Shanghai: Bull & Claw Brunch and Al’s Diner

Bull and Claw: Lobster Eggs Benedict

Bull and Claw: Lobster Eggs Benedict

It’s hard to get excited for brunch in Shanghai. I know, total #firstworldproblem if there ever was one. Ever since Madison closed, there’s been a hole in my life because brunch just doesn’t compare elsewhere. Also, I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg just to eat brunch on the Bund. I’m really happy to report that Bull & Claw (466 Xikang Lu; 西康路466号) in Jing’an was one of the most enjoyable brunches I’ve had in ages. It was warm this past weekend and they were able to open all of the sliding doors and let in the fresh air.

Bull & Claw in Shanghai

Bull & Claw in Shanghai

Bull & Claw offers a three-course set menu: 1 course for 85 RMB, 2 courses for 145 RMB and 3 courses for 165 RMB. Considering that they had cocktails and fresh juices listed as one of the courses, it’s really easy to decide to just splurge and go for all three.

Bull and Claw Brunch

Bull & Claw Brunch

I ordered the brioche French toast and lobster eggs Benedict while my friend ordered the Turkish menemen. I have to admit that the French toast was the only lackluster part of my meal. The bread was really dry and although the salted caramel sauce was delicious, it couldn’t make up for the fact that the bread was horribly dry. I want my French toast to be a custard-like consistency after soaking in beautiful creamy batter all night. This French toast didn’t really have much taste.

However, the rest of the food made up for the poor French toast. While you do have pay an extra 80 kuai for the lobster eggs Benedict, it is totally worth it. The English muffins were toasted well and topped with bacon, a healthy portion of spinach, beautiful pieces of lobster, perfectly poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. I loved my dish. The lobster tasted fresh with great texture (not that weird mushy consistency). The spinach and bacon made the dish felt more substantial and the whole dish is surprisingly filling. I couldn’t even finish it (and I ate this first before trying the French toast). My friend’s Turkish menemen was absolutely delicious. Similar to a shashuka, two eggs are baked in a casserole dish with tomatoes, onions, peppers, sumac, yoghurt and spices. The menemen definitely has a little bit of kick and is spicy and flavorful. You also get two toasted pieces of bread to soak up all that liquid goodness. I can’t wait to go back to Bull & Claw soon and try more of their dishes.

Milkshake at Al's Diner

Milkshake at Al’s Diner

I was really excited to try Al’s Diner (204 Xinle Lu; 新乐路204号), which offered greasy, comfort food and homemade ice cream from Gracie’s. Gracie’s started with a small ice cream cart outside of House of Lasagna, but Al’s Diner offers a full ice cream bar with a myriad of different flavors. You can make any of her ice cream flavors into a milkshake and I decided to get the Winterberry and White Chocolate one. Considering the high quality of her ice cream, this milkshake was absolutely magical. It was bursting with berry flavor and so deeply satisfying. The only thing that could have made it better would be if it was slightly thicker and also slightly cheaper (60 RMB for a shake).

Al's Diner: Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings, Patty Melt and Kimchee Fried Rice

Al’s Diner: Honey Sriracha Chicken Wings, Patty Melt and Kimchee Fried Rice

When my friend and I met up, we were starving and quickly ordered the honey sriracha chicken wings, patty melt and kimchee fried rice. The chicken wings came in 2nd after the milkshake. They were crispy, but not too greasy, and had a nice sweet and spicy flavor. The accompanying cole slaw was really meh (needed more mayo), but that just leaves more space in your stomach for chicken.

We weren’t as pleased with our main dishes. The patty melt was two Australian beef patties with caramelized onions, mushrooms and Gouda cheese. The bread was buttered and toasted perfectly and the filling was done well, but the meat had no taste. It needed some more salt and pepper and I found myself slathering ketchup all over my melt. The side of fries were definitely good with a great crisp. While the patty melt lacked flavor, the kimchee fried rice was bursting with it. Chinese sausage and mushrooms are mixed well in this rice and I liked the fried egg topping. I just found this rice to be WAY too oily and I couldn’t have more than a couple of bites.

