Block 26F, 3rd floor
Tel: 86 21 3330 3920
Prolific Greek-Australian chef/restaurateur David Laris has turned his attentions to that cherished preserve of the Shanghai restaurant, the private dining room. This 12-seat, single-table venue has upped both the design element (white leather chairs, mini chandelier lamps) and the exclusivity quotient. At lunch and dinner, guests sample an eight-course meal from a monthly-changing menu that marries Laris's proven skills in combining Mediterranean and modern Australian cooking with Asian influences; there are also optional wine pairings. The glass kitchen allows diners to watch the preparation of dishes like praline and foie gras with muscat jelly, and salmon tetaki with wilted romaine, slow-cooked egg, and X.O. sauce. Advance reservations only.—Gary Bowerman
Lunch 12:30 pm, dinner 8 pm.
271 Fumin Lu
Tel: 86 21 5403 7239
Marked only by a tiny "BL" on a red neon sign, this brightly lit, bi-level French Concession dim sum joint is so popular that locals will wait hours for a table. Stop by for lunch and enjoy the crab and pork meatballs, sweet-and-sour fish topped with pine nuts, and crisp-tender steamed broccoli. The menu includes English translations, but be ready for some surprises—the "shredded chicken" is actually a pigeon served in several pieces, including the head. Make a reservation and bring cash—credit cards aren't accepted.
House 6-7, Lane 123 South Block Xintiandi
Xingye Lu by Mandang Lu
Tel: 86 21 6385 8752
Spilling over the second floor of Xintiandi's modern mall, this busy restaurant packs a crowd on weekend mornings, with families flocking to chat and chew over dim sum. Though the dining room is a glass structure with large swaths of mirror, lights dim dramatically during the evening. Bamboo baskets pile up on the tables, filled with Cantonese classics: shrimp dumplings, soup-filled xiaolongbao, or pork-filled xiumai, all fresh from the steamer. Shanghai locals flip to the back of the menu, which offers juicy fried pork dumplings and soupy noodles with shredded pork and pickled radish. End your meal with the excellent chilled mango pudding. Consistently rated as one of the city's most popular spots for dim sum, this is a buzzy, casual place to sip tea and refuel before hitting the sites and shops of Xintiandi.
1 Yueyang Lu
Tel: 86 21 6431 9700
Admirer Howard Ing calls Gogathe tiny restaurant named after San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge
"a no-frills establishment that's all about the food." In fact, the 20-seat French Concession eatery is so bare-bones that it doesn't even have a bathroom. But regulars don't mind, lauding the fact that chef Brad Turley is always in the kitchen (in his Hawaiian print shirt), turning out delicious dishes like torched tuna sashimi and the off-menu Brad burger (entrées, $24-$56).
Must eat: Lobster rolls with green papaya salad.
137 Fuzhou Lu
Tel: 86 21 6321 0586
Occupying the ground floor of a 1930s Art Deco tower, this French brasserie and bar pays homage to Shanghai's stylistic history. The subtle Deco interiorcreated with the help of Shanghai couturier Lu Kunis perfectly pitched, and the entire venue, from a spring-loaded wooden entrance door with a sign saying "Treat me carefully, I am more than 70 years old" to period furnishings and a long wooden bar that morphs into the staircase banister, evokes the romance of 1930s Shanghai. The set menus at lunch are excellent value, and dinner offers refined, fusion-free European fare, such as pickled sardine fillets or grilled pigeon.
Open daily noon to 4 pm and 6 to 10:30 pm.
90 Huanghe Lu by Fengyang Lu
Tel: 86 21 6327 6878
In a town that loves steamed dumplings, some of the best are served at this humble joint. Follow the queue of locals to indulge in Shanghai's signature dish, xiaolongbao—round pork dumplings that hide a trickle of soup within their delicate wrapper. Place your order at the cash register and settle down at a table; each bamboo basket of dumplings is wrapped and steamed to order. The tiny shop, located on a well-traveled street off People's Square, packs a crowd during peak hours, but the exquisite dumplings are worth the wait, despite disposable chopsticks and scuffed tables. Dine here early or not at all—when the restaurant sells out of xiaolongbao, it closes for the day.
38 Gaoyou Lu
Tel: 86 21 6433 5126
Dark, moody, and sleekly sophisticated, Lost Heaven serves a rich fusion of regional Yunnanese and Burmese cuisines with a noticeable Thai kick. The three-floored interior is dressed in dark woods, red lanterns, Southeast Asian artifacts, and Yunnanese stone face masks. A two-floor shrine on the back wall is made from dried pu'er tea leaves. Unsurprisingly, it's a see-and-be-seen hot spot for local celebs and visiting movie stars from Hong Kong. An extensive menu has garlicky and lemongrass-infused seafood and meat options. For extra spice, try the Burmese curried vegetables, and for regional authenticity the flavorful dishes incorporating Yunnan's famed mushrooms. The first-floor Mask lounge offers ambient DJ tunes, boudoir chamber beds, and more spot-lit stone masks.
