12 Droolworthy Donuts for a Guaranteed Dopamine Dump

By Sophie Steiner, September 18, 2023

0 0

Every Dunkin Donuts within a 35-kilometer radius of Shanghai has closed in the last few months. 

Did we notice? Nope.

Did you? Probably not.

DSC03420.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Why? Because gone are the days when a basic glazed or powdered number from Dunkin or Krispy Kreme will do the trick.

Now it’s all about the zaniest flavors combinations, the wackiest toppings and the most Dianping-able/Instragrammable/Xiahongshu-able food porn of a donut imaginable.

DSC05716.jpg

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Beignet, cruller, Berliner, jelly donut, bombolone, cronut, fritter, or cake donut; glazed, frosted, powdered, sprinkled, sugared, or naked – no matter how you donut, it’s always a guaranteed dopamine dump.

DSC03408.jpeg

Which is why we’re not here to rank or rate these donuts. Because – like pizza, tacos, or sex – even the worst of it is still good.

Every donut is a winner and deserving of recognition in some shape or form. And we are happy to bestow it, swaddled in sprinkly glazed goodness.  

DSC04483.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Compared to other international cities, Shanghai may still be lacking in the donut department, but as this time- and calorie-consuming donut quest proves, all that is beginning to change. 

Without further ado, this is the dough we are nutting over. 


Alimentari 

Alimentari Mulino is just one of 11 Alimentari locations in Shanghai that make up the POPOLOa Group – each with its own focus.

From grilled proteins to all-day dining, from the OG Italian-style neighborhood market to casual café, there’s always a time and place for Alimentari.

But one thing most locations have in common is an emphasis on top-notch baked goods. 

DSC06920.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Case in point, Alimentari Mulino’s Bombolone (RMB12)

Like a donut hole-meets-an-Italian-bombolone, this mini-sized treat’s yeasty dough is notably fresh and effortlessly light; like a bun that dimples oh-so-slightly upon biting, the pastry puffs itself back up, airy and supple.

In the same vein, the piped vanilla cream found in the center is velvety without being overly sweet, a milk cream with just a hint of vanilla essence.

As this bombolone goes down in just 3-4 bites, it makes for the ideal snack to pair with your afternoon coffee – one that won’t give you the sugar rush crash so you can still make it to the end of the workday.  

Award: Best Afternoon Pick-Me-Up Donut

Alimentari Mulino, 4, Lane 245 Maoming Lu, by Nanjing Xi Lu, 茂名路245弄4号, 近南京西路.


Azul 

Azul – the flagship brand by Peruvian restaurateur Eduardo Vargas – has been bringing a taste of Latin America to the Shanghai masses since the beginning of time.

And while a new menu launch just took place (seriously, go check it out!), the Dulce de Leche Doughnuts (RMB68) remain – testament to their utter perfection. 

DSC07220.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Sitting in that middle ground between a warm Mexican churro and a donut hole, these golf ball-sized dulce de leche bombs are a game changer for Shanghai's donut scene.

The crispy coating is covered in a cinnamon sugar blend, while the plush inside holds the exemplary balance of dough and filling.

And the dulce de leche is spot on – the texture of thickened condensed milk laced with that burnt toffee caramel flavor that would make any South American scream ¡qué maravilla!' with glee. 

These molten balls of happiness are anchored to the plate by a criss-cross of salted caramel piping, flanked by a quenelle of coffee-infused tiramisu ice cream that mitigates the pudgy donut's sugary layers. 

Award: Most Treacly Filled Donut

Azul, Building 6, Shangkang Li, 358 Kangding Lu, by Shaanxi Bei Lu 康定路358号, 近陕西北路.


Crush Wine Bistro

At upscale yet approachable New York-style wine bar Crush Wine Bistro, owner Elliot Shay (who has been in the wine import and distribution industry for years), and chef Dylan Briley (previously of Goga, Mr & Mrs Bund), are serving up (and pouring out) good times, great eats and even better sips in an already bustling area.