I would love to go back to Al’s Diner, but I would try different dishes. I’ve heard really good reviews about the lemon ricotta and blueberry pancakes that I definitely want to try. While I did enjoy my milkshake, 60 RMB is a little too steep and I’d recommend going on Mondays when they have 30 RMB milkshake specials.

Shanghai: Brunch at Table No. 1 by Jason Atherton

Table No 1- Brunch

Table No 1- Brunch

I’m always on the hunt for a good brunch in Shanghai. A few months ago, Table No. 1 (1-3 Maojiayuan Lu; 毛家园路1-3号1楼) unveiled a new brunch menu that looked absolutely delectable.

Salmon Eggs Benedict and Raisin Scones

Salmon Eggs Benedict and Raisin Scones

True to their dinner menu, the brunch menu is also very limited. There was a small selection of egg dishes with different variations of eggs benedict or poached eggs on toast. Since I felt like I could make eggs on toast at home, I opted for the Eggs Royale, two eggs poached eggs on an English muffin with smoked salmon. The eggs were cooked perfectly and I liked that the hollandaise sauce was very light with a hint of lemon.

Table No 1- Scones

Table No 1- Scones

My mother really loves scones and I think that passion has been passed on to me. Whenever I see them on the menu, I always feel the need to order them. I was very pleased with the raisin scones at Table No. 1. Too often with scones, they are way too dense and disappointing. These were lighter and not too sweet. Proper British scones should be served with clotted cream (not butter) and these scones came with a lovely jar of clotted cream and jam. I was a happy camper.

Blueberry Pancakes with Poached Apricots

Blueberry Pancakes with Poached Apricots

I unintentionally ordered a lot of sweet dishes with the blueberry pancakes and homemade yogurt. The blueberry pancakes weren’t your classic American pancakes. It didn’t have that rich buttermilk taste. Instead of coming with maple syrup, these pancakes came with poached apricots and whipped cream. For an extra 30 kuai, you could top the pancakes with pan seared foie gras. I have had the foie gras at dinner before and I think it would have been the perfect complement to these pancakes. The foie would have added some nice extra fat to the pancakes and given it an interesting sweet and savory combination.

Table No 1- Yogurt

Table No 1- Yogurt

I really enjoy homemade yogurt and do like it sour. Table No. 1’s version was just a little too sour for me. While there’s some fruit topped on it, I felt like it needed just a bit more honey to help sweeten it up a bit.

Overall, brunch was pleasant, but it’s not my top recommendation in Shanghai. Table No. 1 is also a little far since it’s out by the Cool Docks. I don’t know if I would make a special trip to go there again. However, if you’re looking for a solid brunch and are in the neighborhood, Table No. 1 is a good option for you.

Shanghai: Brunch at Liquid Laundry and Cambio Coffee

Liquid Laundry

Liquid Laundry

I’ve already talked about dinner at Liquid Laundry (1028 Huaihai Zhong Lu; 淮海中路1028号), but I think I discovered one of my favorite brunch spots. I’m not the only one who must share this opinion because it was nearly impossible to make brunch reservations.

Green Eggs & Ham and a Bacon Flight

Green Eggs & Ham and a Bacon Flight

I literally wanted to order everything on the menu, but my friend and I settled on green eggs and ham, a bacon flight and Korean fried chicken sandwich. My green eggs and ham was seed toast topped with poached eggs, avocado, ham, spinach, and Goddess dressing. I could not believe how big the portion was. The toast was a thick slice of bread with two perfectly poached eggs and a healthy dose of avocado. I really enjoyed the combination of everything on my plate and was happy to share it because I couldn’t even finish. Our bacon flight came with three flavors: sweet maple, spicy habanero and coffee cured. The bacon is delicious, but the spicy habanero is not for the faint of heart. It was SO spicy, but the type of spicy that creeps up on you and feels like is burning a hole in your mouth.

