Vegetarian and organic restaurants in Shanghai

Six new green-focused vegetarian and organic eateries

Due to food scares and an increasing movement toward healthy lifestyles in Shanghai green-focused eateries have bloomed, with over 100 vegetarian restaurants and hundreds more serving organic vegetables and meats. Time Out visits three restaurants growing their own produce and three new vegetarian restaurants 

Three restaurants growing their own produce


g+ The Urban Harvest

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The g+ dining room is filled to bursting by 6pm on a Wednesday night at this modern global cuisine restaurant, which brings locavorism to its zenith by growing mushrooms and sprouts inside the restaurant.

At the K11 location, the crowd spills out of the doorway where there’s practically a mob scene of clicking mobile phone cameras and squealing children surrounding the live piglet display in front of the restaurant, which is housed next to the cherry tomato plants and mushroom growing rooms.

g+ has ambitious plans to roll out their restaurants ‘all over the world’ according to the restaurant manager, and it looks like Shanghai at least is ready for more of the same. 

Chef Johnny Yang, who is from the city, has created a pan-European menu with a few Asian nods meant to showcase the grown-on-site mushrooms and veggies, such as a seared mushroom and Spanish ham platter (168RMB) and a rich mushroom soup in cuttlefish broth (65RMB). 

For the mushroom dishes the waiter clips the live mushrooms at your table and then gifts you the root which you can take and re-grow.

The pastas are also brilliant, from the bestselling homemade squid ink spaghetti with seafood (138-168RMB) with clams, mussels, squid and shrimp in a fragrant umami ocean broth and dramatic black noodles, to a brilliant, refreshing cold yellowfin tuna and capellini, fragrant with sesame oil and served over ice (88RMB). 

Skip the tough-to-chew stir-fried sprouts (45RMB) and instead order the buttery sous vide salmon over asparagus (168RMB). After all that healthy eating you can afford an order of the fantastic crème brûlée (35RMB) with a thick caramel crust.

g+ The Urban Harvest 300 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu. See full details here. 

Green & Safe

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As is the case for many of these health-focused restaurants which sat empty at first but are now overrun by crowds seeking food that’s, well, green and safe, Green & Safe was initially quiet. Now it’s a challenge to get a seat. 

Launched by a leading organic brand in Taiwan (which also owns Qimin Hotpot), the company has 17 organic farms on the mainland and Taiwan, including the 500-acre Kunshan farm which supplies their two Shanghai restaurants. 

Their free-range chicken and hormone and antibiotic-free lamb and beef are from Taihu, Hangzhou and other mainland organic farms.

The chic yet casual dining room is equal parts organic supermarket, deli and café. Their menu is deceptively simple-looking, printed on a thin sheet of paper with check boxes. 

However, everything from the salads to the pastas sings with fresh, natural flavours in skilfully balanced combinations. The beet salad (25-48RMB) has big tender chunks of the purple root with arugula to counter the sweetness (we also love these delicious beets in juice mixed with apple, ginger and lemon 28RMB). 

The quinoa tabbouleh (25-48RMB) is tossed with cherry tomatoes that pop with summer sun, cucumber and refreshing mint all add up to great texture and crunch.

Spicy Thai beef salad (35-68RMB) has rare beef slices, mint, cilantro and red onion in a tangle with red chillies, although we prefer this delectable beef on its own (55RMB/plate) so you can savour the rare slices rimmed with peppercorn and paired with pink sea salt for dipping. 

Perhaps our favourite dish on the menu, the Jinhua ham carbonara (58RMB) has a deeply salty and smoky flavour coating strands of al dente organic spaghetti.

For pastries, there’s a wide spread made fresh every few hours (bake times are conveniently posted) including an incredibly moist carrot cake (28RMB) that might beat the standard bearing Baker & Spice; its perfect sponge texture is studded with fat raisins and, cruciallu, is not overly sweet. 

After dinner is the ideal time to pick up your organic vegetables: farm produce is 40 per cent off after 7pm.

Green & Safe 6 Dongping Lu, near Hengshan Lu. See full details here. 

The Mahota

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What started as a conventional pig farm launched 19 years ago on Chongming Island by Singaporean Tan Hong Khoon is now a sustainable green enterprise. It includes the Mahota organic vegetable and pig farm and a wellness retreat, part of Tan’s Sun Island Resort. 

Tan’s new focus on healthy and ecologically-friendly practices was inspired by a sudden heart attack he suffered about six years ago.Last year the company launched hotpot outlet The Mahota, where produce is served on the same day it is delivered from the farm, guaranteeing some of the freshest greens we’ve seen in a hotpot restaurant. 

The Mahota offers lunch (68RMB) and dinner (158RMB, all you can eat) sets featuring a variety of seasonal greens that change by the month in a choice of very light, low-sodium broths with no MSG. They serve pork from their farm, which tastes lighter and leaner than meats at typical hotpot places.

tableThe dipping sauces include lemon plus black sesame and chilli tomato (which we particularly like paired with the sweet pumpkin slices). For drinks, they offer ‘super boosters’ like Vital Energy with peppermint, verbena, osmanthus, marigold, meadowsweet and liquorice root. 