Open daily 11 am to 2 pm and 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
18 The Bund, 6F
Tel: 86 21 6323 9898
French chef Paul Pairet enjoyed huge success with his playful molecular gastronomy at Pudong Shangri-La's Jade on 36. He then jumped the Huangpu River to go solo on the Bund. The need to book a table here several days in advance proves it was a good move. Pairet is a thoughtful, humorous personality, and his restaurant's kaleidoscopic interior sets a lively, informal tone. Service is gracious and French-trained but unstuffy, while the modern European cuisine blends updated classicism with Pairet's molecular tendencies. The huge menu offers something for most tastes, and surprises for everyone. A rich gazpacho is served with toasted bread, tomato, roasted chile peppers, fresh anchovies, and arugula; Pan-roasted veal cutlets are finished with roasted morels, asparagus, light cream, toasted almonds, and hazelnuts.—Gary Bowerman
Open Mondays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 6:30 to 10:30 pm, Tuesdays through Fridays 11:30 am to 2 pm and 6:30 pm to 4 am, Saturdays 6:30 pm to 4 am, and Sundays 6:30 to 10:30 pm.
No. 8 Xintiandi North Part
Lane 181 Tai Cang Lu
Tel: 86 21 6355 8999
T8 is nestled in a 19th-century Shikumen home, gated by stone arcs and adorned with Asian antiques, but despite the old-school touches, this restaurant and nightclub sports a decidedly modern edge, thanks to smoked glass, romantic lighting, and an open kitchen that churns out bold Pan-Asian and Mediterranean plates. Soak up the scene, sip a New Zealand Pinot Noir, snack on caramelized salted salmon or slow-cooked Szechuan lamb, and see if you can scope out some celebrities—this dazzling nightspot is known to attract its fair share of stars. Reservations are essential.
No. 3 the Bund
3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu
Tel: 86 21 6323 3355
Featuring a grand Beaux Arts exterior and postmodern interior, this seven-floor structure—built in 1916—rejuvenated the historic Bund with its 2004 renovation by Michael Graves. Inside, the 13,000-square-foot space features the esteemed Shanghai Gallery of Art, an Evian Spa, and also plenty of shopping options, such as the Armani store and designer clothing boutique THREE Fashion. It also houses four of Shanghai's top restaurants: Jean Georges Shanghai, serving haute East-meets-West cuisine (86-21-6321-7733); Whampoa Club, featuring stylish Shanghainese (86-21-6321-3737); Laris, home of Australian-Greek chef David Laris's experimental international fare (21-6321-9922); and New Heights, offering mod Asian brasserie dishes (86-21-6321-0909). But its crowning glory is the top-floor lookout deck, where VIPs snuggle into two- and eight-seat private dining rooms and order from any of the chefs toiling away below.
507 Fu Xing Road Central
Building 1, 3rd floor
Tel: 86 152 2133 1369
Restaurateur Howard Ing has brought together a three-Michelin-star chef and a sushi master to create the ultimate Osaka-style restaurant in Shanghai's new Sinan Mansions development. Admirer Max Levy describes the kaiseki menu, chef Hideaki Matsuo's domain, as "spot-on," with a "succulent poached oyster floating in dashi that's the pure essence of the sea." But, Levy says, "the real magic is at the beautiful sushi bar, where you can have the best sushi outside Kansai." It doesn't hurt that the restaurant has views of the former residence of Sun Yat-Sen and Fu Xing park (entrées, $14-$122).
Must eat: Chef Yutaka Kinjo's unagirapidly steamed eel grilled over an open fire, then baked over Koshihikari rice.
Chef Howard Ing's favorite new restaurant: Brad Turley's Goga, Shanghai
603 Fuzhou Lu by Zhejiang Lu
Tel: 86 21 6322 3673
This venerable restaurant in the heart of the city near People's Square has been open since 1744 and is renowned for its hairy crabs, a regional delicacy available only during the cool autumn months. Local lore states that the sweetest crabs hail from the dark depths of nearby Yangcheng Lake; if they're in season, the tender flesh—as well as the orange roe or the sticky gray sperm—will be featured in dumplings, stir-fries, and other dishes in multicourse banquets. Of course, all this freshwater crabmeat comes with a rather, er, hairy price (starting at $60 per person, depending on the season) that some might find slightly incongruous with the fluorescent lighting and brisk service.