Liquid Laundry Fried Chicken Sandwich

Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich

I loved this fried chicken sandwich. The bun was soft and fluffy, the chicken was crispy and moist, and the Sriracha aioli with coleslaw had the perfect kick. I think the best surprise was the fact that they add bits of ramen noodles for that extra crunch (seriously genius). I can’t wait to go back and eat that sandwich again. I appreciate that Liquid Laundry serves American-sized portions and it’s the perfect place to go with a group of friends so you can share a bunch of dishes.

Cambio Coffee

Cambio Coffee

Shanghai is finally starting to get a little bit warmer and it begs for catching up with friends over a nice cup of coffee. I’ve been on the hunt for new cafés and came across Cambio Coffee (861 Jiangning Lu; 江宁路861号). It’s a small place with a few indoor and outdoor seats.

Drinks at Cambio Coffee

Drinks at Cambio Coffee

I had a cappuccino and while it wasn’t life-changing, it was a solid cup of coffee. I liked that it was a little bit quieter than Sumerian, which is always packed on the weekends and rarely has free tables. The only downside to Cambio is that it’s not really close to any metro stops. While it’s a great place to grab a cup of coffee if you’re in the neighborhood, I don’t think I’d go out of my way just to get coffee there.

Shanghai: Brunch at Hakkasan and Café Sambal

Hakkasan Brunch: Crispy Duck Salad and Assorted Dim Sum

Hakkasan Brunch: Crispy Duck Salad and Assorted Dim Sum

Normally, brunch for me is classic Western food: eggs, bacon, pancakes, fresh juice, all of the above. But Shanghai has some wonderful brunch options for Asian food too. I recently experienced two great brunches in Shanghai, one at Hakkasan (5/F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu; 中山东一路18号5楼) and the other at Café Sambal (Block A, No 37, 259 Jiashan Lu; 嘉善路259弄37号A栋).

Straight from London, Hakkasan is a Cantonese-style restaurant on the Bund. If you want a nice meal on the Bund without having to pay an arm and a leg, dim sum brunch at Hakkasan is a great option. For 298 RMB (plus a service charge), you can get the crispy duck salad, soup, assorted dim sum, main dish, sautéed vegetables, rice, dessert, mocktail and tea. That is a healthy amount of food.

The crispy duck salad is Hakkasan’s signature salad and I can definitely see why. It is a light and refreshing mix of pomelo, pine nuts, duck, chopped shallots, lotus root and watercress. I could have eaten an entire bowl of that for brunch and been perfectly content. For dim sum, you can choose three steamed or three fried pieces. My girlfriend and I ordered one of each so we could see the assortment. There were some clever twists (deep-fried pumpkin dumpling with truffle oil) and also some classics (har gau). Truthfully speaking, it is not the best dim sum I’ve ever had in my entire life. I have really high standards though since dim sum is one of my all-time favorite past times and I used to live in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop us from eating it all.

Hakkasan's Sea Bass and Sirloin

Hakkasan’s Sea Bass and Sirloin

For our main dishes, I ordered the stir-fried black pepper Angus striploin cubes and my friend got the grilled Chilean seabass in Chinese honey. The beef was so incredibly tender and tasty. It had this wonderful caramelization on the outside while still being slightly spicy with the black pepper. It was some of the best beef dishes I’ve had in Shanghai. I was pleasantly surprised when the seabass arrived “char siu” way. I love BBQ honey pork and this seabass was served in the same style. I liked that the seabass wasn’t too sweet and had a nice crispy exterior.