And the brunch menu is no exception.

With 15 options to choose from, at just RMB198 for any two dishes plus a coffee or juice, it’s a steal in the wide and vast world of Shanghai’s brunch scene.

DSC02339.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

One of those can’t-miss options is the Brioche Donuts – presented in a paper bag, still steaming and flecked with cinnamon sugar. Strawberry jam and vanilla mascarpone act as supporting actors for dipping on the side.

In of the all time great culinary debates – yeast versus cake donut – the world of donuts is divided in two; yeast (leavened by – you guessed it – yeast) versus cake (leavened by baking powder).

We aren’t here to take sides, just present the facts. And the facts are that these cake donuts take the cake, literally

Unlike the Dunkin’ Donuts of the world, these are light (fluffy even) and not at all greasy – so you don’t feel the need to beeline to the gym afterwards. 

Award: Best Brunch Donut 

Crush Wine Bistro, 819 Shaanxi Bei Lu, by Changping Lu,  陕西北路819号, 近昌平路.


Dosage 

Cafe by day, the cozy space at Dosage switches into a wine bar vibe after 6pm.

Yet, regardless of the hour (and whether you like sweets or not) you will finish your plate here – recipe creator and pastry queen Vanessa Miao has made sure of that. 

DSC04109.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Hailing from the original opening menu, the Sour Cream Chocolate Bundt (RMB36) has been a top seller since day one, and for good reason.

Served warm, the rich dark chocolate is next-level moist, our hearts melting like the gooey cocoa glaze spread on top of it.

Cakey and dense, it sits at the confectionary crossroads between brownies and donuts, in the most unapologetic of ways. 

Award: Best Chocolate-Lovers Donut 

Dosage, 616 Julu Lu, by Xiangyang Bei Lu, 巨鹿路616号, 近襄阳北路.


Egg

Egg recently re-launched their donut program, a weekend release of limited-edition donuts in funky flavors available – well – until their gone.

Garnering quite the cult following, the team involves their most loyal Egg fans in brainstorming donut ideas, announcing the weekend’s flavors at 9am every Saturday morning via Egg’s WeChat group chat... with a mad dash to the shop immediately ensuing.

WechatIMG770.jpeg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And said mad dash is beyond warranted, as these thiccccck donuts are dramatic in heft, doled out in offerings like peach shiso cream to ube with edible flowers, from pink lemonade and pistachio to Campari glazed for RMB20-28 each, depending on flavor.

And, as the hype over these coveted confections continues, Egg has begun a series of guest chef donut popups – the first of which involved Andrew Moo (Yaya’s), who kicked it all off with The Golden Arches (a maple glazed donut with bacon and salted egg yolk) and Hawaiian Pizza (pineapple glaze, candied bacon, tomato powder) – grotesque absurdity in the most delectable of ways. 

Oh yeah, and they launched donut moon cakes for the upcoming mid-Autumn Festival.

Nobody takes their donut game more seriously than Egg. Hats off for creativity. 

Award: Most Creatively Flavored Donut

Egg, 12 Xiangyang Bei Lu, by Changle Lu, 襄阳北路12号, 近长乐路. 


Il Ristorante – Niko Romito

A sweet surprise at the end of Michelin-starred Il Ristorante – Niko Romito’s set menu involves the quintessential Italian donut – a textbook sugared Bombolone oozing with fresh custard.

DSC05986.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Not available a la carte – unless specifically requested – we could jokingly call this Shanghai’s least expensive donut, as it doesn’t retail for anything, just the casual RMB2,800 tasting menu sticker price of a dinner at this globally-recognized fine dining establishment.

And, as the kitchen team has an accoladed and full-time dedicated pastry chef, it’s no surprise that this bombolone resides on a pedestal above the rest, a sinful finish to an equally indulgent meal.  

Award: Most Expensive (& Least Expensive) High-End Donut 

Il Ristorante – Niko Romito, 47/F, Bulgari Hotel Shanghai, Lane 108 Shanxi Bei Lu, by Tiantong Lu, 山西北路108弄 上海宝格丽酒店47层, 近天潼路.


