Eli Falafel: Middle Eastern Food Gold Standard is Now in Pudong

By Sophie Steiner, March 18, 2022

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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.

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Image courtesy of Eli Falafel, Jiujiang Lu

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

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It only made logical sense then for Wael 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, while early 2021 brought Eli Falafel to the hungry masses of Lujiazui.

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

The brightly lit space boasts an open kitchen and a 360-degree bar, with seating for 150 inside and another 80 outside, all outfitted with decorative antique vases, gold-embossed lamps, richly-colored, bead-stitched pillows, while plants abound. 

The Food

Come hungry – and bring friends while you’re at it – because the menu 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.

Phew! 

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Begin with an order of the Eli Trio (RMB68), a selection of home-prepared, authentic Lebanese dips of 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 – all served with classic hot puff bread. 

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. 

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The Eli Falafel Salad (RMB68) 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.

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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.

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The Eli Quick Bites (RMB105) are best for sharing a taste of Lebanese street fare, including a selection of appetizers spanning falafel; kibbe meatballs – bulgar wheat mixed with minced beef, onions, roasted pine nuts and spices; sambousek – crispy pie dough stuffed with minced beef, onions, roasted pine nuts and spices; bel lahme – ground meat fritters; cheese rkakat – flaky filo dough stuffed with gruyere, mozzarella and feta cheese plus herbs; and a heaping bowl of sour yogurt and olive oil for dunking. 

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

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New to the menu, the Chicken Combo Sandwich (RMB78) and Fish and Shrimp Combo Sandwich (RMB88) arrive on a toasted buns – stuffed with crispy French fries – the latter shmeared with tangy tartar sauce.

Stacked tall yet structurally sound, each bite results in a satisfying crunch from the batter-fried coating, enhanced by a creamy bite of one of Shanghai’s best coleslaw salads. 

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They also offer Eli Combos (RMB78) for weekday lunches, where any wrap (choose from falafel, chicken liver, chicken shawarma, shish taouk, beef shawarma, lamb kabab, kafta kabab or potato) comes with hummus, a seasonal salad, fries and a soft drink. 

DSC01720.jpgEggs and Meat (RMB58), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Unlike the traditional Italian pizza dough that usually requires 16-24 hours to ferment, the Lebanese pizza dough is ready in just three, resulting in a flat-bread crust, sprinkled with any manner of spices, cheese, pickles, veggies and meats. 

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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.

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. 

DSC01753.jpgMixed Shawarma Plate (RMB145), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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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 (RMB35), a Lebanese pudding with a delicate, flan-like texture, topped with crushed pistachios, a drizzle of syrup and a scoop of mango ice cream.

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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 (RMB28) to the Six Flavor Combo (RMB98).

More similar to Turkish ice cream, the heaping scoops are chewier, stretchy and deliciously velvety.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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The drinks side of the menu focuses on fresh flavors, with fruit-forward selections, like the Soursop Gimlet (RMB58) – made with Beefeater gin, lemon, amontillado sherry and soursop purée – and their take on a Boulevardier (RMB58) – starring coffee whiskey, Campari, sweet vermouth and aromatic cardamom bitters.

Non-alcoholic offerings, like the PassionMate (RMB68) with passion fruit syrup, hibiscus tea and mate tea, are equally refreshing.

The Vibe 

Tucked into the bustle of the Bund, this happening spot is flooded with the workday lunching crowd, specifically on sunny days. The welcoming ambiance coupled with the sunny disposition of the servers make it appealing to families, dates and catchups alike. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

And, while Lujiazui Eli’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 is involved.

Oh, and don’t think the Eli Empire expansion ends here; plans are already in the works for the fourth outpost at the Portman Ritz-Carlton on Nanjing Xi Lu, set to open in August.

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


See a listing for Eli Falafel Pudong.

Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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