Cantonese Food in Shanghai: The Complete Guide
Shanghai is home to hundreds upon hundreds of Cantonese restaurants and we'd argue that around 80% of them are absolute crap. Half of the lower-end places are run by guys who've never travelled south of Anhui, and many of the higher-end places are so overpriced that you won't be able to properly enjoy them. Also, don't get us started on Cantonese restaurants in hotels...god damn.
Anyway here's our rundown of the best places for Cantonese food in Shanghai.
Cha's Restaurant - 查餐厅
Truly the bee’s knees, cat’s pyjamas, dog’s bollocks, and Mao’s…little red book(?) of Cantonese food in Shanghai. You’ll find a member of the SHEX team in Cha’s at least one night every week and for good reason, the food is fantastic.
Unlike your Jade Gardens and Imperial Treasures, Cha’s does away with all the wanky high-end pretence and sticks to the basics – great food, decent service, and a welcoming atmosphere.
Styled after a 1960’s chaa chaan teng, Cha’s specialises in authentic, flavoursome, local Hong Kong fare at an affordable price. As a result, on any given night you’ll see university students, couples, and colleagues sharing tables with models, directors, and film crews from Hong Kong. Even Canto acting superstar Chow Yun-fat has been known to eat here on occasion.
We love the milk tea (查记奶茶), beef in satay sauce (沙爹肥牛粉丝煲), shrimp toast (虾多士), beef fillet in a sweet and sour sauce (中式牛柳), bbq pork (cha siu叉烧), and fried chicken fillet with egg and rice(鸡扒煎双蛋饭). Although, to be honest we’ve loved every dish we’ve eaten at Cha’s, and believe us when we tell you we’ve eaten most of the dishes on the menu.
Our last trip cost ¥180 for 3 people.
Find it: Several locations, although our favourite is here - B1 Novel Place - 131 Tianyaoqiao Lu, near Xingeng Lu (天钥桥路131号永新坊B1楼18号,近辛耕路)
Imperial Treasure - 御宝轩
Occupying the top floor of a creepily quiet shopping mall across from the Peninsula Hotel, Imperial Treasure can be an off-putting spot for those looking to enjoy a relaxing dim sum lunch.
As you walk into the restaurant’s reception area you’ll be confronted with polished stone surfaces, a long waiting list, and a table full of awards, including a plaque denoting the restaurant’s entrance into the exclusive Michelin two-star club. Don’t let that intimidate you though, once you get past the ostentatious décor and into the more relaxed dining area you’ll be able to enjoy some of the best dim sum in Shanghai.
During our last visit we gorged on a couple of incredible roast pigeons, ha gow (虾饺), steamed and baked cha siu bao (叉烧包), steamed rice rolls with shrimp (虾肠粉) and bbq pork (叉烧肠粉), lo bak go (萝卜糕), and egg tarts (蛋挞) and only had to shell out ¥550 for enough food to stuff four people.
There’re very few dishes in the city that’ll elicit a response from the SHEX Managing Editor but the roast pigeon at Imperial Treasure had him moaning in pleasure like Meg Ryan in a New York delicatessen. Check it out next time you visit.
Find it: L4 Rockbund, 99 Beijing Dong Lu (北京东路99号益丰, 外滩源4层)
Canton 8 - 喜粤8号
The world’s cheapest Michelin two-star restaurant. If that accolade isn’t enough to convince you to check out Canton 8 maybe our comprehensive guide to the place will.
While Canton 8 is of a similar ilk to Imperial Treasure and Jade Garden, there’s something about the place that makes it feel more welcoming. Perhaps it’s because it’s not tucked away on the top floor of an exclusive shopping mall, or maybe it’s because the staff seem really keen to help, whatever the reason we’ve always felt pretty comfortable walking in here for a meal.
As we mention in our comprehensive review, the food at Canton 8 is incredible, the service is great for China and the restaurant is modern and clean. We’d recommend the crispy shrimp wrap in rice roll (脆皮鲜虾肠粉), the barbeque platter (烧味双拼) and the deep-fried vegetable spring roll (上素脆春卷) to get you started. After that, just close your eyes and randomly point at the menu, it’s all great.
