The 11 Best Restaurants in Shanghai: A Gastronomic Guide
Updated: Nov 15
From traditional Chinese flavors to international fusions, Shanghai is a vibrant metropolis for expats but also a haven for food enthusiasts. If you're a foodie visiting Shanghai, chances are there's one question at the forefront of your mind: what are the best restaurants in Shanghai? Join me in exploring the best restaurants that Shanghai has to offer, each providing a unique and delectable dining experience.
味香斋 (Wei Xiang Zhai): A Shanghai Institution
First up on this Shanghai food guide is my personal favorite Wei Xiang Zhai. At first glance, you absolutely would not want to step into this local food spot with its dingy, grimy facade. But you'd only be shooting yourself in the foot if you walked past this Michelin Guide hole in the wall restaurant. That's right it's certifiably one of the best Chinese restaurants in Shanghai. Wei Xiang Zhai is known for its dirt cheap (like $1.50 for a bowl of noodles cheap) sesame sauce noodles and once you take a bite you'll immediately understand why. When my friends and I went, we actually wound up getting two bowls of noodles each because we simply could not stop eating. I recommend trying the beef soup (xiǎo niú tāng) in addition to the sesame noodles.
Pro tip: Wei Xiang Zhai is a small restaurant but it is also one of the most popular restaurants in Shanghai. Locals flock here during lunchtime hours (12-2), but they are open until 9pm so I recommend going at an odd hour like 3pm when it's pretty much empty. No reservations for this simple spot.
Din Tai Fung: The Dumpling Maestro
No visit to Shanghai is complete without indulging in the dumpling perfection that is Din Tai Fung. Known for its delicate soup dumplings (xiǎo lóng bāo), this restaurant has mastered the art of crafting these savory parcels. Each bite bursts with flavorful soup, enhancing the tender meat filling. Don't forget to pair them with their signature soy sauce for an explosion of taste.
老吉士 (Old Jesse): A Taste of Authentic Shanghai
For an authentic Shanghainese dining experience, look no further than Old Jesse, a staple for Chinese food which spawned the chain restaurant "New Jesse." Nestled in the heart of the French Concession, this restaurant is a local institution. Their Hong Shao Rou, a braised pork belly dish in rich soy sauce glaze, is a must-try. The unpretentious ambiance and mouthwatering dishes make it a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Reservations are a must-have for this Shanghainese restaurant as seating is quite limited.
福和慧 (Fu He Hui): Michelin-Starred Vegetarian Elegance
This one is for my veg friends out there! Fu He Hui is the destination for upscale dining with sustainability in mind. This Michelin-starred gem offers exquisite vegetarian cuisine inspired by Chinese traditions. This restaurant often opts for creative ingredients like wheat gluten and bamboo shoots, adding unique textures and flavors to every dish. Keep in mind that Fu He Hui is heavy on the wallet as there are no a la carte options available - only set menus.
Mr & Mrs Bund: French-Inspired Shanghai Fusion
Mr and Mrs Bund is one of the city's favorite Western food restaurants. Another Shanghai institution, Mr and Mrs Bund has been around since 2009 and is a fusion experience that puts a Shanghai twist on classic French dishes. Chef Paul Pairet works his culinary magic here, and the open kitchen allows you to witness the chefs in action. Be sure to sample their renowned Foie Gras & Beef, a tantalizing blend of East and West flavors, and complement it with a fine bottle of wine.
大东饭店 (Da Dong): The Peking Duck Royalty
When it comes to Peking duck, Da Dong reigns supreme. While the original branch of this celebrated chain restaurant is located in Beijing, Da Dong has multiple Shanghai locations, each of which elevate duck roasting to an art form. If you've never had Peking duck THIS IS THE PLACE TO GO. The skin is remarkably crispy, and the meat is so juicy my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Da Dong's impeccable service and stylish dining rooms make it the perfect place for special occasions or memorable gatherings.