Attached to the restaurant is a shop where you can purchase Mahota farm produce, all marked with QR codes that you can scan to see not only which plot of land it came from but even who harvested it.

For an up-close look at their green practices you can tour their Chongming Island farm which strives for a closed ecosystem for their crops and stable of pigs. They use animal waste as compost and biologically filtered waste water to clean the pig houses. For farm tours see www.mahotafarm.com or call 6186 9650.

The Mahota M-Town, 1580 Kaixuan Lu, near Hongqiao Lu. See full details here.

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Dashu Wujie

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Shanghai’s most ambitious gourmet vegetarian restaurant Dashu Wujie has deep pockets and lofty goals, aimed at elevating society’s consciousness and conscience about health and the environment. 

Launched by the founder of DrinkVegetarian Lifestyle, Dashu Wujie’s first branch, a six-storey glass-fronted building facing Xuhui Park, went through some tough early months but is now packed day and night with just the type of young Chinese it hopes to influence.

Dashu Wujie’s delectable, creative dishes raise the cuisine beyond the vegetarian label and firmly into gourmet dining which vegans and omnivores alike will savour. 

"_MG_5172"Sourcing organic produce ‘whenever possible’, the restaurant uses contract farming in order to oversee agricultural practices which use no chemical fertilisers or pesticides. 

Across the country they work with small collectives such as Yunnanese cooperatives who pick wild mushrooms and Heilongjiang farmers who cultivate rice in rare two metre deep ‘black gold’ soil.

Signatures dishes include exotic ingredients you may never have seen before like the superb stir-fried ‘fox nuts and silverweed tubers’ (68RMB), a combination of bean-like vegetables with contrasting textures that pop in the teeth, and an incredible mountain yam tiramisu (42RMB) which replaces much of the traditional dairy with mountain yam purée and yet manages to be even more refreshingly delicious than the original version.

This month, Dashu Wujie expands into Bund 22 with yet another bold venue: a 1,200sqm space serving many new dishes, with even more meticulous presentation. New entries include the decidedly modern ‘deconstructed tomato fried rice’ (42RMB): deep-fried bites of organic rice with tomato concasse atop a mango and avocado salsa on a shiso leaf. 

There’s also a hearty, steak-like wintermelon with king oyster mushroom (66RMB) and a richly savoury Japanese-style agedashi tofu with mushroom burdock broth (46RMB). Sweets are just as daring and unique, such as a chocolate cake with a layer of pistachios and a scoop of sour-sweet tamarind sorbet (52RMB). 

And the progress doesn’t stop at The Bund: Dashu Wujie crosses the water for a third branch scheduled to green up the SWFC in the autumn.

Dashu Wujie 392 Tianping Lu, near Zhaojiabang LuSee full details here. 


Taiwan Jen Dow

This renowned Taiwanese brand opened a four-storey flagship in the rear of the Jingan Temple building last year, joining their already established restaurant near Longhua Temple. 


Each floor has a different concept, from inexpensive noodles and snacks on floor one, up to our top pick: a third floor buffet (148RMB/weekday lunch; 168RMB dinner and weekend lunch). It’s a veggie’s paradise where English and Chinese labels by each dish spell out whether it includes eggs, dairy or alcohol.


There are some bizarre options, such as vegetarian sashimi made from jelly-like imitation fish, but with a selection this vast there are plenty of choices. Our favourites include cooked-to-order noodles which can be combined with fresh greens and a dozen sauces such as chilli and peanut. 


There are plentiful sweets too, and while many of the choices are bland, like the flavour-free mango cheesecake, the Madagascar chocolate mousse is delicious and there’s a Häagen Dazs bar.


With plenty of greens, not a single meat item and even a soothing spa-like soundtrack, this is one of the few all-you-can-eat buffets that you can graze your way through and leave still feeling light on your feet.


Taiwan Jen Dow 151 Yuyuan Lu, near Wanhangdu LuSee full details here


Green Vege Cafe

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Despite their venue in a mall, Green Vege Café founders Yoli Du and Will Meng create an oasis of homey welcome at this relaxed vegetarian diner. The couple’s warmth shine through in their service.

Du and Meng say they were motivated to open Green Vege Café by the dearth of healthy options in Shanghai. They found a muse and model in their friends’ Hong Kong restaurant, the popular Veggie SF, a 1950s-themed vegetarian eatery furnished with antiques from San Francisco – the owners’ hometown.

burgDishes span the globe with Italian, Japanese and southeast asian influences in creations such as a rich and creamy pumpkin, coconut and lemongrass soup (40RMB) and maitake mushroom risotto with black truffle oil (188RMB). 

Their special seasonal products include Yunnan mushrooms and imported German brand Haubi’s organic, moist cupcakes with luscious frosting. There are over a dozen vegan dishes, all clearly marked on the menu.

The couple, who have a five-year-old daughter, created a kids’ menu and installed a play space including a mini pretend kitchen, all making for a friendly atmosphere for families.

Green Vege Cafe 679 Zhongshan Nan Er Lu, near Chuanchang LuSee full details here. 

Crystyl Mo

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