8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana opened in Shanghai in February 2012 and it is one of the hottest restaurants in town. I had to call three times before I could make a reservation and I finally succeeded when I made reservations over a week in advance. Originally hailing from Hong Kong, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana is the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy that has Three Michelin Stars. Although Michelin has yet to produce a guide for Shanghai, I eagerly anticipate the day when the Shanghai location receives the same accolade.
Tag Archives: China
I went yumberry picking for the first time this weekend. I’m sure you’re wondering what a yumberry is because it sounds like a fruit straight from Alice’s Wonderland. I actually had to look it up because I only knew the Chinese name, 杨梅 (yang mei). Yumberry is also known as the Chinese bayberry, waxberry or Chinese strawberry tree. It’s a super interesting fruit because it’s native to the Zhejiang province in China and is only in season for two weeks out of the entire year!
This past weekend, some family friends took me and my brother to Ningbo to go straight to the source and pick the freshest yumberries possible. Ningbo is about a 3-hour drive away from Shanghai. A major thanks goes out to our friends who drove us so far to share a piece of Chinese culture with us. This truly was a unique experience and I felt really lucky to not only be in China to eat yumberries, but also to actually pick them in the wild!
It’s hard to describe what a yumberry tastes like. The outside of the fruit is completely bumpy, but it has the consistency of a seedless strawberry. Inside is a pit that looks exactly like a cherry pit. In terms of its sweet and tart taste, I think the closest comparison would be pomegranate seeds. The juice definitely stains like a pomegranate and you do not want to get it on your clothes.
I learned that it takes 10 years before the trees bear fruit and you want to pick the berries early in the morning before the sun comes out. Apparently, once the sun hits the fruit, they turn red. You actually want to pick the darker, blacker yumberries, which are much sweeter. For some reason, yumberries have a natural pesticide so bugs don’t eat them AND yumberries also cure stomach ailments. My family friends from Shanghai told me that when they were younger, their parents would limit how much fruit they could eat. They were allowed to eat as many yumberries as they wanted though because it was good for their digestion.
The restaurant industry in Shanghai is absolutely insane because the turnover is so high. While it’s sad to see some of my favorites go, it is exciting hearing the buzz about new places like Cuivre on 1502 Huai Hai Zhong Lu (淮海中路1502号). The restaurant has only been open for about a year, but they just won Best Restaurant of the Year and Best Newcomer according to popular Shanghai magazine, City Weekend. Cuivre, which means “copper” in French, serves Southern French cuisine courtesy of Michael Wendling who used to be the executive chef at Allure at Le Royal Meridien in Shanghai.
I went to Cuivre twice (once with my friend and once with my mother) and I loved being able to practice French with the owner and staff. The menu is small (but on iPads), but I was told they generally change one to two dishes every three weeks or so. When you go, you must order the terrine de foie gras, which is served with cherries and cute little toast pieces. The foie gras was incredibly smooth and rich (perfect with a glass of red wine). I also tried the white asparagus, which is grilled, and served with hollandaise sauce, a poached egg, ham and a little bit of cheese. The asparagus was tender and I liked how it was paired with the saltier meat.
This weekend, I went to Zhu Jia Jiao (朱家角), a small city located in the Qing Pu district of Shanghai. Zhu Jia Jiao is west of Shanghai’s city center and it takes about an hour to drive there. It is most famous for being a water town that has been preserved for the past 1,700 years. Besides the old Chinese architecture, I was really fascinated by all the different types of food stands. I wanted to avoid food poisoning at all costs (a lot of the food is just sitting out in the open), so I didn’t try most of it. But, I did get to try a couple of really delicious things and take some interesting pictures of 零食 (snacks).
So I’m in Shanghai for the next month and caved into paying for a VPN. I couldn’t last a whole 4-5 weeks with no access to my blog! You know what else I miss in China? Yelp. Yes, part of me understands why it’s blocked in China, but Yelp could totally be the Holy Grail for foreigners here in Shanghai. There are SO many restaurants here and a real lack of reviews. Fear not! I am here to try and fill in those gaps for you. While you may judge me for eating at Western restaurants in Shanghai, please note that I also eat plenty of Chinese food. There’s just really good Western food that you can’t pass up.
I just got back from one of those nights. One of those magical nights that remind you why you love China so freaking much. My friend Vanessa* and I tried out a new Spanish restaurant called Bocado, located in the French Concession on the 2nd floor of 47 Yong Fu Road (永富路47号2楼). Bocado just opened about 7 months ago and now has live flamenco guitar music every Wednesday night. I highly recommend you go on a Wednesday because the music was amazing. The guitarist played “La Camisa Negra” by Juanes and won 500 million points for that. Seriously, you can never have too much Juanes in your life. I met Bocado’s owner, Charles Cabell, and brand-new manager, Pablo. Charlie and Pablo were incredibly nice and sent me complimentary appetizers after I shared my MOO blog business card with them (the perks of being an eater extraordinaire).
We started the night with glasses of their red sangria and I was very happy to see that Bocado does not skimp on the fruit or flavor in their sangria. For appetizers, we had the morcilla a la parrilla (blood sausage), croquetas de setas (mushroom and truffle croquettes), pulpo a la gallega (octopus), and jamon iberico (Iberian ham). My favorite was definitely the octopus. It was served on top of thin slices of potatoes and topped with paprika and sea salt. The octopus was tender, not rubbery. The little bursts of sea salt really balanced out the flavor of the dish and I kept reaching for a second, and then a third, and then a fourth helping. The blood sausage was also really good and I liked how there was a slight crispiness to it because they barbecued it and then served it on top of a bed of bell peppers. While the mushroom croquettes were tasty, they weren’t anything extraordinary. I liked the Iberian ham though, which is imported from Spain, and cut in thicker slices than what I’ve seen in the U.S. Continue reading
I love 小笼包/xiao long bao/Shanghai soup dumplings. Those succulent morsels definitely count as one of my favorite foods in the entire world. When I was really young, my parents used to drive me over an hour to a hole in the wall restaurant where we would eat them. I still have no idea where we were…San Francisco? San Jose? I used to brag that I could eat an entire steamer by myself (that’s impressive when you’re 10).
There’s a true art to the perfect xiao long bao. The skin needs to be paper thin and almost translucent because there is so much soup inside (warning: the soup burns like the heat of a thousand suns). You should be able to use your chopsticks to pick up your dumpling by the top of its “nub” without it breaking. Finally, the ground pork inside must be flavorful and tender (plus there needs to be a good meat to dumpling skin ratio).
It’s difficult to find even good xiao long bao. Since I was in Shanghai, I decided to try and find the perfect Shanghai soup dumpling. I already knew that the dumplings in the Yu Yuan Gardens (城隍庙) weren’t good anymore. It used to be famous for its xiao long bao, but now it’s become so incredibly touristy and the quality has gone downhill. The dumpling skin is way too thick. You have been warned… don’t go to the Yu Yuan Gardens in Shanghai for 小笼包.