佳家汤包 (Jia Jia Tang Bao): Tiny Dumpling Delights
Jia Jia Tang Bao is another Shanghai hotspot for soup dumplings. Every batch of these tiny pockets of bliss is made to order and honestly, you'll probably want to get back on the line to get seconds. Where Din Tai Fung is a more refined dumpling eating experience, Jia Jia Tang Bao provides a much more local feel (and price as these dumplings will run you way less).
Pro tip: While this is similar in vibe to Wei Xiang Zhai, don't wait too late to go here as their closing hours are completely arbitrary and they simply close up shop when they run out of ingredients. Normally this tends to be late afternoon/early evening.
Yang's Dumpling: Crispy Buns of Joy
Yang's Dumpling is another chain restaurant in Shanghai's street food scene. They are known as the go to for sheng jian bao, their famous pan-fried pork buns. You can think of sheng jian bao as the soup dumpling's gruff older brother. These crispy buns are stuffed with juicy pork and a flavorful broth that oozes out with each bite. Every bite is piping hot and you will burn your tongue. It is simply a fact of life. A touch of soy sauce and chili oil takes the pan-fried soup dumpling to a new level of deliciousness.
Food Streets: The Best Food
I know food streets aren't technically a restaurant, but I'm a firm believer that they are the best places to scope out various Shanghai foods. If you're a fan of xiao long bao, why limit yourself to one restaurant?. Explore the city's diverse eateries and street food stalls, each offering its take on these delicate soup dumplings. From chain restaurants to local joints, you'll discover a variety of other dim sum dishes to accompany your xiao long bao feast as well!
王宝和酒家 (Wang Bao He) Hairy Crab: A Seasonal Delight
Visiting Shanghai in autumn? Don't miss the seasonal delight of hairy crab (da zha xie), one of Shanghai's most iconic signature dishes. Many Shanghainese restaurants feature set menus centered around these prized crustaceans, but Wang Bao He is a must visit as they are known as "king of hairy crabs." They claim to be the first restaurant to specialize in this seasonal dish, and, having been established in 1744, I'd certainly believe it. With numerous hairy crab menu items, they definitely earned the moniker "king of crab."
The Fellas: Dining with a View
Located on Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, The Fellas is my top recommendation for a dining experience with breathtaking views. The restaurant's wrap around terrace offers an incredible panoramic view of Shanghai's iconic skyline. Whether you're enjoying a romantic dinner or a casual meal, the backdrop of city lights and the Huangpu River promises an unforgettable evening. The food here is a little on the pricy end, but you're really paying for the view in my opinion. The menu consists of primarily Italian food which is delicious, but far from the best you'll find in Shanghai. The cocktails are also well made and perfect to go along with the gorgeous backdrop.
Pro tip: As of the time of this writing (and for the last few years), ladies get a complimentary open bar at The Fellas on Thursday nights from 9pm on. That's right completely free. If you're just going to Shanghai for the first time, definitely make this your first experience of the Shanghai skyline!
As you take off on your culinary adventure in Shanghai, take a moment to appreciate the city's rich food culture. From regional Chinese cuisines with centuries of history to modern fusion cuisine by innovative chefs, Shanghai's food scene mirrors its dynamic and ever-evolving culture.
In Shanghai, dining transcends mere sustenance; it's a journey, an exploration of flavors, and an immersion in the city's vibrant culinary tapestry. Whether you're savoring the renowned soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung, experiencing the innovative vegetarian cuisine at Fu He Hui, indulging in the Peking duck excellence of Da Dong, or taking to the streets in lieu of fine dining at the more famous restaurants, each place in this incredible city offers a unique gastronomic adventure.
On your next visit to this bustling metropolis, make sure to explore its diverse dining landscape. From Michelin Guide excellence with 5-stars service to humble street food stalls, Shanghai's culinary offerings will tantalize your taste buds and leave you with unforgettable memories.
Bonus: If you're looking for the tastiest food in all of China (in my humble opinion), look no further than Xi'an.