The best new Shanghai restaurants of 2019

From mouth-numbing Sichuan to wood-fired pizza with natural wine, here are the 16 most exciting openings from the final year of the decade

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe
As we hurtle towards a new decade, Shanghai's world of food and drink is only gaining steam. In 2019, more and more places came with equally strong bar and kitchen games, blurring the line between restaurant and bar more than ever. Chefs bounced back with tenacity from shuttered venues while familiar restaurateurs tried their hands at unexpected new concepts. From tropical, Pacific Island-inspired eats alongside potent tiki drinks to all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue set to a hip hop soundtrack, these are the buzziest spots of the year to check off your eating list.

Birds of Paradise

The latest venture from bartender Yao Lu and chef Austin Hu (both behind Union Trading Company), Birds of Paradise has filled a tiki-sized hole in Shanghai’s heart. Like all of Hu’s menus, it’s soul-satisfying food: shatteringly crispy wings with guava-chilli sauce and pineapple relish, okonomiyaki-inspired fries, blackened sole fish tacos. Loco moco, a Hawaiian dish splicing together juicy hamburger patties and a fried egg on rice with rich brown gravy, will anchor you down from the head-spinningly boozy drinks.

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98 Yanping Lu

Bun Cha Cha

Bun Cha Cha breaks away from its shopping mall surrounds as much as it can – a bright space with tile flooring, wicker-backed chairs and hints of French Indochina. Bun cha takes front and centre on the menu by Danyi Gao (Shake), and rightfully so. Piles of vermicelli noodles, mountains of green (basil, coriander, mint, perilla leaves, romaine lettuce) and juicy, grilled pork belly and meatballs – all to be dipped in bowls of fish sauce – arrive in abundance and feel like the next best thing to a flight to Hanoi. 

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222 Huaihai Zhong LuOnline booking

BOR

The name BOR comes from ‘Jeg bor her’, or Danish for ‘I live here’. It’s a proclamation outright by Kasper Pedersen (formerly Pelikan): this is my house. Pedersen takes an unfussy, unpretentious approach in the kitchen, stressing that here he’s cooking what he loves to eat over a particular cuisine. Still, there’s a Nordic twang and simplicity to everything: grilled sardines with a bright squeeze of lemon, chicken salad smørrebrød, tiny Danish hotdogs. Uncomplicated but not unsophisticated, BOR is the kind of neighbourhood spot that could easily turn into a weekly affair.

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322 Anfu Lu
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Da Vittorio Shanghai

With a history stretching over 50 years and its original three-Michelin-starred location nestled in the Bergamo foothills outside of Milan, the much-lauded, high-end Italian restaurant has landed in swanky new digs in the now-bustling Bund Finance Center. It may not boast the lush countryside environs, but the food here by the Cerea brothers is just as luxurious: rich, umami-packed paccheri all Vittorio that’s a pomodoro of a higher calling, the caviar-laden ‘egg “a la Egg”’ and melt-in-your-mouth slices of roasted wagyu bone-in ribeye.

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600 Zhongshan Dong Er LuOnline booking

Chameleon

Equal parts cocktail bar and dinner spot, Chameleon comes courtesy of bar stars Carson Xie (formerly The Nest) and Eddy Yang (formerly Tailor Bar, Above the Globe) and casual, homey vibes rule at the apartment-styled space. With plans to transform the culinary inspiration across the food and drink menu every six months, Chameleon's first, opening 'stop' on its global tour is Shanghai – think beef and tuna tartare served on cifangao (local rice cake) or flaky, fork-tender cod fish in a Jiangnan-style bamboo soup with Iberico ham. Inventive, inspired cocktails, like a clear bloody Mary, play on the classics and are reason enough alone to come.

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90 Shaanxi Nan Lu

Charcohol

Set on the ground floor of its own small mansion in Feng Sheng Li, Charcohol leaves no surprises with its name. Cocktails take centre stage, with inventive drinks from Cross Yu (EPIC) like the jet-black, tequila-based Black and Co finished with rose sea salt or the fragrant Truffle Godfather. Chinese celebrity chef Mandela Zhu (Borage) and Kevin Han helm the kitchen and its charcoal grill, pushing out grilled Napa cabbage with lashings of butter sauce and puffed buckwheat alongside pork chops with a bacon vinaigrette to low-slung lounge seating.

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245 Maoming Bei LuOnline booking

Heritage by Madison

If anyone can draw people to the South Bund, it’s Austin Hu. His ‘go big or go home’ cooking has always gravitated towards comfort food – tater tot nachos (Union Trading Company), Ferrero Rocher pancakes (Diner, Hu’s since split), meatball subs (Madison Kitchen, RIP) – and Heritage by Madison makes it personal, drawing on the flavours of his childhood which was spent across Shanghai, Japan and the US for a menu of refined small plates. Addictive salted duck yolk lotus root chips and lovely puffs of golden rye mantou with a swipe of bright edamame hummus make for smart snacks before dishes like a velvety tea-smoked chicken supreme or melt-in-your-mouth pork belly with shatteringly crisp skin.

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600 Zhongshan Dong Er LuOnline booking

JUJU

A quiet night out JUJU is not. Powered by restaurateur Mark Klingspon (The Nest, The Cannery, Rye & Co), the Korean barbecue spot at Three on the Bund is lively, over-the-top and a little bit gritty. Arcade game machines, booze fridges and live octopus tanks are scattered throughout the space. Drinks are cheap and the menu’s a laminated one-page affair. All-you-can-eat barbecue takes the limelight with as much pork, beef and veggie plates as you can stomach for 288RMB a head which you can supplement with riffs on Korean comfort and street food.

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3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu.

KIN Urban Thai Kitchen

The seemingly unlikely trio of Camel Hospitality Group (The Bull & Claw, D.O.C and others), Camden Hauge (Egg, Bird, Bitter) and Urban Thai come together at Kin to highlight a smattering of Northern Thai dishes alongside crowd favourites like Pad Thai and Pad See Ew. Don’t skip the spicy, fish sauce-glazed chicken wings that’ll leave your fingers sticky or the coriander- and chilli-flecked bowl of crispy rice mixed with Chiang Mai sausage.

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45 Yongkang Lu

Oxalis

If you blinked, you could have missed Oxalis the first time around. The modern French bistro from Jonas Noël (formerly L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon) opened at the boutique The Waterhouse at South Bund mid-2018, only to shutter less than a year later. Now Noël and Oxalis are back. While the menu has largely carried over, the bright, airy interior could not be any more different. Dishes are enjoyable and thoughtful: Laphroaig whisky-marinated beef tartare, bread-crusted halibut topped with crispy chestnuts, beetroot salad and smoked yellowtail amberjack rillettes.

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388 Shanhaiguan Lu

Pass Residence

Hot on the tail of opening Jinxian Lu cocktail bar Dead Poet, the team behind Oha Eatery, Blackbird and Bar No 3 has landed on Julu Lu with a casual Italian eatery and wine bar. Blake Thornley has veered away from the funky flavours you might expect of his other kitchens, instead turning out well-calibrated traditional bites, like pappardelle with oxtail ragu or wild mushroom and rocket salad on flatbread, and wood-fired pizzas to accompany a bottle of natural wine from their 200 bottles-strong cellar and shop.  

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318 Julu Lu

Polux

Critics' pick

There are all the trappings of a French café at this casual eatery from Paul Pairet – croque monsieurs and madames, onion soup, steak tartare – but with levelled-up flavours and some modern-day classics in the mix: an avocado toast, a club sandwich, a burger. Dishes aren’t here to rock the foundations of your culinary beliefs – just to be superlative renditions of what you already know. It might be a casual affair with a seemingly simple approach, but the food is essential Pairet: smart, exacting and unapologetic without being brash.

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No 5, 181 Taicang Lu

Rye & Co

Thought you’d never like a restaurant in a mall? Here comes Rye & Co. This all-day eatery-cum-cocktail bar from the team behind The Nest and The Cannery sits over two levels of Xintiandi Plaza – its café, slinging healthy bowls, smørrebrød and baked goods with a Nordic bent, is connected to the rooftop bar and terrace by a narrow spiral staircase. There’s a reason to come here almost every hour of the day. In the mornings, snack on flaky apple Danishes flecked with cardamom and sticky caramel butter rolls and at lunch, tuck into a punchy beef tartare smørrebrød on molasses rye toast or an excellent smoky aubergine tartine. Upstairs cocktails carry on the successes of the bars at The Nest and The Cannery.

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333 Huaihai Zhong Lu

Shinpaku

Shinpaku has filled the hole left by UNICO and The Chop Chop Club’s quick exit last summer from Three on the Bund’s second floor. Accented with a handful of paper lanterns, the contemporary Japanese restaurant’s look is clean, minimalist and almost sparse – a neutral background for fresh cuts of sashimi, unagi grilled in-house and deep-fried tuna belly sushi rolls. Sake’s the name of the drinks game, with a roster of 100-plus bottles and a selection of charming glasses to choose from. Views from the main dining room stretch out over the Huangpu to Pudong’s skyscrapers and if you’re not whipping out your phone for that, it’ll be for the kitchen’s clutch of playful dishes.

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3 Zhongshan Dong Yi LuOnline booking

Spicy Spot

Sichuan cuisine really knows how to bring the heat, and Spicy Spot doesn’t hold back. Outfitted in teal and blue, the polished restaurant from Wu Yongzhe, a restaurateur formerly with South Beauty and Shanghai Min, offers a classic line-up of the southwestern province’s better-known dishes. Carefully sourced ingredients and unrestrained seasoning make their way into deep tureens of beef tongue spiked with tingling green Sichuan peppercorns or hand-shredded Qingyuan chicken drizzled in a vibrant red chili oil.

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333 Tianyaoqiao LuOnline booking

The Tandoor

Indian fine dining spot The Tandoor in the Jin Jiang Hotel, which has remarkably been around since the early 90s, re-opened with a totally new menu after renovations this year. The space is peppered with inspiration from along the Silk Road between India and China – think semi-private dining pavilions with Chinese, Persian, Turkish or Buddhist design elements. For dinner and dessert, it's upscale takes on classic Indian fare from the restaurant’s executive chef, Sanjay Tygai and a thoughtful list of cocktails, created in collaboration with Hannah Keirl of Spirits Box, puts Indian garnishes and spices in the spotlight.

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59 Maoming Nan LuOnline booking

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