Hakkasan Dessert

Hakkasan Dessert

Macaron Display

Macaron Display

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Shanghai: Tock’s Montreal Deli and Brunch at Burdigala

Tock's - A Montreal Deli

Tock’s – A Montreal Deli

I miss sandwiches. That is possibly one of the things I miss the most in Shanghai. I miss having freshly baked bread that is crunchy on the outside but soft in the inside– piled high with sliced meat, sauce and veggies. Tock’s (221 Henan Zhong Lu; 河南中路221号) fills my sandwich needs by ticking off three out of four of those boxes. I have never been to Montreal so I can’t be an expert on what is a “Montreal Deli,” but I freaking love sandwiches and am an expert on those. Tock’s serves beautifully smoked meat sandwiches. You can order regular (150 g of meat) or monster (225 g). I love my meat and I love my sandwiches, but regular is honestly enough meat. I can’t imagine who can finish off a monster sandwich.

Duck Pastrami on a Montreal-style Everything Bagel

Duck Pastrami on a Montreal-style Everything Bagel

With your sandwich, you get an order of fries or salad. I would definitely recommend the Caeser salad over the fries. The salad was topped with croutons and bacon and the dressing actually tasted like Caeser dressing (and not just bland mayo). The fries were crispy, but I didn’t feel like they had much potato taste. For the bread, you can choose rye or a Montreal-style bagel. ORDER THE BAGEL. The rye is again, underwhelming. It’s kind of dry and lacks any rye bread taste. However, the Montreal-style bagel is to die for. Tock (yes, that is the owner’s name) explained to me the difference between a Montreal-style and New York-style bagel. Montreal-style bagels are boiled in water with honey and are a little bit more dense. That bit of honey makes for an awesome bagel because I like how the sweetness contrasts the saltiness of the meat. Also, when you order an everything bagel, there is topping on both sides (so key) just like a NY-bagel.

I ordered a smoked duck pastrami sandwich on a Montreal-style everything bagel and my friend ordered the smoked meat sandwich on rye. The duck pastrami was tasty but it was a lean cut of meat. I feel like it would be a good choice for someone who was looking for a “healthier” option. My friend thought his smoked meat sandwich was actually too fatty, but I could handle it without any issues. Next time, I think I would try the combination of smoked meats with smoked turkey pastrami. I think that would be the perfect combination of fattiness and meat. Finally, the key to the perfect sandwich is to order it with the spicy mustard. So yes, a smoked meat sandwich on a Montreal-style everything bagel with spicy mustard would be my sandwich of choice.

Shanghai: Burdigala

Shanghai: Burdigala

One of my friends had posted photos of her brunch at Burdigala (550 Wuding Lu;武定路550号) on WeChat. I am so glad she did; otherwise, I might not have found this gem. Burdigala is a wine bistrot with the goal to bring French wines to Shanghai and not charge a ridiculous amount. I found the atmosphere of the restaurant to be really cute and welcoming. There was some counter seating that would have been perfect a place to have a glass of wine with a friend.

Brunch at Burdigala

Brunch at Burdigala

For brunch, you can order à la carte, but the better option is to get the set price meal for 158 RMB. You start the meal with a vegetable salad (cucumbers, tomato, olives and ham) served in a glass jar and it is followed by cold cuts and plenty of baguette bread and a croissant. I know this meal looks simple, but it’s incredibly comforting. My friends and I used to have nights where we would literally just eat bread and cheese or bread and cold cuts/foie gras for dinner when we lived in Paris. After the meat and cheese course, you get roasted potatoes, a soft boiled egg with foie gras and a ham and cheese sandwich. The ham and cheese sandwich is so incredibly rich. You can tell that they grill that bread in delicious butter. If you weren’t full yet, you still get a jar of creamy yogurt topped with a fruit preserve.

With your meal, you also get to choose juice, tea or coffee. I would pass on the juice since it isn’t fresh and go for the tea or coffee instead. This brunch is definitely a bang for your buck because they’ll even refill your bread basket. Honestly, one order is enough to feed two people (although I don’t know how happy the restaurant would be if two people only placed on order) so it’s good place to go if you have an appetite.

