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Photograph: courtesy Chope
1376 Nanjing Xi Lu

This venue has closed.

Having found success in their native Taipei, the owners of HowFun have decided to share their love for paella in Shanghai. The concept of this Taiwanese take on a Spanish eatery is simple, bright and colourful, even down to the name, a play on the Chinese for good food (‘hao fan’).

The menu is predominantly a mix of Spanish-inspired fare – including tapas, bocadillos, and a standard range of salads and soups – with the main focus on paella. HowFun’s list of the classic Spanish dish is extensive, with a variety of takes including black rice paella with calamari (76RMB/small, 138RMB/medium, 269RMB/large) and a saffron seafood lobster paella (398RMB/medium only). The latter is an impressive-looking dish garnished with large red lobster parts sat atop a bed of well-cooked rice studded with clams and baby shrimp. The dish comes accompanied by a nut cracker, which makes for a slightly messy way to get to the sweet and juicy lobster meat. There are more authentic paellas in town, but it’s a satisfying offering for sharing with a few friends.

The HowFun paella (96RMB/small, 196RMB/medium, 389RMB/large) with sausage unfortunately doesn’t have the same aesthetic appeal and has more in common with a choucroute garnie than a traditional paella. Dotted with four types of forgettable sausage (including Taiwanese), the dish will likely appeal to local palates, but may have Spaniards crying sacrilege. While the addition of chorizo attempts to inject some flavour, the ‘Southeast Asian flavour sauce’ seems to be missing in action, with the promised spice and lemongrass mix sadly indiscernable.

Staff will ask if you’d like your paella ‘juicy or dry’ – we requested somewhere in between on one visit and the rice was nicely judged, if a little plain. On another, we opted for ‘dry’ and though it came with slightly more caramelised edges, it still lacked the satisfying crust that we were expecting. There’s also an option to upgrade any paella to imported Spanish rice for an additional 12RMB, which adds a little more texture to the dish.

From the tapas section, the potato omelette with aioli (42RMB) is a generous, tasty serving of classic Spanish comfort food which arrives in its own skillet. The pan-fried scallops (108RMB) are another good option, with juicy and tender mollusks topped by a scoop of caviar and served on a bed of diced tomato and onion for a pleasing bite.

HowFun’s service is welcoming and friendly, the menu accessible and well-prepared, and we can see it being a popular lunch spot for surrounding office workers. Just don’t come expecting a fully authentic paella experience.
Venue name: HowFun (CLOSED)
Opening hours: 11am-11pm daily
Metro: Nanjing Xi Lu
English address: Unit 200B, Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu, Jingan district
Chinese address: 静安区南京西路1376号上海商城西峰200B, 近西康路