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1221: Shanghainese Cuisine At Its Best July 22, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of the first Shanghai posts I did was on the famous Xiao Nan Guo, a ‘must visit’ for traditional Shanghainese cuisine (review here).  I was disappointed with it and thought that perhaps my tastes simply didn’t mesh well with Shanghainese food.

Fortunately, we gave it another shot, and this time we took our tasting talents to the restaurant known as 1221, a casual but stylish joint on 1221 Yanan Xi Lu in Changning.  From the outside, with its neon sign, 1221 looked more like a Western bar, but the inside was irrefutably Chinese.  1221 is supposedly very popular with expats because while it is still traditional Shanghainese cuisine, the flavours have been slightly modified to appeal to a wider audience.  On this particular night, there were plenty of expat tables and tourists.

We had a big group so we ordered a lot of food from its extensive 26-page menu.  Most of the dishes were rather simple, much like my experience at Xiao Nan Guo, but they were astoundingly delicious.  I couldn’t believe how amazing they were.  Not all looked great, but time after time I was surprised by the mixtures of flavours and textures.

Sadly, after a long day the camera battery was dying again, so I must apologise once more for the quality of some of the photos, especially the last few, which were taken with a wonky iPhone camera.  Nevertheless, trust me when I say they were all good.

(to see the food pics click on ‘more’ — be warned, there are A LOT and they will make you HUNGRY!)

This first dish is a prime example.  Hand torn chicken strips with a sesame sauce.  The whole table was fighting over it.

Next, crunchy cucumber with garlic sauce.  Mmmm…

I thought this was calamari, but this was actually a lemon chicken dish.  Surprisingly good mix of sweet and sour flavours without overwhelming the crunchiness of the batter with sauce.

This was one of my personal favourites.  A savoury pancake dish — pan fried on both sides, succulent duck meat in between, and a tangy dipping sauce.  Divine.

Doesn’t look like much but this drunken chicken dish was also surprisingly tasty.  Very juicy, tender meat and just the right level of saltiness.

On man I loved this spicy Sichuan stir fry, which combined a mix of beef, crispy vegies and fried bread.  Like an explosion of flavours in your mouth.

The quality of the photos really start to take a dive here.  This one was popular — a saucy stir fry you can wrap with those thin, hot, fluffy wraps you see on the right.

Next up, two ridiculously simple but flavoursome vegetable dishes.

I was pretty full by this stage but still stuffed in some of this awesome fatty pork.

Deep fried sweet and sour fish.  So good.

The one dish I didn’t have because I have a tofu phobia, but I heard it was great.

Check this out.  Looks like a plate of bland old broccoli, but it’s deceptively delicious because of all the invisible garlic they cooked with.

Similarly, this looks like a plate of corn with some carrots tossed in, but again it’s amazing.  The corn is super sweet and glazed with this slightly salty sauce, and the carrots and pine nuts give it an extra kick.  This went down marvellously by the spoonful or with some rice.

I adore steamed buns, and this mixed platter of plain and fried ones made my day, especially with those dipping sauces on the side.

String beans with a spicy sauce (I reckon they fried ’em).  Another pleasantly simple but effective dish.

The dish came in a big pot but this is my portion of it — a giant wonton in a stewed broth.

Last but not least, a sticky rice dessert.

I was stuffed.  Certainly didn’t expect one my the best meals in Shanghai to be at this place, but the variety and all-round brilliance of the delicious dishes made 1221 a memorable experience.

10 out of 10!


Address: 1221 Yan’an Xi Lu (near Fanyu Lu), Shanghai
Phone: +86 21 6213 6585


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