Il Teatro

The Bombolone (RMB28) trend continues at Xintiandi’s Il Teatro.

All about keeping things traditional Italian trattoria, the pastries follow suit, with offerings like Maritozzo (RMB22) – a cream-filled brioche-style bun that originated in a Roman patisserie – alongside cannolis, tiramisu, fresh-baked focaccia, and, the reason we're here – donuts. 

DSC06932.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Available stuffed with Nutella or cream, we went with the obvious choice and ended our meal with a belly full of cocoa dreams – a generous blob of two tablespoons worth of Nutella lining our insides.

A faint hint of citrus tempers the saccharine dough base coupled with the extra hit of powdered sugar on top, one that leaves your fingers slick and shiny, sticky with sugar and oil.

A deep sugar punch like a horse kick to the head, we highly advise pairing it with a coffee.

Award: Most Gloriously Gluttonous Donut

Il Teatro, Xintiandi, No. 19, Lane 181 Taicang Lu, by Huangpi Nan Lu 太仓路181弄16号, 近黄陂南路.


Sloppy Gin 

Shanghai’s most wanghong hipster donut shop – Sloppy Gin – opened along Nanchang Lu at the beginning of the year and has systematically risen in the ranks since then.

With a name that belongs more to a dive bar, we arrived with low expectations, and left with a sugar high… plus a few extra kilos around our midsection. 

DSC05683.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Albeit on the treacly side, these donuts are ambrosial, served up in inventive flavors like Pina Colada (RMB26), Lemon n’ Sage (RMB26), Chocolate Truffle (RMB24) and Lime Cheesecake (RMB26), to name a few. 

DSC05687.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And the flavor results are beyond successfully achieved; the pina colada center being the milky incarnation of the famed getting-caught-in-the-rain-cocktail. 

DSC05714.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Our only gripe is that they are actually too big...

Wait, hear us out.

Not necessarily too big to be a donut, but too big for their accoutrement or filling, resulting in the last few bites being more unflavored fried bread than donut.

While flavor and execution are on point, the filling-to-dough ratio still needs that final tweak. 

Award: Best Flavor Execution Donut

Sloppy Gin, 172 Nanchang Lu, by Sinan Lu, 南昌路172号, 近思南路.


Tim Horton

Navigating the frenetic pace of any Tim Horton between the hours of 8-10am in Shanghai deserves a medal of honor, a Purple Heart for sacrifice, or some form of governmental salute.

Well, Canadian coffee chain Tim Horton delivers that recognition in the form of Donut Holes (RMB4/each, RMB12/4) – a one-biter to award yourself for making it to another day. 

DSC06927.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Available in double coconut, dark chocolate with almond, strawberry, or apricot peach, these tiny treats are served warm – compact and crumbly, more like a scone than a donut.

The no frosting nor glaze really tips the scales (the wrong way), but we found ourselves going back in for another cakey bite, one of the only spots in Shanghai serving a non-yeast donut. 

Pro tip: Skip the other flavors and go straight for the double coconut, filled with a sugared coconut shred center.

Award: Most Crushable in One Bite Donut (Hole)

All over the city. Literally everywhere.


Toasty by O’Mills 

O'Mills has a built a cult following in this city for their bakery items and health-focused (without sacrificing flavor) all day brunch menu.

All of which has led to the opening of their fifth location, Toasty by O'Mills on Yanping Lu this past winter. 

And for good reason, because – in short – their breads, pastries and cakes slap. 

Objectively.

One of the city's top notch bakeries.

DSC04471.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And our unrelenting appreciation for this joint translates directly to their donuts, available in Vanilla (RMB22), Strawberry (RMB23),and 70% Valrhona Chocolate (RMB25).

These pillowy puffs heave with lush whipped mascarpone cream, easily the bulkiest on the list in the best of ways – sporting an epic amount of filling. 

