The hottest bars and restaurants in Shanghai right now

Tons of Italian, street-side Thai and loads more to check out this summer

Photograph: Graeme Kennedy (Yaya's)
Can’t stop, won’t stop. Shanghai’s bar and restaurant world is always moving at the speed of light, but July turned out to be an even busier month than usual with the big unveiling of hyped-up lifestyle complex The Roof in Xintiandi and an ambitious multi-purpose Mexican and Spanish project in Jingan. Meanwhile, Italian places have been popping up here, there and everywhere (not that we’re complaining) and there’s also an exciting new Thai-spot on Shaanxi Bei Lu. Here’s the hottest places to catch right now in Shanghai.
Soi Thai

Soi Thai

It’s been a long while since travelling down to Thailand was a thing, but this brand-new 24-seater Thai-eatery – armed with an ice-cold fridge of Chang and Singha beers – is all about recreating that scene we sorely miss. Currently in soft-opening and set down the alley beside Pie Society, it channels the quick and easy charm of Thailand’s street-side spots, with southern staples like deep-fried spring rolls served with sweet chilli sauce, sautéed glass noodles and sharable appetisers like tender grilled pork neck and beef skewers. Crucially, there’s a banger of a pad Thai (seafood or chicken) that you’ll polish off in minutes.

Yaya's

Andrew Moo (Taste Collective), Dan Li (formerly Bird) and Mike Liu (Lucky Mart) are the masterminds behind this experimental pasta bar that’s popped up behind the window in the corridor of X Bar. It’s a late-night thing (open 8pm until it’s sold out, Wednesday-Saturday), ideal in a setting where fuel for the dancefloor or preparatory carbs for the next morning are needed. The pop-up’s purpose is to test and play with what works in preparation for the team’s permanent space (slated to open later in the year), so the pastas change weekly with everything from scallion oil malfaldine to lamb ragu tagliatelle adorned with Sichuan peppercorns.

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7 Donghu Lu

Halu Korean Bistro

If the news of beloved two-storey bar and café Ars & Delecto on Jinxian Lu (sorta) relocating brought concern, don’t stress, it’s still on the second floor and you’ll most likely have to go up for a pre-dinner drink anyway as its downstairs replacement Korean restaurant Halu has been drawing some fairly lengthy waits. Once you do finally nab a table, your patience will be rewarded with a solid lineup of well-executed Korean classics that cover the single-page menu – particularly the sweet and sour chicken and jeon (Korean pancakes) that come with addictive fillings like cheese, potato and bacon or mung beans, kimchi and pork.

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222 Jinxian Lu

Azul Italiano

The Azul group have branched out from of their South American roots with this colourful, fun and very spacious Italian-focused offering (about two metres across from their other North Bund restaurant Colca). Naturally, the traditional trio of pizza, pasta and anti-pasti power the menu, but the team’s trademark playful style lies at heart everything: see tiramisu presented as a fallen flower pot or a swordfish carpaccio that comes with a paint brush so you can give food expressionism a go via circular dots of wasabi mayo and mascarpone cream – the only time it might actually be acceptable to play with your food.

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588 Dongchangzhi Lu

Pici

If you see shopping mall dining as a red flag, ignore it, this Hong Kong-born hit from the Pirata Group looks set to become a Shanghai staple with its simple plates of fresh chewy pasta rolled in-house each day. It’s part of the new XIANG food hub in the Jingan Kerry Centre and serves up everything you’d find populating the brand’s menus in Hong Kong: Italian and n’duja sausage orecchiette, super cheesy lasagne layered thick with béchamel, parmesan and beer ragu, plus (the go-for-gold dish) tagliolini showered with shaved black truffle.

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1515 Nanjing Xi Lu

DreamSicle

The Nest’s head bartender Allen Fang has opened his own bar on the corner of Shaanxi Bei and Changle Lus – a pet project which he’s named after a Creamsicle (the orange flavoured sherbet and vanilla ice cream). Inside, the narrow-fitted bar slings draft beers from 45RMB (Shanghai Love from 58RMB) and classic cocktails for 78RMB – many orange-hued – like a paloma that uses grapefruit and pomelo PAO soda, rubbed with a sal de gusano rim.

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162-8 Shaanxi Nan Lu
Frasca

Frasca

Not a new opening per se, but The Middle House’s always-excellent alfresco Italian restaurant Frasca has a new executive chef – Lorenzo Merolle – and with his arrival comes a revamped menu of must-try dishes. Hailing from Rome, Merolle draws inspiration from his childhood memories of eating and cooking for masterfully crafted plates of handmade pasta – think fettuccini tossed with baby artichokes, fava beans and mint or a twist on his hometown’s iconic cacio e pepe.

The Drinkery

This small neon-lit bar on Ruijin Er Lu is the sort of place where it’s all but guaranteed that strangers you meet inside will become mates by the end of the night – a feat made even easier by the cheap drinks that taste like they should be double the price. Those prices start from 36RMB for things like a fig leaf-infused G&T rising to 48RMB for signatures like the super spicy Midnight Haircut, garnished with a whole red chilli pepper, or a mischievously named My Tinder Crush that features a confidence-raising mix of kaffir lime tequila, elderflower cordial and prosecco.

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50-1 Ruijin Er Lu

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