Eli Falafel: Middle Eastern All-Star Now in Shanghai Centre

By Sophie Steiner, March 2, 2023

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The Place

Lebanese-born Wael Accad, the owner of Eli Falafel, had been working in international logistics in Shanghai for over 15 years when he decided he wanted to become a restaurateur instead.

Starting out with popup booths at festivals back in 2016, by May 2017 he’d opened his first brick-and mortar-store on Wulumuqi Lu.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Emerging from humble beginnings, the 20-seater served mainly falafel – deep-fried spiced chickpea fritters commonly eaten as street food in the Middle East – as well as kebabs, wraps and dips, quickly establishing itself as the gold standard for casual Middle Eastern fare within the Shanghai dining scene.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

It only made logical sense then for Wael, his wife and hard-working team to continue to expand his empire, branching further out into new neighborhoods and bigger spaces, along with an extended menu: 2019 saw the opening of the Jiujiang Lu location; early 2021 brought Eli Falafel to the hungry masses of Lujiazui; and, finally, this past November welcomed Eli Falafel into the Shanghai Centre.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

From the layout to the décor to each item’s specific recipe and presentation, Wael and his team designed the Shanghai Centre location aiming to convey Lebanese culture to the Shanghai population.

The brightly lit space offers seating for 85 inside and another 70 outside, all outfitted with decorative antique vases, gold-embossed lamps, richly-colored, bead-stitched pillows, and plenty of plants. 

The Food

Come hungry – and bring friends while you’re at it – because the menu in the Shanghai Centre (similar to that in Pudong) takes a deep dive into Lebanese cuisine with a wide range of dips, salads, snacks, meat stews, pizzas, shawarma, kebabs, grilled protein platters, wraps, sandwiches, desserts, homemade ice cream and cocktails.


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Begin with an order of the Eli Trio (RMB105), a selection of three home-prepared, authentic Lebanese dips with classic hot puff bread.

Hummus – sun-dried organic chickpeas boiled and blended with tahini, fresh lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Baba ghanouge – barbecued aubergine mixed with tahini, minced garlic, lemon juice and Persian pomegranate seeds.

And muhammara – roasted sweet red Aleppo pepper mixed with walnuts, bread crumbs and pomegranate syrup. 

The dips set the tone for the meal, opening your palate to the flavor onslaught to come. And a slather across the top of any further dishes you plan to order just so happens to augment the flavor. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A must-order, the Hummus Topped with Diced Meat (RMB68) sees lamb cooked low and slow to charred perfection.

The crispy, curling edges serve as ideal vessels for scooping a heaping dollop of luscious hummus, sprinkled with sumac, cumin and paprika.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Eli Quick Bites (RMB108) are best for sharing a taste of Lebanese street fare, including a selection of appetizers spanning...

Kibbe meatballs – bulgar wheat mixed with minced beef, onions, roasted pine nuts and spices.

Sambousek – crispy pie dough stuffed with the same delish mix above.

Bel lahme – ground meat fritters.

Cheese rkakat – flaky filo dough stuffed with gruyere, mozzarella and feta cheese plus herbs.

And, of course, falafel, as well as a heaping bowl of sour yogurt and olive oil for dunking. 


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Eli Falafel Salad (RMB75) is a fresher take on the customary falafel pita sandwich.

Swapping out the carbs for a bed of fresh lettuce, the salad presents fresh mint leaves and parsley plus tomato and avocado, all drizzled with homemade tahini dressing. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Not feeling a full meal, but still want to satisfy that falafel fix?

Go for an order of Falafel (RMB48), which includes five fritters made from sun-dried organic chickpeas and fava beans mixed with Lebanese herbs and spices. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Pause (and re-adjust your belt loop) before the mains arrive with Lebanese Handmade Coffee (RMB28), served with maamoul, a shortbread cookie stuffed with date. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Sujuck Pizza (RMB108) features a gooey blend of mozzarella and gruyere cheese topped with coin-size rounds of fermented spicy beef sausage – a style of meat consumed in Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Other Lebanese pizza flavors include...

