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1221: Shanghainese Cuisine At Its Best July 22, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
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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!)

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Shanghai’s Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant June 22, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
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Back in Shanghai after our little trip to Hanghzou and what’s the first thing we do?  Go eat more food.

Xia long bao (steamed buns with juicy meat inside) is one of my favourite foods in the world, and according to locals there is no place better than Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant located in the popular downtown district of Huangpu at the Yuyuan Gardens.

I was very excited for this visit.  How could I not be?  I absolutely adored the Xialongbao from Taiwan’s famous Ding Tai Fung (review here), and Shanghai is where the dish originated from.

(to read on and see the delicious photos, click on ‘more…’)

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Xiao Nan Guo: Traditional Shanghainese Cuisine April 5, 2011

Posted by pacejmiller in China, Food, Reviews, Travel.
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Following our brief visit to Hongqiao International Pearl City, we ducked over next door to the famous Xiao Nan Guo restaurant with a family friend who works in Shanghai.  Apparently, Xiao Nan Guo is the standard if you want to sample Shanghainese cuisine.

From the outside, Xiao Nan Guo looks like a massive hotel, and judging from its layout I assume it probably once was.  The place is genuinely massive, with multiple floors, elevators and hallways after hallways of enormous private rooms.

We dined in one of these private rooms and allowed our friend to order all the dishes for us.  It felt kind of strange being in a room as big as the one we sat in — it was more like a party room for groups, but because they had so many of these rooms they might as well put them to good use.

For beverages, we got tea and fresh orange juice.  I’ll be blunt here: the orange juice was OFF.  It tasted weird, unlike any ‘fresh’ orange juice I’ve ever encountered.  The second jug tasted the same.  I initially put it down to the oranges they grew in China, but after tasting real fresh orange juice elsewhere in Shanghai, I became convinced that they were giving us ‘fresh’ orange juice that had been lying around for a while in a fridge, or maybe just out in the open.

As for the food, our friend went for traditional stuff we would not have had elsewhere.  I admit, the food was interesting, definitely different, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.  The dishes were exceedingly plain in flavour, usually relying on the texture to bring out the uniqueness of the dish.

The first few dishes were cold and I didn’t even know what they were.  I’ll let the pictures do the writing for me, but looking at them now they seem more appetising than I remember them.  In particular the pan fried dumplings were very good, and I also liked the salad, the jellyfish, the beef ribs and the steamed green vegies.  The crab and the vermicelli hotpot were not as good as expected (I’ve had much much better elsewhere, including in Sydney) and the noodles were just salty and oily.  Enjoy.

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I know Xiao Nan Guo is supposed to be top notch, but it didn’t quite do it for me.  Part of that may be because of the dishes we ordered, but after having one of the best Shanghainese meals ever at 1221 Restaurant (post on that place to come later), Xiao Nan Guo pales in comparison.

6 out of 10

There are a few Xiao Nan Guos in Shanghai, apparently.  We went to the East Gate branch at 3337 Hongmei Road in Shanghai.  It’s practically right next door to Hongqiao International Pearl City.

Dian Shui Lou: Taipei’s Only 5-Star Restaurant of 2010 December 15, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Food, Taiwan, Travel.
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According to this sign, Dian Shui Lou was the only Taipei restaurant to be awarded 5 stars by this guide book

Restaurant: Dian Shui Lou
Food: Chinese/Shanghainese
Location: See here — the two with English addresses are the full restaurants (the others don’t serve the full menu).  I went to the one on level 11 of Fuxing SOGO, which is easy to get to on the MRT blue line at the Zhongxiao Fuxing stop.
Price: For dim sums, probably around NT500 per head, more for main courses.

While attending another Taipei restaurant (which I will review shortly), I came across a restaurant guide book called “Taiwan Coumet Restaurant Evaluation and Selection 2010”.  In it, there was only a single restaurant that had been awarded the prestigious 5-Star honour, and it was called “Dian Shui Lou”.

And so I was like, “That’s it!  We’re going there next!”

Fortunately for us, there were several Dian Shui Lous in Taipei City (though be careful, some of them don’t serve the full range of cuisine), and we ended up going to the one on the 11th floor of the Fuxing Sogo Department Store (probably the easiest to get to by public transport).

(To read on and see the pics, click on ‘more..’)

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