Shanghai: House of Lasagna, Henkes and Mr. X

Lasagna Bolognese with Garlic Bread

Lasagna Bolognese with Garlic Bread

The House of Lasagna (174 South Xiang Yang Road; 襄阳南路174号 opened in Shanghai a few months ago and I was eager to try it because lasagna is total comfort food to me. Growing up, I used to eat Stouffer’s microwavable frozen lasagna whenever my parents were on a trip and my sister used to babysit me. It’s a strange memory to have, but I instinctively link lasagna to good times with my sister. The House of Lasagna is in a tiny space with only about 4-5 tables and little stools. They offer the classics like Lasagna Bolognese while venturing out to some interesting combinations like Curry Seafood Lasagna.

Carbonara Lasagna at House of Lasagna in Shanghai

Carbonara Lasagna at House of Lasagna in Shanghai

I was craving a classic so I went with Lasagna Bolognese (classic ragu with mozzarella and parmesan) while my friend ordered the Carbonara Lasagna (bacon, mushroom and parmesan in cream sauce). We ordered the homemade shaken lemonade and Arnold Palmer. What I liked about the lasagna was that they served it in a clean beautiful plate with two delicious pieces of garlic bread. My lasagna bolognese was solid with plenty of cheese and a hearty meat sauce. I was only wishing there was more of the red sauce for me to dip my garlic bread in. Then again, maybe this is also just a personal preference because I always love a lot of sauce with my pasta.

House of Lasagna Delivery

Loving the cute delivery packaging! Carbonara lasagna on the left and pork belly and mashed potatos on the right.

The carbonara lasagna had a wonderful cream sauce with layers of ham and mushroom. I actually liked it better than my lasagna bolognese, but it is definitely rich and I don’t think I could have eaten an entire serving by myself. Since the restaurant is small, it’s not the most comfortable space in the world. House of Lasagna currently has free delivery and I have totally taken advantage of this service. When I ordered delivery, I tried their pork belly and mashed potatoes. I really like the pork belly. The meat was tender and actually tasted more like a pork chop and it came with worcestershire sauce to dip the meat in. I enjoyed the mashed potatoes but I felt like they needed more salt. I would definitely order the pork belly and mashed potatoes again.

Henkes Brunch in Shanghai

Henkes Brunch: Pancakes with Bacon and Bananas; Four Cheese Pizza; Eggs Benedict with Bacon

In other news, I’ve been trying to find new brunch places in Shanghai (because I can’t go to Madison every weekend). I recently went to Henkes (1601 Nanjing Xi Road; 南京西路1601号), which is located on the 1st floor of the Reel Mall. Henkes serves brunch all-day on the weekends, which I really appreciate on days when I can’t get out of bed until 3 or 4pm. I ordered the pancakes with bacon and bananas and my friend ordered the eggs benedict with bacon. In Shanghai, when you see “bacon” on the menu, it’s normally more like Canadian bacon so non-crispy ham. This was literally the first time I’ve seen American-style bacon and my heart nearly skipped a beat. Truthfully speaking, that was the real highlight of the meal. My pancakes didn’t have much of a buttermilk taste and the consistency was too cake-y for me. I definitely enjoyed the eggs benedict more, which had perfectly cooked eggs and a nice Hollandaise sauce. However, after both devouring our meals, my friend and I were still hungry. We ended up ordering a 4-cheese pizza, which again was just OK. The pizza was soggy and disappointing. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat at Henkes at brunch again, but it’s a reasonable option if you wake up late on a lazy Saturday or Sunday.

Mr. X Puzzle House

Mr. X Puzzle House

Finally, the last thing I wanted to talk about was Mr. X (550 Jumen Road; 局门路550号), an awesome puzzle/mystery house. They have 5 different themed rooms and you’re basically locked in a room and have one hour to try and figure out how to get out. Reservations are absolutely necessary and it’s best to go with a group of 6-8 people. I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but the rooms are super interactive and really fun. I’ve done three of the rooms and I’m totally addicted and want to beat all of them. I highly recommend it and it’s even a good team building event if you’re looking for something fun to do with your co-workers.