|From Shanghai First Impressions|
Living in Shanghai as an expat is a decadent, charmed life. There are things about it that are hard, but generally we can live a glittery, high society life. That is all in sharp contrast for me now that I’m back in Seattle, and seeing prices in dollars instead of kuai.
So you hear about places in Shanghai, or you read about them in the expat magazines. But you soon realize that those places are the newest and hippest and therefore the most irritating, as the exposure ensures it’s an all expat scene with iffy service and all the charm any flash-in-the-pan can muster.
There are, of course, good places, to go, but as they are no longer new and newsworthy, you’d never know about them until one of your longer-in-Shanghai friends takes you there. Usually you end up attributing that place to the person who brought you there first; i.e., ‘this is an Amber spot.” What happens is that, invariably, Amber will leave town (everyone leaves; nobody stays) and when you take someone else there, that person will attribute it to you. So Amber’s spots became my spots.
Me, I left on a month’s notice, so I didn’t really have time to pass on all my knowledge directly. However, I can blog about them. Marco, I’m blogging these spots for you now. Tell people they were my spots, and when you leave they’ll say that they were your spots.
Koala Bar–Huaihai lu, Fanyu lu. A friend of mine is manager, and Pedro tends bar on the occasional Tuesday evening happy hour. It’s pretty easy to get in a game of pool there, and once I wathed a Husky Basketball game on the big screen there. First went December 19th, 2008 after an exceptionally bad day at work. A Jim spot.
Tara–Fuxing Xi Lu, Wulumuqi lu, across from the JZ Club. Dark, intimate bar with a red velvet lounge. Drinks there are expensive, fussy, vintage, and bomb. Totally worth it. A Jim spot.
Bulldog–Wulumuqi lu, Donghu lu. I first went here on Christmas Eve of 2008 with Jim and big Mike. It looks like an English pub, but they played 80’s disco music. Drinks are two for one for the price of two, but they have fun events during the week. Also a reliable place to watch sports. A Jim spot.
Park Tavern–The first and only time I went, it was to meet Jim, the night before I left for Chinese New Year. Drank beer and cider (a snake bite?) and ordered a meat pie to see what the fuss was about. Not bad. This might be where I first experienced the phrase “taking the piss.” A Jim spot.
Sasha’s–First came here on Christmas Day 2008; special 5-course meal and open bar. Originally, it was to escape a toxic plan; turned out to be a most excellent Christmas. Met Pedro and Are there for the first time. Later returned with Nick and Mark to schmooze authors. A Jim spot.
Boona II–Huaihai lu, Hunan lu. Nice quiet hidden courtyard. A Jim spot.
La Casbah–Huaihai lu, Gao’an lu. Pasta, pizza, sandwiches. A Jim spot.
Lapis Lazuli–Dongping lu, Hengshan lu. Only been there for dessert. A Nick/Mark spot.
Da Marco–Dongzhuanbang lu, Jiangsu lu. Italian food. A Lili spot.
Beard Papas–Wujing lu pedestrian street. It’s a chain of not too sweet creampuffs filled with custard. Soooo good. A Marco spot.
Azul Viva–Dongping lu, Wulumiqi lu. Great weekend brunch. An Amber spot.
Element Fresh–Dongping lu, Huaihai lu. The laffa bread salad was good, but the real story was the bloody mary. An Amber spot.
Cotton’s–Anting lu, Jianguo lu. Legendary outdoor patio seating. An Amber spot.
New Cotton’s–Xinhua lu, Dingxi lu. First went for Joe’s birthday party. Fireplace! And great outdoor seating. A Jim spot.
Latina (Xujiahui)–Grand Gateway Plaza, Hongqiao lu, Zhaojiabang lu. This is a chain, but this branch is the best; the Brazilian chef is there, and there’s live bossa nova. A Pedro spot.
Marrakech–Fuxing lu, Yongfu lu. Groovy Morrocan place, cool interior, nice pinoy staff. First went with the band, but I consider it an Erica spot.
Cantine Nouveau Bistro–Yenping lu, Xingjia lu. It’s a tapas place now; before it was excellent steak. An Erica spot.
Me & Joe’s–Chongqing lu, Jianguo lu. Pasta, sandwiches, entrees, tiny place. An Erica spot.
Kyochon–Thumb Plaza. Korean style beer and wings. Korean wings means crispy and awesome.
Beifang cai place–Huanpi lu, Huaihai lu. Went here Christmas Eve 2008, and again with Jim and Pedro before Jim left. Yum. A Jim spot.
Taiwanese place–Baoqing lu, Fuxing lu. Next to Oscar’s. Delicious, relatively simple cuisine (compared to Shanghainese food). An Amber place.
Bellagio–Taicang lu. Upmarket Taiwanese food, open late. A John place.
