Posted by: timscooking | October 13, 2010

We’re Not in Kansas Any More: Food Adventures in Shanghai – Part 1

We just returned from a 9 day trip to Shanghai to visit our daughter and son-in-law.  As usual, one of the first things people ask when we tell them about our visit is, “What did you eat?” This is often accompanied by looks of anticipation that we became Andrew Zimmern-like in our quest for the most bizarre food we could find. They seem almost crest-fallen when we described our diet because it seemed pretty ordinary in comparison to what the Travel Channel presents on a nightly basis. Truth is that in Shanghai today and to some extent in most of the larger cities in China, it is not uncommon to find most of the major fast food chains common to the U.S., if you are so inclined In addition, there are a number of restaurants and cafes owned and operated by expatriates from the U.S., Europe, and Australia.

Our daughter met us with a driver at the airport and after dropping off our luggage at their apartment, we met up with our son-in-law and two of his friends at a neighborhood bar, Blue Frog, for 2 for 1 burger night. Burgers, fries and two beers later, we headed back to the apartment to unpack and to plan out our week’s activities.

Every morning, I would walk around the corner from the apartment to La Casbah for coffee. This is a small chain of cafes’, only four locations in Shanghai, which serve espresso and other coffee drinks. Two breakfast items and an assortment of soups, sandwiches and 9 different pizzas for lunch and dinner make up the menu out of a 300 square foot space.

My son-in-law and daughter are also big fans of the 24hour delivery service provided by many of the local restaurants and fast food chains; McDonald’s being one of their favorites, along with others that deliver everything from New York-style pizza to giant burritos.

Another night, we dined at an Italian restaurant next to Blue Frog called, Pane e Vino.

Afterwards, we were walking home when my daughter spotted a new restaurant called, El Patio. It looked closed but, always being the adventurous one, she rang the bell at the gate and was greeted by the maitre‘d who informed her that the kitchen was closed. She asked if the bar was still open for drinks and we were escorted into a beautiful old mansion that had been converted to a high end Mexican restaurant.

While in Shanghai, we did also eat at a traditional dim sum restaurant one Sunday. Dim sum is similar to the American brunch, consisting of small plates of delicately prepared food to be shared by all at the table. We also had dinner at a hot pot restaurant where diners share large bowls of steaming broth (your choice: chicken, beef or vegetable) in which you cook raw vegetables or small strips of meat, accompanied by rice, noodles, and various sauces.

On our last afternoon before returning home, the kids had to do some work from home, so my wife and I did some walking in the neighborhood with the intention of going out for lunch. As luck would have it, the two Irish pubs my daughter recommended were closed for lunch that day, so we ended up at a restaurant called, Azul, which specializes in Spanish inspired dishes. We had eaten brunch there two years earlier on e our first visit. Lunch was good – dessert, a flan, and drinks capped off our afternoon adventure.

Next up: Food shopping in Shanghai

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