Our last trip set us back around ¥210 for 2 people.
Find it: 63 Runan Jie, near Jumen Lu (汝南街63号,靠近局门路)
Jade Garden -
Much like Imperial Treasure, there’s a fancy pomposity to Jade Garden that will immediately alienate many casual diners. It’s a shame because the food here is dripping with flavour and is well loved within Shanghai’s Hong Kong expat community. Still, if you’re looking for a nice meal out with a loved one, or a close group of friends, keep Jade Garden in mind.
We recommend ordering the whole roast duck (烤鸭), or the barbecue platter (叉烧拼盘), both of which flooded our mouths with incredible flavours the likes of which are difficult to find this side of the the Lo Wu Border Crossing.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter, the steamed egg and prawn ball (太雕玻璃虾球) or steamed crab are also great options. Be sure to check out their custard baozi (流沙包) for dessert.
Our last trip cost around ¥600 for two people.
Find it: L4 South Building Jing'an Kerry Centre, 1238 Yan'an Zhong Lu, near Anyi Lu (延安中路1238号静安嘉里中心南座S4-01单元近安义路)
Fu's Hong Kong Restaurant -
Back before we discovered Cha’s, Fu’s Hong Kong Restaurant on Shaanxi Nan Lu was our go-to spot for decent Cantonese food.
Fu’s is pretty small, cramped and you’ll have a better understanding of your neighbour’s anatomy than their partner does by the end of the evening, but you’ll also be rewarded with some great HK-style Cantonese food.
There are lots of dishes we love from Fu’s, including their chicken feet (凤抓), clay pot rice 腊味煲仔饭) and fried pork cutlets (炸猪排), although our favourite thing to order is the original milk tea (原味奶茶). The staff at Fu’s tend to make their milk tea with a stronger taste of tea, but the thing we love most about it is that they make their ice cubes from milk tea as well. Genius.
Our last trip cost us ¥380 for 4 people.
Find it: 11 Shaanxi Nan Lu, near Julu Lu (陕西南路11号, 近巨鹿路)
Fei Zai Wen -
All too often people think of Cantonese food as coming from Hong Kong or Guangzhou, and frequently neglect to include Hong Kong’s smaller, glue-eating brother, Macao. Fei Zai Wen is one of the few Macao restaurants open in Shanghai that we’ve been back to several times.
Sat right along from Bella Napoli on Nan Hui Lu, Fei Zai Wen is spread across two floors. As you walk through the front door you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d accidentally stumbled into a pet shop. As you walk in, you’ll be surrounded by fish tanks and wet-market style buckets ...so clearly a great place to go for wonderfully fresh fish.
Interestingly, despite the restaurant’s onsite aquarium, Fei Zai Wen is most well known for their delicious Macao-style hotpot (澳门胡椒猪骨煲) as well as their deep-fried tofu (八味豆腐), clay-pot rice (腊味煲仔饭) and beef curry (牛咖喱). The service isn’t amazing but the food is decent and it’s worth checking out Macao-style Cantonese food at least once in your life.
Our last trip cost ¥400 for 4 people.
Find it: 77 Nanhui Lu, 南汇路77号
Hidden away on the less popular stretch of Yongkang lu, Eason Restaurant is weirdly divided across three different properties, all within a few seconds walk of each other. The dishes here more closely resemble the home-style Cantonese food you’ll find in smaller restaurants across Guangdong province than in Hong Kong or Macao.
In terms of atmosphere, the three dining spaces are all pretty small and simple. The staff are friendly and mostly come from Guangdong and the food is basic, filling and relatively inexpensive.
We recommend ordering any of the clay-pot rice bowls (煲仔饭) and the Qingyuan chicken(清远鸡), the Chinese morning glory cooked in shrimp paste and garlic (空心菜) is also worth trying. If you’re feeling more adventurous they also serve Shanghainese-style drunken shrimp (呛虾).
Related: 132 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Lu (永康路132号, 近襄阳南路)