Bankura–Changle lu, Ruijin Lu. Japanese food without sushi. The owner is Shirosan, and he’s awesome. First went with Amber on a hot summer day for lunch. Bankura became part of my Changle lu standard tour. Karaage, baby! An Amber spot.
Southern Barbarian–Changle lu, Maoming lu. Yunan food. I went here so much I got sick of it. The roast eggplant and tomatoes and the mint salad are must-orders, along with grandma’s mashed potatoes. The beer selection is the best in Shanghai. An Amber spot.
The Spot–Tongren lu, Beijing lu. I first went here with co-workers on June 12, 2008; they had a filipino buffet for Philippine Independence Day. I came back repeatedly for happy hour after work and all-you-can-eat-and-drink Sundays with Jim and Pedro and Jim’s soccer team. Nice Filipino staff, good food. Once went there with Jim after lunch and found Liza learning the Thriller dance for a wedding reception.
Kaiba–Kangding lu, Xikang lu. Awesome selection of Belgian beer. First went with Jim, I think; Jim and Joe’s going away party was there one Saturday. Liza and Zara go on Wednesday nights. Bas goes there too. A Jim spot.
Bonito–Jiashan lu, Jianguo lu. Tapas, cool pinoy staff, spacious interior, groovy outdoor lounge. Went here for Valentines’ Day festivities. A Kristina spot.
Kaluska–Kangding lu, Xikang lu. Basque bar, complete with pintxo buffet. Lili’s birthday party was here, organized by Esti. Amaury is pals with the owners. The OTC once got intimidated by the fancy table and glassware, but I found out later that it’s a pretty good deal, still. An Esti spot.
Yesterday–Changle lu, Ruijin lu. Chinese dive bar. Strong drinks. A Kristina place
The Fat Olive–Xizang lu, Huaihai lu. Groovy rooftop terrace lounge, Greek food. Nuff said. An Adi spot.
Abdul’s–Plaza at Gao’an lu, Hengshan lu. Skewer spot with seating; buy beers from the convenience store right there. A Jim spot.
Southern Belle–Changle lu, Fumin lu. Decor was like Designing Women; Dukes of Hazard on the big screen, waitresses wore daisydukes. The food wasn’t the greatest, but it’s a nice enough spot. I had my last-day-of-work happiest hour there. A Uchenna spot.
Gourmet Cafe–Shanxi lu, Beijing lu. Best hamburgers in town. I think they bind the meat with egg, which is a Filipino trick; it makes the burger juicier… not sure why. Awesome fries as well. A Kristina spot.
Lynn–Xikang lu, Nanjing xi lu. 78 kuai all you can eat dimsum. Elegant setting. Best if you reserve. A Kristina spot.
Punjabi–Xiangyang lu, Huaihai lu. Indian food; big tray 50 kuai. Delicious. A Pedro spot.
Oodeo–Donghu lu, Huaihai lu. All-you-can-eat-and-drink Japanese food. An Amber spot.
Tairyo Teppanyaki–Yanan lu, Changshu lu. The kind of teppanyaki where they grill the food in front of you. Awesome. A Haiyin spot.
Yakitori Fukuchan–A tiny, quiet yakitori. A Jim spot.
La Zi Yu–Anfu Lu, Wulumuqi lu. Sichuanese food. A Jim spot.
Yide Massage–Xinle lu, Donghu lu. Best. Massage. Ever. When they find a sore spot in your feet, they can tell you what organ it corresponds to; they seem better trained than anywhere else I’ve tried. An Amber spot.
The Melting Pot–Hengshan lu, Gao’an Lu. Sunday night Blues Jam. A Jim spot.
1奥3–Yueyang lu, Dongping lu. Big place promoting Austrailia; baffling name. I sang for a drink here once. A Jim place.
Mokkos–Wuding lu, Wanhangdu lu. Groovy Japanese bar. A Jim place.
Anar–Xingfu lu, Fahuazhen lu. When you walk in, it’s a cool place for a quiet drink. Walk in through the sound proof doors, it’s a cool place for live music. Be sure your Chinese friends spell it with an /r/ and not an /l/.
Longitude–Yueyang lu, Dongping lu. Cool terrace, cool Colombian DJ. Lawson’s just across the street. A Jim spot.
Constellation Bar–Xinle lu, Xiangyang lu. Black lit. Drinks are fussy and impeccable. Ice is chipped from a block. Shaken drinks are very well shaken. Bottomless dishes of peanuts and spicy rice crackers. Bartenders wear tuxes, Xiao Lu sniffs the bottles for recognition when he’s not too busy. Music is jazz, low enough so that you can hear yourself talking. Super Japanese toilet. My friends and I have come to call it the ‘honesty bar,’ due to the heart-to-heart conversations we end up having there. This is one of the few places I’ll really miss. An Amber spot (before that, an Aric spot).
UPDATED 5 July 2009. More spots will be added as they come back to me.