Tag Archives: Shanghai

Serious Coffee at Shanghai’s Sumerian

Though replete with cafes, Shanghai is still lacking in serious, high quality coffee. Sumerian, which opened this past summer in Jing’An District, successfully fills that void with its emphasis on Fair Trade beans and sophisticated brewing techniques.  All of the beans are roasted in-house by owner David Seminsky, ensuring a fresh, high quality cup of coffee.

Upon walking into Sumerian, patrons are greeted with a sunny, clean, modern interior.  The main counter is lined with Japanese siphons, which slowly drip intense cold brews, perfect for iced coffee.  There is also a small pastry case filled with delectable looking baked goods, some of which are imported from the U.S.

On all of my visits to Sumerian, I ordered the Kyoto ice drip coffee (RMB 32).  Smooth and light, with pronounced chocolate flavors and subtle sweetness, it was the perfect iced coffee.  Even now that I am back in Philly, the land of La Colombe, I still dream about the Kyoto iced coffee from Sumerian.

Though coffee junkies like me are certainly willing to pay a premium for great coffee, many customers in Shanghai are more reluctant.  In an effort to educate their customer base on the virtues of third wave coffee, Sumerian offers weekly cupping classes on Saturday afternoons, from 12-2pm.  Cupping, which is very popular here in the States, is quite rare in Shanghai, and I’m really glad that Sumerian provides this service.  For coffee geeks seeking serious coffee in Shanghai, look no further than Sumerian.

Sumerian
415 Shanxi Bei Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu
陕西北路415号,近北京西路
136-2174-0969

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Ci Fan Tuan: Shanghai’s Breakfast of Champions

You may be thinking to yourself, “What on earth is that ungodly glob in the photo?!”  Well, my friends, that ungodly glob is called ci fan tuan, or rice roll, and is one of the tastiest breakfast foods that I encountered in Shanghai.

Chinese breakfasts tend to be savory rather than sweet, with the most ubiquitous dishes including rice porridge, or zhou, topped with thousand year old egg and scallions; long fried crullers called you tiao dipped in warm soy milk; and baozi, steamed buns filled with pork or fresh veggies.  For the longest time, my favorite Chinese breakfast dish was jian bing, Beijing’s version of a crepe, which typically comes with a fried egg, scallions, garlic, a crispy tofu sheet, hoisin sauce,and lots of chile sauce inside.  However, upon discovering ci fan tuan in Shanghai, I might venture to say that jian bing has been dethrowned of its top spot in my Chinese breakfast food hierarchy.      

When sampling ci fan tuan, it’s important to note that not all of them are created equal.  The best one that I ate in Shanghai was at a stand located behind Plaza 66, on Fengyang Lu and Xikang Lu.  You’ll recognize the stand by the long line of customers every morning, awaiting their beloved ci fan tuan.  

Ci fan tuan is definitely an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of a dish.  Warm glutinous rice engulfs a whole soy braised egg, pork floss, ground pork,  black bean sauce, and a fried cruller.  It’s a symphony of flavors and textures in every bite: saltiness from the black bean sauce, sweetness from the pork floss, crunch from the cruller, and chewiness from the rice.  With so many ingredients and flavors, ci fan tuan is certainly filling and delicious, which makes it Shanghai’s reigning breakfast of champions in my mind.

To find ci fan tuan in Shanghai, go early in the morning and look for the roadside stands and small family-owned shops serving breakfast foods.  My favorite stand is behind Plaza 66 on Fengyang Lu and Xikang Lu, and there is another one on Xiangyang Bei Lu and Fuxin Lu.

Saved by the Sandwich at Sunflour

After a month of eating nothing but Chinese food, I hit a wall that every laowai (or expat) living in China must hit–I simply could not stomach anymore Chinese food.  The thought of another bowl of niu rou mian (beef noodle soup), or  another plate of sheng jian bao (pan fried dumplings), or even my favorite Shanghainese dish hong shao rou (soy sauce braised pork), made me grimace.

But thankfully for me, there is an abundance of delicious and affordable Western restaurants and cafes in Shanghai, catering to the thousands of hungry and homesick expats living in the city.  My favorite among them was Sunflour, located a few short clocks from my apartment on tree-lined Anfu Road.

