It's Worth Getting (P)Fat at Tong Fat Tou

By Sophie Steiner, November 26, 2021

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The Place

The area just east of People’s Square is a Chinese food mecca – spanning Shanghai to Sichuan, Guangdong to Hong Kong, all in a matter of blocks. In particular, there is a treasure trove of Cantonese diners, each with a lunch line longer than the last. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Some notably better than others. And then there is Tong Fat Tou (东发道), a step above the rest. With nearly 45,000 Dianping reviews, the quality of food and service really back up those ratings. There are five locations of this Shanghai take on a Canto diner within the city limits, and even our Hong Konger friends say that stepping inside reminds them of the island.

The Food 

The true test of any Cantonese diner comes down to the roasted meats – those glistening chunks of pork and bulbous, hook-hanging fowl that can be seen in windows dotting every corner of Hong Kong.

The meat’s succulence, the crisp char of the skin and the rich sauce that finds the perfect balance between saccharine, savory and slick all play an important role, and Tong Fat Tou's roasted meats check all the boxes. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Specialty Rose Roasted Chicken (RMB38) is juicy and sweet, enhanced by the piquant side of ginger scallion oil

The dense slabs of Char Siu Pork (RMB48) are cut thicker than normal, yet master the ratio of fat to flesh. Scooped over a humble bowl of white rice, there are few other mouthfeels that make us miss Hong Kong more. 

A sip of creamy Hong Kong Milk Tea (RMB19) takes us one step closer. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

On the new age Hong Kong eats side of the spectrum, the Egg, Spam and Butter Pineapple Bun (RMB17) is what breakfast sandwich dreams are made of. Cubes of pan-fried Spam are nestled under a blanket of butter, with a fresh piece of lettuce and tomato wedged in place by a fried egg. 

The pineapple bun itself is effortlessly light, with brittle pieces of sugar adorning the top. Bonus: add melty cheese for another RMB15. The juxtaposition of flavors and textures could cure anything from the worst of weekend hangovers through to Monday morning blues.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We’ve gotten caught up in the wanghong dessert sensation that is warm condensed milk pooled between two cheap pieces of white bread, dusted with evaporated milk, Ovaltine, chocolate or Milo powder and fried.

Tong Fat Tou's Milk French Toast (RMB30) is a messy monstrosity that spurts said sugary dairy liquid out of fried bread in a way that just must be livestreamed on Dianping. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

After the videos have been taken and photos shot, however, this French toast is actually – surprisingly – stellar. It’s crispy yet plush, sweet yet buttery, warm on the edges yet cold and creamy on the inside.

And – oops – now it’s all gone. Down the hatch; it’s time for a nap.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

But wait, before you go, grab a pillowy Char Siu Bun (RMB9) to go, since there’s a slim chance you’ll still have stomach space now. We promise you’ll thank us in a few hours. 

The Vibe 

Lunch time is busy, so if you come around noon, expect to wait upwards of an hour. Better to follow their Official WeChat to reserve a table ahead and track your spot in line.

The bakery at the front – replete with fluffy pineapple buns, gooey egg tarts, char siu bursting sweet breads, milk cream stuffed puffs and more – opens early, and continues to pump out warm treats throughout the day, so you can always grab a snack as you wait. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The name of the game is churning through customers, but the result is attentive service. Water glasses are never empty, dirty dishes are constantly swapped for new ones, and plates stream out of the kitchen at record speed – beyond efficient for a meal that averages under RMB75 a person.

It’s bustling, it’s quick and it’s loaded with fat-dripping meats, sweet carbs and enough milk tea variations to feed a small army of sugar-high desk job workers – exactly what you want out of a weekday lunch. 

Price: RMB50-100 per person
Who’s Going: The People’s Square lunch contingency, Hong Kongers missing home, char siu fiends 
Good For: Satisfying HK diner cravings, nostalgic food hankerings, hefty brunches that don't involve free flow

See a listing for Tong Fat Tou. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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