Holding its ground in Xintiandi, Shanghainese staple Ye Shanghai recently underwent a much needed face lift, taking the opportunity to revamp their menu as well. They’ve retained their Shanghainese classics, of course., with some contemporary additions.
The luxurious interiors and low lighting are a chic contrast to the original wooden floors and beams, painstakingly maintained in this beautifully restored shikumen. The first level is now dedicated to private rooms, with the open dining area upstairs.
As with all Chinese cuisine, cold dishes kick off the meal. The light-as-air Crispy Bean Curd Skin Rolls with vegetables 脆皮素烧鹅 (RMB38) are flaky wisps of umami. Lacquered in a sweet and sour sauce, the Wuxi Crispy Eel 江南脆鳝 (RMB58) is so addictive, we couldn’t stop eating it.
The Braised Dried Turnip in sweet soy 风味酱萝卜 (RMB32) lends a welcome shot of piquancy. The Tea Leaf Smoked Egg 古法烟鸭蛋 (RMB15/piece) has a perfectly creamy yolk and is decidedly fancier than the convenience store variety, but not necessarily worth the order.
The key to a great Shanghainese dinner is to order a variety of flavors, not just the popular sweet dishes. One such sticky-sweet dish, though, is the Deep-Fried Yellow Fish 特式松子鱼 (RMB388). It’s made with a special technique of slicing the fish and pouring hot oil over it, causing the flesh to blossom and puff up like flower petals. While we appreciate the precise cooking method and the sweet and sour sauce, the price tag still feels steep.
The Stir-Fried River Shrimps 清炒河虾仁 (RMB228) might appear boring by comparison, yet the simple preparation highlights their delicate flavor. Eating each tiny crustacean (after a quick dip in black vinegar for a splash of acidity) will not only improve your chopstick dexterity, but will also make the portion size seem larger than it really is. The Baked Stuffed Crab Shell 蟹粉酿蟹盖 (RMB52/piece) offers rich flavor in a small package, with succulent chunks of crab and minced vegetables bound together with egg white.
Ye Shanghai is also famous for their duck. For a change of pace from Beijing style, order the Crispy Duck 蝶饼香酥鸭 (RMB118/half). The crackly-skinned morsels nestled into house-made steamed baos provide a salty component to the meal. They also serve the ubiquitous xiaolongbao (小笼包, RMB36/four). How the paper-thin wrapper can support all that unctuous soup without tearing is magic.
Xintiandi is dotted with tourist traps, and admittedly about half of Ye Shanghai’s clientele are tourists. But they’ve embraced the role of introducing out-of-towners and locals to benbang cai, albeit at Xintiandi prices.
What: Ye Shanghai
Address: Xintiandi, North Block, 338 Huangpi Nan Lu (near Taicang Lu) 黄陂南路338号 (近太仓路)
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