With its thriving diversity, intoxicating nightlife, and evocative history, the Chinese city of Shanghai is one of the most alluring to business travelers and leisure-seekers alike. Astonishingly dense – this city is home to a full 23 million people – the epicenter of Chinese culture both old and new has much to offer travelers fascinated by the long and storied history of this land. Historically of the wealthiest cities in the Far East due to its legacy as a trading outpost, Shanghai represents a quintessential blend of cultures, as Chinese and British, Russian and French legacies collide in this melting pot of a metropolis.
Such a combination has many benefits, particularly for the culinarily inclined. Like so much else in Shanghai, the restaurant scene is making a name for itself as one of the world’s top-class gastronomic experiences. Shanghaiese food is distinctive, taking as its basis the aromas and textures of the surrounding region of Jiangnan; food here often contains sweet and sour notes that play upon the savory quality of a given dish. From the braised “red-cooked pork” to the fresh fish so ubiquitous in this river-side city, Shanghai’s culinary delights are legendary. Today, the best restaurants and chefs in the business are transforming local classic fare into artistic masterpieces of flavor. We’ve narrowed down the best options for the luxury traveler seeking a dish a cut above the ordinary.
Half the appeal of the delightful Fu 1088 is its semi-secrecy. Cloistered away behind an imposing iron gate, this classic Shanghaiese restaurant is located in a three-story colonial-style mansion, giving it the intimate feel of a very exclusive dinner party. Such an impression is bolstered by the interior layout – each table is located in an individual room, from a tiny cubby-hole for a romantic couple to a grand space for twelve, allowing for the utmost privacy and discretion. The furniture here is from the turn of the 20th century, only adding to the historic atmosphere. But the real delight here is the food, representing the best of what traditional Shanghai cuisine has to offer. The cold “drunken chicken,” served with shaved ice made from rice wine, is a particularly sumptuous delight.
Yi Long Court
Located in the exclusive Peninsula Hotel, the Yi Long Court is ideal for those looking to savor authentic, exquisitely-crafted Cantonese cuisine. Under the aegis of Michelin-starred culinary impresario Tang Chi Keung, who until recently presided over the Peninsula in Tokyo, the Yi Long Court combines traditional Cantonese fare with a more European atmosphere; the Art Deco dining room wouldn’t be out of place in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. The seafood in Shanghai is among the freshest in the world, so give yourself over to plate after plate of scallops, shrimps, and more. The extensive tea selection is a perfect pairing to the decadent desserts on offer here.
Unico by Mauro Colagreco
While many travelers visiting Shanghai seek out traditional classics from either Shanghai or China more widely, some visitors may want to capitalize on Shanghai’s emerging status as a leader in the field of experimental cuisine. Those looking for a walk on the culinary wild side can’t leave Shanghai without visiting Colagreco, the brainchild of two-Michelin-starred Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco. A heady order of Latin passion pervades the atmosphere here; sumptuous red velvets recall an Argentinian bordello. But the food here, inspired by molecular gastronomy, is more beautiful still: dishes seem to have been chosen as much for aesthetics as for their taste. Try the “Forest”, where clusters of wild mushroom and quinoa are transformed into a diorama of miniature “trees.”
Perhaps the most radical restaurant in Shanghai, this avant-garde eatery is equal parts restaurant and laboratory. Advertised as a “Multi-sensory restaurant,” Ultraviolet controls the palate through sight and sound as well as smell, touch, and taste. There’s no décor, here, nor is there much choice; the restaurant contains only ten seats, all at a single table, and diners are served the same twenty-course dinner menu, which changes regularly. Diners are treated to visuals on LCD screens, sound effects, and other theatrics designed to bring out a dish’s most prominent flavors. Too out-there for some, Ultraviolet is nevertheless an utterly unique experience, and a testament to the cutting-edge nature of Shanghai’s gastronomic scene.