8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana
This second outpost of Umberto Bombana’s hot spot Hong Kong restaurant—the first outside of Europe to be awarded three Michelin stars—is Shanghai’s top Italian restaurant for a foodie experience. Located within the Rockbund development, Otto e Mezzo features a striking contemporary décor—don’t miss the cured meats and cheeses on display in a massive aging room—and upscale Northern Italian cuisine that still appeals to a wide audience. Chef Bombana, hailed as the ‘king of white truffles,’ has designed a menu that highlights the freshest produce and tried-and-true classics like homemade burrata ravioli and breaded veal Milanese. Those looking to celebrate a special occasion should opt for the five-course tasting menu and request a seat on the terrace, which affords stunning views of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Huangpu river.
Azul Tapas Lounge
Located in a buzzy complex named Ferguson Lane within the former French Concession, Azul delivers delicious tapas in a vibrant and fun setting. The owner draws his inspiration from both Spain and Latin America. Dishes to try are a refreshing Ecuadorian ceviche and the famous flan. The prices are reasonable and the portions large for tapas (check with the waiters to make sure you do not over-order). On the weekends the restaurant often turns into an impromptu salsa club, with diners dancing the night away. A bar section also means you can order drinks and nibbles without having to have a full meal. For a quiet time, on warm summer nights, ask to sit outside on the spacious roof terrace. It offers stunning views over the city’s skyline.
Bar. No. 3
Bell Café and Bar
For an insider spot, seek out Bell, hidden in the maze that is Taikang Lu. It looks unassuming from the outside, but the owner has taken over the entire building and turned it into a Seussian maze of sitting, living and lounge rooms. Best of all is the serene living room on the top floor, with white couches and comfy armchairs. There’s also a small terrace for warm summer evenings. Tucked away at Bell, it’s hard to believe you’re in one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.
Inventive, affordable cuisine is a rarity in Shanghai, where options are usually either casual and inexpensive, or geared towards foodies and come with a hefty price tag. But Cabra, which opened in late 2015, provides a happy medium with Spanish tapas and a cool, atmospheric space that attracts a youthful, social crowd. Featuring high ceilings and tiled walls with brass showerheads and classic paintings adding an abstract element, the hip tapas spot is ideal for a light meal with quality drinks.
Café Gray Deluxe
Travelers looking for classic Shanghai cuisine but for something a little more upscale and refined than Jishi should head to this bright, contemporary enclave in the Jin Jiang Hotel. Diners are seated in a soaring dining room, with white-leather banquette nooks and modern light fixtures, and the professional staff serves modern renditions of the classics, as well as some fusion cuisine. Photographs decorating the entrance show visiting international dignitaries as, but despite longtime renown, the restaurant maintains a quiet, private feel. A good spot for a lunch break when shopping in the French Concession.
One of the toughest table to book in Shanghai is one of the four at this tiny restaurant. It specializes in home-style regional cuisine, and the dishes change every day, depending on what's in season. Don't expect anyone to speak English here, so come with a guide or be brave and try maneuvering a meal with your iPhone translation app.
Cupola at Three on the Bund
This is one of Shanghai's most exclusive dining experiences, at the top level of Three on the Bund with soaring views. Reserve a private dining room at the Cupola at Three on the Bund: one seats a group of eight; the other has just a table for two. In either, you may order from any of the restaurants at Three on the Bund (including several Jean-Georges restaurants). With spectacular views over the river and of Pudong, this may just be one of the most memorable tables you'll ever reserve.
Di Shui Dong
This popular restaurant specializes in Hunan cuisine, which is extremely spicy. There's a second branch (56 Maoming South Rd; 86-21-6253-2689) but this one is less likely to be packed and noisy.
Din Tai Fung
The company that owns this chain of dumpling joints is Taiwanese but this is one of the best spots to try the famous Shanghainese soup dumplings, as well as other tasty dim sum. There are several branches, including in the centrally located Shanghai Centre.