Za’atar – dried thyme, sumac and toasted sesame seeds.

Lahme bi ajeen – minced meat, diced tomatoes, onions and a signature spice blend.

Falafel and vegetables.

Chicken or beef shawarma with fries, pickles, arugula, tomatoes, herbs and tahini.

And many more Middle Eastern flavor-forward combinations, ranging in price from RMB68-98.

Traditional Stuffed Vine Leaves (RMB58), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

For more traditional hefty Middle Eastern fare, Eli Falafel offers everything from the Mixed Shawarma Plate (RMB158) – featuring Wagyu beef and lamb shawarma, chicken shawarma, french fries, onion salad, tahini sauce, garlic sauce, veggies and pita bread...

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

... to Kafta Kabab (RMB105) – three juicy skewers of spiced minced meat, served with hummus, roasted veggies, fries and pita. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

For a legendary Lebanese dish, there's the Mansaf Lamb (RMB68), stewed lamb cooked to perfection on a bed of long grain rice, dried fruits and nuts.

The clay pot is served individually, sheathed by a freshly baked pita bread that is sliced open tableside to reveal the still steaming mixed rice below. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Like crème brûlée meets mozzarella stick, the Knafeh Jibneh (RMB68) sees a blend of shredded filo dough, hearty melty mozzarella cheese mixed with fine semolina and cream, plus a sprinkle of bread crumbs on top.

Baked with a golden crust, this tasty Middle Eastern sweet is served hot, dusted with crushed organic pistachios and a lashing of rose water and orange blossom homemade syrup. 

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A slurry of milk, corn flour, rose water and sugar forms the base of Ashtalieh (RMB38), a Lebanese pudding with a delicate, flan-like texture, topped with crushed pistachios, a drizzle of syrup and a scoop of mango ice cream.

Baklava (RMB46/6 pieces), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Speaking of ice cream, Eli Falafel makes theirs in house, ranging from caramel, mango and pistachio to chocolate, milk and strawberry.

Snag anything from a Single Scoop (RMB32) to the Six Flavor Combo (RMB98).

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The drinks side of the menu focuses on fresh flavors, with fruit-forward selections like the Clarified Piña Colada (RMB78) – made with rum, pineapple juice, coconut syrup, coconut water, and lime – and the Khiar-tini (RMB68) – starring vodka, refreshing cucumber juice, elderflower syrup lime and aromatic mint.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Non-alcoholic offerings, like the Cha Milk Tea (RMB42) with warming spices and a medjool date topper, are equally slurp-worthy.

Sip on a smattering of these cocktails, or your choice of wine or beer during the weekday happy hour that runs from 5.30-7.30pm to enjoy their buy-one-get-one special.

Weekends also see another treat – evening belly dancer shows take place every Friday and Saturday. 

The Vibe 

Tucked into the bustle of The Shanghai Centre, this happening spot is flooded with the workday lunching crowd, especially on sunny days.

And it's no surprise, as Eli Falafel offers a stellar lunch deal for RMB78, including your choice of wrap, hummus, salad, fries and a soft drink.

The warm ambiance coupled with the welcoming disposition of the servers make it appealing to families, dates and catchups alike. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And, while Eli Falafel's expanded menu is available for delivery in both Pudong and Puxi (and is just as good as dining in – trust us – we’ve tested it), it’s hard to beat a sun-drenched patio lunch, especially when homemade ice cream and shisha are involved. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Price: RMB75-225
Who’s Going: The Middle Eastern – and more specifically – Lebanese expat community; Shanghai center lunchers; families looking to please the whole crew
Good For: Falafel cravings; healthy lunches; grilled meat consumption

Eli Falafel Shanghai Centre, Suite 111, 1/F, 1376 West Nanjing Lu, by Xikang Lu 地址  南京西路1376号上海商城1楼, 近西康路.

Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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