Miyaraku: A Japanese Oasis Amongst Shanghai's Hustle & Bustle

By Sophie Steiner, November 20, 2023

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The Place 

A nondescript, walled entrance separates Miyaraku from the hustle and bustle of Changle Lu, the sliding door opening to reveal a Japanese oasis, seemingly a world away from the street lying just outside its borders. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Guests first enter a traditional Japanese garden, highlighting the natural landscape. Flowering shrubs and evergreen plants grow amongst white gravel, a path of stones leading diners past ornamental paper umbrellas and timeworn pagoda statues into the Kyoto retreat of a venue. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Following the same Japanese aesthetic, the interior opens to a hinoki-wood-lined sushi bar for 10, where guests can choose to sit and enjoy the seemingly choreographed show of nigiri and sashimi preparation. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Beyond that, six private dining rooms for 2-6 people each are outfitted for the Kyoto kaiseki dining experience. Along the lines of outfits, diners can even choose to don their own kimonos and geta – or traditional Japanese sandals – to rent (RMB120/person) and wear throughout their meal. 

The Food 

The menu is designed and curated by famed Japanese chef Kanayi Saburo and owner Quan Taishem, who offer three omakase-meets-kaiseki style set menus – for RMB980, RMB1,380, and RMB1,980 – available at both lunch and dinner time. There’s also a smaller omakase lunch set for RMB480, and an afternoon tea set for RMB198 for one person, RMB298 for one person including kimono rental, and RMB598 for two people including a bottle of champagne.

Image courtesy of Miyaraku

And for a limited time during the entire month of December, there's also a Christmas Afternoon Tea Set for RMB488 for two people (or RMB698, including a bottle of champagne), featuring festively themed snacks and treats, plus photo opportunity add-ons.

The set menus rotates roughly every month to showcase seasonal ingredients, the freshest seafood, and – in true omakase style – the whims of the chef, so diners can expect – well – the unexpected on repeat visits, within the parameters of a kaiseki meal (there’s always a sashimi course, a nigiri course, a meat course, a tempura course, etc.)

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

We sampled the autumn RMB1,380 set, a 10-course meal, plus an amuse bouche and whisked-tableside Uji Kyoto matcha to finish, so here’s an example what you can plan to taste. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The meal starts with a ginger, chestnut and chrysanthemum Tian Jiu, or sweet boiled tea that mimics alcohol, to warm the body and open the appetite. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A smattering of starters follow, from a trembly Steamed Egg Pudding with seasonal crustaceans – in our case local hairy crab...

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

...To an array of delicately plated Seasonal Cold Starters, mainly seafood and vegetables, like Shaoxing wine-marinated prawns; abalone boiled with sake and soy sauce; hollowed burdock root stuffed with a blend of tofu, crab and shrimp; mixed mushrooms and autumnal produce filled persimmon; and more. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The third course usually proffers a soup, in our case a grilled Blackthroat Sea Pearch fish swimming in a kombu and bonito flake broth, accompanied by winter bamboo, maitake mushrooms, and a stretchy fried niangao rice cake. This highly nutritious fish is only available at its freshest from late autumn to winter, making now the best time to enjoy it.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Sourced from around China, Canada, Spain and the Pacific Ocean, a Sashimi course is next, only the most in-season seafood being paired with a Japanese yuzu soy sauce and freshly ground wasabi root. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Scored and seared Australian M9 Wagyu sirloin is presented on a pink salt plank, accompanied by sweet potatoes, boiled peanuts, and a marinated edible flower. Choose your own adventure with eat bite, dipping the tender cut in any of the lemon vinegar, wasabi, or yuzu jam accoutrement.

DSC01221.jpgSake-boiled Australian Abalone, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As high-quality produce deserves praise to the same extent as protein, the chef makes it a point to always include a fruit-centric course, a palate cleanser of sorts, paired with raw seafood – in this case, supple scallops – and assorted citrus segments. Like an exaggerated version of your everyday orange, the concentrated Orange flavors are similar to that of candy, justifying the use of the accompanied spoon to scoop out every last juicy drop. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Tempura course features recently harvested fruits and vegetables – from baby corn and beans to fresh fig and sweet potato – plus the more customary shrimp and fish fillet, served with an Uji matcha salt. Our favorite bite came in the form of meaty eel, sheathed in a lace-like tempura, one that showcases the daily meticulous process used to develop that expertly textured batter.

DSC01252.jpgAssorted Nigiri and Miso Soup, Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The meal concludes with a demurely sweet Ooolong Milk Custard, studded with osmanthus flowers and flanked by Japanese honeydew melon and muscat grapes. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Along with the set menus, there’s also imported Japanese sake ranging from RMB198-2,750 per bottle – including Miyaraku’s own sake brand that is brewed in Yamadai, Hyogo Prefecture, Japanese shochu, yuzu wine, beer, wine, and Japanese whisky.

The Vibe 

After living for 13 years in Kyoto, owner Quan Taishem returned to Dalian and opened a similar style Japanese venue there. Following its long-standing success, the concept has been duplicated and tailored to meet the Shanghai dining scene, recreating the same tranquil haven he fell in love with in Japan.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The minimalist Japanese design, relaxing music, and sun-soaked rooms – most of which open out into the garden – culminate in a Japanese sanctuary, one that allows diners to escape Shanghai for the humbler times of Kyoto’s yesteryear. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Do note, as the venue fits just 35 people and omakase-style set menus are the only option, reservations are required in advance, which can be made by calling 021 6215 2829.

Price: RMB480-1,980 sets
Who’s Going: Well to do Chinese and expats, the Japanese foodie contingency, those craving all things Kyoto
Good For: A Kyoto kaiseki experience without the cost of a plane ticket, a tranquil dining date, kimono fashion shows

Miyaraku, 920 Changle Lu, by Changshu Lu, 长乐路920号, 近常熟路.

Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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