchego cheese, aged to varying degrees in aromatic olive oil to the last lick of souffle-like savory cheesecake dessert, the meal was full of excitement.

Standout dish: broken eggs with Iberico ham above, cheesecake 

See listing for La Maruja.


Ministry of Crab


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

After months of renovation, Barbarossa has recently unveiled a new look to their famous People’s Park location and introduced a brand new concept to the mix. Occupying the first floor of their Arabian-style building, Ministry of Crab – one of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants from Colombo, Sri Lanka – is now serving their famously large crustaceans in a variety of ways. If you’ve been struggling to find high-quality seafood that is comically large, you’re in luck.

Chef Dharshan Munidasa helms the original crab lovers’ haven. For the award-winning restaurant’s first venture outside Sri Lanka, they’ve sent over Chef Vimukthi, who’s worked with Munidasa for years, to oversee the kitchen.

Standout dish: black pepper crab, garlic chili prawn (above)

See listing for Ministry of Crab


Pho To Shop

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Wuding Lu is a hub of international dining options. Within a one-block radius, there’s Spanish, American, Italian, French and now Vietnamese cuisines. They’re all geared towards those looking for a cheap and cheerful meal, so new addition Pho To Shop fits in nicely. At this fast-casual diner, the menu is a pared-down list of popular dishes with an emphasis on authenticity, reasonable prices and speed.

Standout dish: bun cha, Cambodian fish amok (above)

See listing for Pho To Shop.


Phoenix Sushi


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

You might wonder how this omakase joint, led by a chef from Anhui, has become so popular. First of all, Chef Dong has worked in Japanese restaurants since 2003, most notably as an apprentice at Kenji Naramoto’s eponymous upscale sushi restaurant on Yongjia Lu. The other reason is that the most expensive set at Sushi Phoenix costs just RMB398, which is a bargain compared to similar establishments around town.

Standout dish: the nigiri sushi courses

See image for Phoenix Sushi


The Pig Pocket


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Previously located in a small alley off of Fuxing Zhong Lu, The Pig Pocket was a hidden gem where Taiwan-born chef Sophie Huang and her affable Hong Kong-born business partner Eva Lee quietly served a selection of pork-based plates at surprisingly good prices.

When we heard that this hole-in-the-wall was vacating its 12-seat space, it seemed like terrible news. After trekking out to Yangpu district to check out their new Daxue Lu digs and greatly expanded menu, we see this move in a much more positive light.

Standout dish: TPP signature pork chop

See listing for The Pig Pocket


Polux by Paul Pairet


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Shanghai diners get pretty excited when Paul Pairet opens a new concept, and Polux is no exception. That might have something to do with the accolades his restaurants have received over the years, the most recent being Ultraviolet’s three Michelin stars and a sixth spot finish in Asia’s Best 50 Restaurants 2019

Moving inland from The Bund, Pairet’s latest Xintiandi venture serves pared-down French classics all day long, covering breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The cooking combines rustic, traditional influences from Pairet’s The Chop Chop Club (now closed) with the modern creativity of Mr & Mrs Bund

Standout dish: French onion soup, raspberries essential 

See listing for Polux by Paul Pairet


Ramen Mitsuyoshi


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Ramen Mitsuyoshi is the latest ramen shop specializing in tonkatsu-broth noodles. The nondescript eatery on Liyuan Lu near the Madang Lu metro station in Huangpu district is the result of a collaboration between a local chef and the chef/founder of two Michelin-recommended Tokyo venues: Ramen Koike and Chuka Soba Nishino. 

Inside, you order from a vending machine (so Japanese) with options to pay via Alipay or WeChat (so Chinese). Next, take a bar seat and watch the action while you wait. We were particularly mesmerized by the giant pot of tonkatsu broth being stirred by what looked like a yardstick as we inhaled the aromatic broth punctuated by the strong scent of sesame oil.  

Standout dish: black garlic ramen (above)

See listing for Ramen Mitsuyoshi.


Rye & Co


Image by Cristina Ng/That's

After hitting the mark twice in a row with The Nest and The Cannery, the team behind these venues mixed things up this year by adding a bakery to their portfolio. Like most openings these days, Rye & Co is located in a mall, and in this case it’s the new Xintiandi Plaza.

Consisting of two separate spaces (a café and a bar), Rye & Co ticks off most of your daily needs. Downstairs expect ‘grains for goodness’ in the form of baked goods, Danish open-faced sandwiches and larger mains such as (not quite) Swedish meatballs, pasta and mussels.The counterpoint to all this wholesomeness (read: booze) is available on the second floor (informally nicknamed ‘High on Rye’).

Standout dish: various smorrebrod, pumpkin on toast (above)

See listing for Rye & Co 

[Cover image by Cristina Ng/That's]


Read more Shanghai Food & Drink Guides

For more 2019 Year in Review coverage, click here.

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