DSC04463.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The OG Vanilla is our go-to – classic with a dusting of sugar – while the Strawberry is a close second – the mascarpone studded with pieces of fresh strawberry and the outer dough sprinkled with strawberry sugar. 

Dipped in a melted dark chocolate, the 70% Valrhona Chocolate donut’s cocoa undertones are surprisingly subtle, yet equally worth tossing your diet in the trash for.

Award: Most Voluptuous Donut 

Toasty by O'Mills, #105, 135 Yanping Lu by Wuding Lu,延平路135号105室, 近武定路.


Tomatito

We don't necessarily associate cloyingly sweet cake fritters coated in a waxy outer layer of white or milk chocolate with Spanish food, but at Tomatito, it honestly just works. 

DSC07260.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Maybe it's because the Donetes (RMB58) taste like a sugary kick of nostalgia to the dome, reminiscent of Dunkin' Donuts, Entenmann's, Mister Donut, or really any grocery store or gas station bought donut of our childhood.

Maybe it's the dense white cake center that makes a glass of milk mandatory, like an after school treat.

Maybe its how cutesy and little they are, just asking to be popped into your mouth in one bite.

Or maybe its the way the outer chocolate coating melts into your fingers as you bring the ring of treacly joy to your lips, leaving you sticky and satisfied. 

Whatever it is, it's damn near addicting.

And this plate of mini donuts has stood the test of time, with a nine year run on Tomatito's menu; most venues don't even last that long, yet these treats have done so with ease.

We get why. 

Award: Most Nostalgia-Inducing Donut

TomatitoInfinitus Mall, 3/F Room W08-10, 168 Hubin Lu, by Jinan Lu 湖滨路168号3楼W08-10,近济南路.


TonTon

The newest addition to this list, TonTon just opened in mid-September along the cafe-lined street of Yongkang Lu – a bakery and Euro bistro sandwich bar coming to us from the team behind Mavis.

Born out of a love for all things bread, after the team got into making the sourdough for Mavis, they expanded further into baked goods, and TonTon was the glorious offspring.

Downstairs is where the pastry magic happens – with the usual suspects like croissants, pain au chocolate, kouign-amann, cinnamon rolls, and – most importantly  Donuts (RMB22-28)

A lot of donuts. 

DSC07464.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Currently six flavors, but the list will grow.

The starting lineup spans from vanilla custard with orange to chocolate and Cointreau liqueur, from rose lychee to pistachio cream with cherry jam.

And there's a stellar passion fruit lemon curd stuffed donut as well.

Despite their bulk, these yeasty bombolones are light as a feather inside, the majority of the weight owed to the filling, each one more spot on than the last.

You love to see it. 

DSC07450.jpg
Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Using only natural yeast in their bakery products, the dough's flavor is more complex, and it makes for easier digestibility without the "carb-crash," so you can feel a little less guilty for crushing that sugar-coated midday treat. 

Award: Best Donut-y Dough Texture & Flavor

TonTon, 178 Yongkang Lu, by Xiangyang Lu, 永康路178号近襄阳路.


[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

more news

Tim Hortons Partners with Tencent for Huge Chinese Expansion

Currently most franchises are located in downtown Shanghai.

5 Things: Gosia Modlińska of the Pierogi Ladies

You have until midnight to order Polish donuts for delivery on Fat Thursday

China's First Tim Hortons Opens to Massive 2-Hour Line

China's first Tim Hortons opened in Shanghai today, and people are lining up for hours to get their fill of bagel BELTS, Timbits and coffee.

Hey Shanghai, Have a Happy Ending at This Sexy Donut Pop-Up

Some serious food porn will have you in the mood to eat all the donuts when this two-night late-night glazed bacchanalia takes over the Madison Kitchen storefront.

Tim Hortons to Open 1,500 Locations in China over Next Decade

Canada's favorite coffee is coming to China!

The Top 5 Most Festive Chinese New Year Dishes

A look at the top five festive Chinese dishes and their symbolic meanings.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at Thats_Shanghai for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives