The 100 best dishes in Shanghai

From staple street eats to mind-blowing molecular gastronomy, here are the city's most brilliant eats for all budgets

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (Jianguo 328)
It's no secret that Shanghai is home to some extraordinary restaurants doing world-class fine-dining, excellent snacks and street eats and vegetarian food that'll make you question whether you ever need meat (not to mention the brunches...). Whatever your budget or palate, we've got you. Here's where to take a stab at Shanghai's best dishes.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Shanghai.
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Gold Standard Pancakes
Not your average diner stack, this over-the-top treat from Austin Hu’s gentrified diner sees fluffy pancakes decked out with hazelnut butter, Ferrero Rocher, bacon and fried banana. 78RMB.

Mushroom toast
Sitting atop a slice of wheaten sourdough spread with a thick layer of herby ricotta, a mound of buttery mushrooms are liberally doused in truffle oil and topped with a perfectly poached egg and sprinkling of fresh thyme. 58RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Two runny eggs are engulfed in a rich tomato sauce – that’s spiked generously with chilli – and ready to be mopped up by a wedge of pillowy challah bread in Bread etc’s brilliant rendition of the Middle Eastern poached egg dish. 62RMB.

Bacon, egg & cheddar bagelwich
A hangover cure for the ages, a chewy bagel is stuffed with bacon, fried egg and gooey cheddar cheese. Add avocado (10RMB) and a glug of the BYFO Green Machine hot sauce for good measure. 45RMB.

Photograph: courtesy Brut Cake Café

Chicken and waffle
A perfectly crispy and fluffy waffle stacked high with tender and savoury fried chicken, well-spiced and complemented with the sweet strokes of candied walnuts and jujube honey. 78RMB.

Fried and baked dim sum platter
With delightfully flaky pastry, this wonder-trio of BBQ pork, black pepper venison and abalone and matsutake puffs is pure bliss. 298RMB (as part of four-course brunch set).

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Complète galette
RAC’s Breton-style galettes are brunch perfection on a plate (rivalled perhaps by its breakfast sandwiches, but that’s another story). Parisian ham, cheese and a brilliantly orange egg front and centre. 45RMB.

Croissant aux amandes
Much more than just an almond croissant, this hulking pastry is closer to a pie than anything,  filled generously with frangipane and showered with sliced nuts. 20RMB.

Photograph: Annie Lin

Açaí bowl
This smoothie bowl gets an all-natural sweetness from a base of frozen açaí berries (imported from Brazil) and frozen bananas, plus heaped toppings of strawberries, blueberries, banana, coconut flakes, chia seeds, edible flowers and house-made granola. 32RMB (small); 45RMB (regular). 

Cifan tuan
Part of a quartet of famous breakfast foods known as the 'four big warriors' (四大金刚, sidajingang), this rice roll is shaped using a makisu bamboo mat. The main components are steamed rice and youtiao, with both sweet and savoury versions available – the savoury with pork floss and salted egg yolk, the sweet with a sprinkling of sugar. 

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Scallion oil noodles
A Shanghai classic done right, wheat noodles are oil-tossed with tangles of caramelised scallions and crowned with delicate shrimp. 18RMB.

Wanza xiaomian
Tender noodles, fragrant greens, creamy peas, braised beef and just enough heat and numbing flavour. 12RMB.

Scallion oil pancake
You'll queue for anything up to two hours to get your hands on one of Ada's congyoubing, but it's worth it. Cash only. 7RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

The Inverted Philly Dip
Philly cheesesteak meets a French Dip: amazing. 98RMB.

This old Beijing-style jianbing is chewy and crunchy in all the right ways. The wheat flour pancake is topped with an egg, fermented soy sauce, a brush of chilli and a sprinkling of sliced scallion and sesame seeds, before it's wrapped with a crisp baocui at its centre. 7RMB.

Photograph: Annie Lin

Rou yuebing
Meat mooncakes are unlike their sweet counterpart in every way. Somewhere in-between a baozi and xieke huang, the juices from the meaty filling of this Shanghai snack seep into the flaky pastry as it bakes until golden. 4RMB.

There's always a line, and they stop selling these at 10am. Go early to get these seriously hearty xiaohuntun.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

White pizza slice
A firm-but-chewy crust and a base slathered with parmesan cream and coated in mozzarella and dollops of ricotta. ’Nuff said. 25RMB (per slice); 195RMB (20-inch pizza).

Sesame noodles
A bowl of noodles drenched in thick sesame paste with a slick of chilli oil for a bargain price. 10RMB.

Babi Mantou
A perennially popular and super cheap breakfast snack (though great eaten at any time of the day), these steamed buns are stuffed generously with fillings from pork and preserved veg to bok choy, tofu and mushroom to black sesame. Babi Mantou also has hundreds of stores all over the city. From 1.5RMB. 

Photograph: courtesy Glam

Truffle’d Cheese Toasties
This unassuming bar bite is packed with a decadent punch from truffle and tangy cheese that belies its humble appearance. 52RMB.

Red oil wontons
Meaty wontons without too much skin but plenty of delicious, hot and numbing Sichuan flavour. 22RMB.

Ubiquitous Truffle House-made Fries
Passing the litmus test of a good fry with flying colours, these crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside chips were good enough on their own, and then they made it even better with truffle. 48RMB.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

The traditional Shanghai-style fried soup dumpling – pillowy soft up top and perfectly crisp on the bottom. 8RMB for four.

Yellow croaker noodles
The huangyu mian from this Ningbo hole-in-the-wall are well deserving of their fame. White flakes of croaker fish float atop a rich, salty broth bathing a bed of noodles. 26RMB.

Xiancai banmian
This famous Shanghainese noodle joint pulls in huge crowds through its lunchtime sittings for its freshly pulled noodles tossed with xiancai. 12RMB.

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Photograph: Cat Nelson 

Deep-fried hargow
Seemingly working off the age-old platitude that everything fried is better (we don’t disagree), Canton Table takes the dim sum shrimp dumpling classic and drops it in the deep fryer for a split second. The result is a lightly fried, shatteringly crisp exterior wrapped around the juicy prawn filling. 48RMB

Crab xialongbao
The delicate dumpling skin of Jia Jia's xiaolongbao encases a steamy fragrant crab soup. 99RMB for 12.

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Beef tartare 
The wizards in the kitchen at RAW – and by wizards we mean heartthrob Juan Campos and team – take simple ingredients and turn them into something magical. For the tartare, finely sliced Chilean wagyu is served on a bed of crushed ice with smoked egg yolk and a shallot and onion garnish. Accompanied by bread crisps and a side of fries, it’s more than enough to share between two or more as an appetiser. 128RMB.

Fine de Claire oysters
A side of lemon, shallot vinaigrette and ginger ponzu sauce bring these famed oysters out of their shell. 198RMB per dozen.

Photograph: courtesy Jean-Georges

Egg Caviar
Jean-Georges takes the humble oeuf to a whole new level (and price point) with its signature Egg Caviar. Presented in a shell, silky scrambled egg is topped with vodka-whipped cream and capped with a healthy spoonful of caviar. 388RMB; 88RMB (happy hour).

Firm but tender octopus tentacles come coated in gochujang – sweet, spicy and tasting a bit like rice cracker snacks from 7-Eleven, in a very, very good way. 118RMB.

el willy
Photograph: courtesy El Willy

Salmon TNT
This is an explosive bite you'll want to savour. A crisp bread pocket is filled with sour cream and topped with Balik salmon and truffle honey. 108RMB.

Creamy Button Mushroom with Bread
The simple button mushroom never tasted so good. Served in a rich, béchamel sauce, earthy sautéed mushrooms are piled generously around a perfect runny egg yolk with shavings of parmesan and thick slices of toasted baguette for dipping. 88RMB. 

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe 

Vitello tonnato
An off-menu dish, the visually arresting vitello tonnato (a traditional Italian surf and turf pairing of veal and tuna) offers a charcoal-black-edged round of melt-in-your-mouth, milk-fed veal with a quenelle of tuna mousse, flanked by a bold stripe of squid ink. 118RMB.

Molecular xiaolongbao
This is chef Alvin Leung's (also of Daimon Bistro) signature dish. Imagine a classic soup dumpling with the flavour turned up to 11 and all in one lightning-quick explosion. Part of 1,680RMB set menu.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe 

Plump mussels bathe in a creamy Thai-style coconut and chilli broth with a garnish of basil. 148RMB.

Demon chef Alvin Leung has pulled some Dr Frankenstein-style moves, mashing up a pineapple bun with a classic barbecued pork bun. The result? Some kind of ultra-buttery, insane indulgence. 32RMB (two pieces).

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Photograph: Cat Nelson (grilled manchego)

Grilled manchego
This almost seems like a scam, it’s so delicious for something so simple. Grassy Spanish manchego thrown in the Josper charcoal oven until crispy on the outside and oozy on the inside, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with toasted almonds.158RMB.

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Photograph: Cat Nelson (Pâté plate)

Pâté plate
Le Bistrot de Racine
Good things come in threes, and that’s certainly true for this platter of house-made pâtés. Decadent but not too OTT, the cutting board bears a veritable feast of Lyon-style pâté en croute, a piquant headcheese pâté and a black truffle pâté. 388RMB.
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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Minced pork curry katsu sando 
It doesn’t get much better than a meatball with a curry centre... except if you make a sandwich out of it. And there’s bacon. A blend of possibly the world’s most delicious meat, minced pork belly and caramelised onions, the patty is stuffed with curry, breaded and deep-fried. 50RMB (lunch set).

Jalabeef bagelwich
Boom Boom Bagels
A kickin' combo of beef shin, jalapeno, chives, parsley, vinegar, Tabasco, cheddar, spicy tomato, butter and cream cheese are wedged between two halves of chewy bagel. 60RMB.

Signature Butao ramen bowl
Butao Ramen
A Hong Kong ramen chain with some serious credentials, Butao's signature bowl sees a thick and luscious base of creamy tonkotsu (pork bone) soup served with a large sheet of seaweed and an egg on the side. 68RMB.

Photograph: Kenny Ong 

Xiaoguo mixian
Served piping hot in a small copper pot, Yunnan rice noodles (mixian) bathe in an addicting hot-and-sour soup made from Yunnan herbs and pickled mustard greens, tender rice noodles, minced meat and green veggies. 38RMB.

Sea of Dreams
The Ferrari of poke bowls, this slick dish packs a whole lotta punch: salmon, Hokkaido scallops, salmon roe, tobiko roe, cashews, avocado, scallions, seaweed salad and pickled cucumbers are piled high on a mound of sushi rice and liberally coated in the fishmonger's signature Dynamite sauce. 118RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Zhu Que Men
Served in a portion fit for two, chewy and fresh-from-the-boil hand-pulled belt noodles are tossed in oil and topped with a blend of chillies, spring onion, garlic, bean sprouts and bok choy. Add a splash of vinegar and soy sauce, stir well and tuck in. 20RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Tuna melt 
Crisp and golden brown sourdough, a fresh and punchy tuna salad and a thick coating of gooey swiss and cheddar cheese make this tuna melt pop. 49.99RMB (regular); 64.99RMB (large).

Double Char burger
Simple and unfussy, The Habit’s Double Char is a straight-up, classic fast food cheeseburger – meat, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. The difference here? Patties are freshly made with beef ground in-house. Juicy and flavourful, it’s so much more than your average Macca’s or Burger King. The self-serve pickle bar doesn’t hurt either. 38RMB.

New York Corned Beef Reuben sandwich
A classic done right: a toasted challah bun is crammed with house-brined and smoked beef brisket, tangy sauerkraut, silky melted cheddar and a 'secret' Reuben sauce. 78RMB.
_90A9757 copyPhotograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Crab gold noodles
With the insides of 12 crabs (six female, six male), salt and a sprinkling of gold flakes, Cejerdary’s Xie Huangjin – literally ‘Crab Gold’ – is the stuff of simple and straightforward extravagance. Expect a queue.
1266 Kaixuan Lu, near Anshun Lu. Hongqiao Lu. 360RMB.

Coconut hotpot
Salt, coconut water and chicken – that's the hotpot base. After you’re done cooking with it, don’t ditch the pot like you would at any other hotpot place. 138RMB; 198RMB (whole chicken).

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Photograph: Cat Nelson (stir-fried shrimp, ham and bamboo)

Stir-fried shrimp, ham and bamboo
Perhaps Ningbo’s best-kept secret, the fried bamboo slivers in this dish are basically crack, mixed up with cured ham, shrimp, gingko nuts and a shower of sugar. 78RMB.

Fish in the Josper oven
Velvety halibut gets a kick from a drizzle of spicy parsley and garlic oil and a smoky finish from a turn in the Josper oven. A whole fish, this dish is great for sharing. 198RMB.

Roast fish head with scallion
Hidden under a mound of crisp, charred scallions and liberally doused in oil, the fish head at Jesse’s is a signature worth returning for – again and again. 228RMB (pre-order only).

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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (jasmine tea-smoked pomfret)

Jasmine tea-smoked pomfret
You’d never think that fish could taste like candy, but you’d better believe it. Arriving in a smoke-filled belljar, small crispy fillets of pomfret perfumed with jasmine tea have an addictive sweet start and savoury finish that you’ll be popping like Skittles. 

Nang chao rou
Wedges of  flatbread are stir-fried with fatty chunks of mutton, onions, and a heavy coating of Xinjiang spice mix. 68RMB.

Photograph: Kenny Ong

Jiao ma ji 
A mountain of tender chicken, tofu, wood ear mushrooms and green onion sits in a thick pool of chicken stock mixed with numbing pepper oil. If you’re a numbing pepper addict, this dish is going to be the one that does you in. 69RMB.

Wood plank salmon fillet
Taking campfire food to a whole new level, an orange-pink slab of salmon is slow-smoked over a fire pit. The result is a piece of fish that’s all sorts of succulent, smoky and just all kinds of swoonworthy. 398RMB (quarter); 788RMB (half); 1,388RMB (full).

Crispy mandarin fish
A dish also known as 'squirrel fish' – allegedly for its 'squirrel'-like appearance – the white fish is deboned and cut in a crosshatch pattern before being battered and deep-fried (which is when it gets that bushy 'tail' look). It's then liberally covered in an auspicious-red sticky sweet and sour sauce. 328RMB.

Photograph: Cat Nelson (black truffle pizza)

Black truffle pizza
There's a reason this is Mercato's moat popular dish. A three-cheese mix (mozzarella, fontina and Parmesan) is sprinkled on top a layer of Italian truffle paste before an egg is cracked into the centre. After it's pulled out of the oven, the whole thing is showered in shavings of fresh black truffle, producing a fragrance so redolent that should be bottled and sold as Mercato's signature scent. 218RMB.

Braised and fried chicken
The double technique approach (braised then fried) in this Shandong speciality means the chicken avoids the dreaded white meat dryness – super succulent with supremely crispy skin. Pulled apart by hand and topped with shredded carrot, spring onion, chilli and coriander. 40RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe (‘Mapo’ spicy tofu with pig brain)

‘Mapo’ spicy tofu with pig brain
Silky tofu arrives coated in a vibrant red sauce studded with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns and pig brain. 53RMB.

Seriously Beefy
Pie Society’s steak and ale pie takes tender pieces of steak, carrot and mushroom, braises it all in a hearty beef stock with Guinness and then wraps it all in a hot and flakey pie crust. 55RMB.

Photograph: Cat Nelson (typhoon shelter-style corn)

Typhoon shelter-style corn 
A riff on a Hong Kong icon (typhoon shelter crab), this lucky dip of a dish hides chunks of fried corn beneath a thick blanket of crisp garlic crumbs with scallion, black beans, chillies and coriander. 88RMB.

Beijing duck
For Peking duck to rival the capital, Xindalu has got your number. Cooked in the upscale restaurant's wood-fired oven, the duck is crispy and juicy in all the right places. 238RMB (half).

Photograph: courtesy Gemma

Pesto pizza
This brilliantly simple pizza takes one of Gemma's signature Neapolitan-style bases (characterised by their cloud-like crust), covers it in a blanket of crème fraîche, and tops it off with delicate slices of prosciutto, lashings of herb mascarpone and homemade basil pesto. 120RMB.

Homemade Tagliolini
We’re positive you’ll never have pasta with butter and cheese this good anywhere else. Ribbons of handmade tagliolini come slicked in butter and parmesan cheese with redolent shavings of the truffle of the season, be it black or white. 398RMB.

Photograph: Amy Snelling (bone marrow, orecchiette)

Bone marrow, orecchiette
Chewy, ear-shaped orecchiette are coated in a rich, long-simmered ragù sauce and served with fabulously unctuous roasted bone marrow. 168RMB.

Hongshao rou 
There’s no denying there are a lot of great hongshao rou in this city, but Ren He Guan’s rendition nails it on all levels. Sticky and sweet, it’s served in a single melt-in-your-mouth chunk with two quarters of a hard-boiled soy egg for 19RMB. Just the perfect amount for this ultra-rich, fatty classic. 18RMB.
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Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Crispy Date 
Super sweet and fatty, these dates are exceptional, served alongside roasted cauliflower, turnip, curry and cocoa, each playing off brilliantly against the bright grassiness of celery fronds. 75RMB

Beetroot quinoa burger
The plant-based burgers at this health-focused vegetarian restaurant (there's even a strict no-frying policy) are signatures. Vibrant, fresh and packed with flavour – served with a lick of vegan mayo, smashed avocado, pickle, tomato and a muddle of organic sprouts – the quinoa and beet burger easily holds its own against its beef counterpart. If beets aren't your jam go for the portobello mushroom and pineapple burger (58RMB). 52RMB. 

Less is more with this delightfully simple pizza that relies on three key ingredients: DOP buffalo mozzarella, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. Bellissimo. Insider tip: go for the late-night menu from 10pm Thursday to Saturday when all pizzas are 100RMB. 150RMB.

Photograph: Cat Nelson

Treasure Box 
With a presentation as delightful as each of the tiny dishes, this massive vegetarian jewel box offers up a treasure trove of cold starters. From crunchy pickled pink radishes to marinated mushrooms with pine nuts, it’s an appetiser less ordinary. 118RMB.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Falafel wrap
Eli Falafel
There’s falafel and then there’s falafel. Eli’s is the latter – with a crisp outer layer that conceals a fluffy, herby centre. For this dish, the chickpea patties are wrapped together tightly with tomato, pickle, parsley and a lashing of creamy tahini inside Lebanese flatbread. 40RMB.

Sweet and sour veggie spareribs
Vegetarian Lifestyle
These sticky morsels are everything a sweet and sour sparerib should be, just minus the meat. 38RMB.

Aloo okra massala
A blend of stir-fried potato and okra, this punchy and fragrant side dish is made to be mopped up with roti.

Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Fried goats cheese
Fried with salt and chilli, you'll be popping more pieces of this undeniably moreish cheese than you thought your stomach could stand. 26RMB.
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Photograph: courtesy Ginger

Coconut sago with pandan ice cream and palm sugar meringue
The Southeast Asian island of desserts, chewy coconut sago pairs perfectly with satin-smooth pandan ice cream and a feather- light meringue. 58RMB.

Ice cream tofu
Dropped in a steaming hotpot for five to ten minutes, the Taiwanese chain's toothsome whirls of tofu ice cream transform into a creamy soft serve. 
10RMB each (one free per person when ordering à la carte).

PBJ (peanut ice cream, red fruit and salted peanut caramel)
There’s a reason that the Commune Social’s signature dessert hasn’t come off the menu since opening in 2013 – with peanut ice cream, brittle, seasonal berries and a salted peanut caramel crunch, this deconstructed take on a PB&J has a perfect triumvirate of sweet, salty and crunchy. Childhood on a plate. 62RMB.

Photograph: courtesy Highline

Lemon chiffon cake
The Highline kitchen doesn’t hold back with this towering, three-layer leviathan of a dessert. Think sweet-tart lemon curd filling, light and airy chiffon cake and generous waves of coconut frosting, all topped off with toasted coconut shavings. 88RMB.

Snack Pack cookie
Bringing the best of the snack world together, the Snack Pack is a mix of Oreos, caramel, crisps and pretzels in one seductively gooey cookie. Available online at or via the official WeChat store (search 'StrictlyCookies'). 70RMB (five cookies).

Eduardo’s Flan
Lusciously rich and creamy, it's easy to see why owner Eduardo Vargas' signature burnt caramel egg custard has been in play for over a decade. 58RMB.

M's Famous Pavlova
Photograph: courtesy M on the Bund

M's Very Famous Pavlova
Scaling ambitious heights, M's rendition of the simple-to-make-but-hard-to-master dessert is presented as a gleaming tower of tropical fruits piled atop a fluffy cloud-like interior and a magically crunchy meringue crust. 108RMB.

Lemon & Lemon Tart
It might look simple from the outside, but don't be fooled – this Paul Pairet creation takes days to make. Whole lemons are meticulously hollowed out over a period of 72-hours before being filled with a tart mélange of lemon chantilly, lemon sorbet, lemon ice cream, lemon curd and segments of grapefruit, orange and lemon, before it's served with a chopstick-sized sablé biscuit to help cut through the tang.110RMB.

Brownie peanut butter milkshake
Insanely thick and disgustingly rich (in the best way), this milkshake packs in over-generous servings of peanut butter, chunks of brownie and house-made chocolate ice cream. 55RMB.