This charming Spanish restaurant located in a garden villa in Shanghai’s former French Concession is one of the best places in the city to enjoy al fresco dining. Chef Willy Trullas Moreno's innovative food is hard to beat; particularly impressive are the piles of fresh seafood and a range of inventive tapas. Although any evening here will be expensive it is worth it for the breezy patio, jugs of sangria, and delicious cuisine. There's also deli that sells imported cheeses and cold cuts.
Recently relocated to a historic venue on The Bund, this restaurant is run by the charming Barcelona chef Willy Trullas Moreno. His menu is a creative jaunt through Spanish tapas—croquetas, tortilla Espanola, patatas brava, chorizo and jamon iberico—and many ingredients are imported from Europe. El Willy is a great choice for a big night out that’s not Chinese-oriented.
Flair Rooftop Restaurant & Bar
The rooftop bar and restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong is one of the best venues to marvel at Shanghai’s futuristic skyline, and its most iconic monument, the Oriental Pearl TV tower, which is just a few blocks from the hotel. Located on the 58th floor, the Super Potato–designed lounge is a hot spot that draws a stylish crowd of locals and visitors, who imbibe on indulgent cocktails and Southeast Asian bites. Befitting of a restaurant that is often peeking through the clouds, Flair’s signature cocktail is a show-stopping concoction that comes topped with a fluffy tuft of cotton candy. When the weather is nice, the outdoor terrace is one of the best places to lounge in the entire city.
Housed in a three-story colonial villa from the 1930’s, this modern Shanghainese restaurant is perfect for an intimate dinner. With no outdoor signage, the antique-filled villa has transformed each of its rooms into private dining spaces, which feature simple but sophisticated furnishings like early 1900s antiques and white linen tablecloths. The cuisine, a western interpretation of Chinese classics, stays true enough to regional tastes that both locals and visitors frequent Fu 1088. Standout dishes include the drunken chicken and crab with egg white, served in an actual eggshell.
For an afternoon treat and a very local scene, head to HOF (an abbreviation for House of Flour), a chocolatier-cum-dessert spot off busy Middle Huaihai Road, in the French Concession. They serve cakes, six types of hot chocolate, gelato and pastries all made with high-quality cocoa (the place smells heavenly). It’s open late and becomes quite the hot spot after dinner.
Michael Graves designed this showstopper of a restaurant with a glamorous interior of rich velvets and dark wood to evoke the glory days of supper clubs. The menu reflects Jean-Georges’s love of classical French cooking methods and exotic flavors in dishes such as lobster tartine in a lemongrass broth with pea shoots.
Whether you’re looking to come here for lunch or dinner, you have to ask your concierge to make a reservation at this local hot spot. If you do, chances are you will be one of only few Westerners in this tiny place. Don’t be intimidated, though: the wait staff is friendly and the menu translated (it helps to get your concierge to write down the Chinese names of some classic Shanghai dishes to make sure you get a good mix of food).
The food is classic, simple and deliciously prepared Shanghainese, meaning a little sweet and uncomplicated. When I had lunch here with my husband, we sampled fried rice laced with pork sausage and vegetables, sweet glazed pork ribs, sautéed snow peas prepared with lots of garlic, and tiny dates stuffed with glutinous rice, all the while watching the surrounding tables grow more boisterous with every glass of rice wine consumed. It was the first—and only—time I felt like Shanghai slowed down enough to reveal a glimpse of its nostalgic, old-world self. Don’t miss Jishi for an authentic local experience.
Outfitted with low seating areas, mismatched dishes and colorful Communist paraphernalia covering every inch of wall space, this restaurant-café makes a fun pit spot if you’re shopping the Taikang Lu boutiques. The cuisine is mostly Western, with sandwiches, soups and some heartier fare; the coffee is reportedly the best in town. During warm weather, there are small tables on an al fresco patio, perfect for people-watching.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Opened in the spring of 2016, this first venture by Joël Robuchon into the Shanghai dining scene is located in a refurbished historical building on the Bund and serves upscale French cuisine. The legendary chef, whose restaurant group boasts the most Michelin stars of any in the world, serves his haute cuisine in a vibrant red and black space dining rooms with an open kitchen and the largest teppanyaki (iron griddle) in the world.