Sunflour Cafe quite literally saved me from starvation, on that fateful day in Shanghai when I was lost amidst a sea of Chinese restaurants.  After a few hours of wandering around the French Concession in search of an affordable, non-Chinese lunch option, I was about to give up and go home, when I turned the corner onto Anfu Road and discovered Sunflour.  Immediately lured in by the smell of fresh baked bread and pastries, I decided to give their lunch menu a try and ordered the grilled chicken sandwich with tomato, rocket, avocado, and mayo on a baguette (50 RMB).

The sandwich was phenomenal.  The baguette, baked in-house, had a crisp exterior and soft, airy interior that held up well under the moist grilled chicken.  I loved the addition of tomatoes, avocado, and rocket arugula–a combination of fresh ingredients that one would certainly find in my home state of California.  Accompanied by a lovely bean salad, Sunflour’s grilled chicken sandwich was a steal at 50 RMB (just under $8 USD), and was just what I needed to refuel after a long and hot summer day in Shanghai.

I couldn’t leave Sunflour without sampling one (or rather, all) of their delectable macarons.  I split a gift box of macarons (50 RMB) with a friend, which included a lovely assortment of six macarons.  My favorite flavor was the lemon, a refreshing end to a refreshing meal.

Sunflour
Room 104, No. 322, An Fu Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai
上海徐汇区安福路322号104室
6473 7757

Noodle Bull’s Aromatic Beef Noodle Soup

One of my first meals since arriving in Shanghai was one of the best: braised beef noodle soup at Noodle Bull.  A sleek, minimalist interior gives the impression that Noodle Bull may not be authentic, but this is clearly a misimpression. 

I ordered their infamous, traditional beef noodle soup (30-35 RMB), and a glass of their housemade suan mei tang (sour plum juice).  The beef broth in the noodle soup was incredibly aromatic (possibly from the addition of star anise), with a soothing and savory flavor.  It was rich without being overly greasy or full of MSG.  The beef was tender, with just the right amount of fat melting in your mouth.  I also enjoyed the vegetables, which added some freshness to the dish. 

Surprisingly, the suan mei tang quite enjoyable.  I am generally not a fan of the drink because it is usually too tart for my taste, but Noodle Bull’s version had a nice balance of sweet and sour, with a deep plum flavor.

With good food, cheap prices, and a refined atmosphere, it’s no wonder why foreigners and locals alike flock to Noodle Bull.

Noodle Bull
A Mansion, 1/F, 291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu
富民路291号1楼, 近长乐路
(86 21) 6170 1299

Song Fang Maison de The: A Lovely Teahouse in Shanghai’s French Concession

Possibly my favorite place in Shanghai, Song Fang Maison de The is a lovely teahouse in the French Concession featuring premium Chinese and French teas.  The teahouse is a labor of love from owner Florence Sampson, a Paris native and longtime Shanghai resident.  Every detail, from the vintage tin cans lining the shelves, to the old-fashioned Chinese bird cages hanging from bamboo rods on the ceiling, to the elegant floral patterned cushions, adds to the charm and whimsy of the shop.  You certainly pay a premium for the tea, priced at 40-70 RMB per pot, but it is certainly worth it for the quality of the tea an sheer loveliness of the shop.   

Partly because I am pressed for time, and partly because Song Fang is so pictureque, I will keep the descriptions short and let the photos speak for themselves. 

Song Fang’s signature tea tins 

Third floor seating area. 

Song Fang features both a Chinese and a French tea menu.  The above photo is of the Chinese tea set, with naixiang oolong cha.  The tea was very aromatic, with some floral and even milky notes.  My friend and I absolutely loved the tiny tea cup and the adorable frog ceramic teapot.   

The French teas are served in whimsical Western-style teaware.  I enjoyed the China Blue tea (60 RMB), a pleasantly fruity white tea with coconut, blackberry, and orange.  My friend and I also shared a slice of freshly baked peach cake (40 RMB), which was light, buttery, and utterly delectable.  

Despite the fairly steep prices, Song Fang Maison de The may be my favorite teahouse in Shanghai.  With its charming setting, high quality teas, and knowledgable staff, Song Fang is definitely worth paying a premium for.

Song Fan Maison de The
227 Yongjia Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu
永嘉路227号, 近陕西南路
Shanghai 200031
(86 21) 6433-8283