For those who’ve had their fill of braised pork and steam dumplings, the thin-crust pizzas and salads at La Strada will provide a welcome break. It’s a nice local spot for a lunch while touring and shopping in the French Concession.
This restaurant focuses on Yunnan folk cuisine (the region encompasses parts of southwestern China). The original branch is in a Colonial villa in the French Concession. The food is unique, beautifully prepared, reasonably priced and consistently delicious, which explains the crowds, especially on weekends. It’s a fun spot to try as much as possible from the large menu, which is illustrated with photos of the region and of the food (helpful when it comes to deciding between such dishes as tea-leaf salad and Yunnan scrambled eggs with white-mushroom). Some of the bites showcase the signature Yunnan heat, but not everything is spicy, making this a great spot for picky or timid eaters as well. There’s also a good selection of vegetarian dishes.
Parts of Lost Heaven, the wildly popular restaurants (there are two branches) featuring Yunnan folk cuisine are admittedly gimmicky. The wait staff is dressed in the traditional, colorful costumes of the Yunnan region (which encompasses parts of southwestern China), which would be charming if the place wasn’t so large that it also required them to wear ear pieces into which they discreetly place the orders. The sultry, black-and red-clad space, enhanced by a groovy soundtrack, brings to mind the early days of Buddha Bar.
That said, the food here is unique, beautifully prepared, reasonably priced and consistently delicious, which explains the crowds, especially on weekends. It’s a fun spot to come with a big group and to try as much as possible from the large menu, which is illustrated with photos of the region and of the food (helpful when it comes to deciding between such dishes as tea-leaf salad and Yunnan scrambled eggs with white-mushroom). Some of the bites showcase the signature Yunnan heat, but not everything is spicy, making this a great spot for picky or timid eaters as well. There’s also a good selection of vegetarian dishes.
The original branch is in a Colonial villa in the French Concession; larger and more flashy is the second outpost just off the Bund, a good choice for guests of the Peninsula Shanghai, Fairmont Peace Hotel or Waldorf Astoria Shanghai and looking for a good local option that doesn’t require another taxi ride. After or before dinner, the glamorous Bund bars are all a quick walk away.
There's nothing charming about the location (on the second story of an apartment building) but the terrific Mexican cuisine speaks for itself at Maya. Located in Jing’An, it’s a good spot for those who need a break from Chinese food and can handle the initial weirdness of nibbling on excellent fish tacos and churros in midst of the distinctly Shanghainese Grand Plaza Club House.
Part of the JiaShan Market, an eco-friendly oasis in the middle of the French Concession, this café is a wonderful enclave when buzzing Shanghai gets too much and you just want to spend a quiet few hours over coffee and homemade cakes. The magazines here are English, Chinese and German; naturally, since the owner is originally from Vienna (but has lived in Shanghai for over a decade).
Mercato by Jean Georges
Located on the sixth floor of the famous Three on the Bund, Mercato is one of three Michelin–starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten's many restaurants in Shanghai. The modern space, designed by Shanghai firm Neri&Hu, mixes reclaimed wood and leather with exposed steel, iron and glass to great effect. At the center of it all is a massive, wood-fire Italian brick oven. The food is classic Italian, with home made pastas complementing the delicious freshly baked pizzas. The views of the Bund are breathtaking.
Mr & Mrs Bund
Mr & Mrs Bund is not only known for its views over the Huangpu River but also for its buzzing atmosphere – this is one of the favorite locales for Shanghai’s It crowd. Reflecting this it is one of the few restaurants on The Bund to deliver a late-night menu. Modern French cuisine is served Chinese-style, with the multiple dishes on the vast menu placed on the middle of the table to be shared rather than dished up on individual plates. Expect to be dazzled by the fabulous food (don't miss the fois gras crumble) by celebrated French chef Paul Pairet.