Shanghai likes to think of itself as the ultimate foodie’s paradise, given its polyglot international melting pot history, fusion style kitchens, street vendors from every province trying their luck, plus the outright avant-garde next-big-thing. Culling this scene (from classic to cheap and cheerful) into a shortlist is hard and hungry work.

1. Jiu Jiu Di Shui Dong

Heartwarming (and eye-watering) Hunan cuisine at 56 Maoming Nan Lu. Despite having a large main dining room and several side rooms, this place is always packed by locals and expats with a slightly masochistic streak looking for the signature spicy ribs. Good value. 

2. Lotus Eatery

Yunnan food features exotic ingredients like stir-fried banana blossoms, wild mushrooms and fried goat’s cheese. Hearty lamb soups also keep out the winter chills. This cheap and cheerful joint at 1112 Dingxi Lu is a bit hard to get to, but well worth the walk.

3. Silk Road

A massively popular themed diner (you can’t miss the Mosque-like building at 680 Zhaojiabang Rd). You’ll be whisked away to the outer reaches of the Middle Kingdom with song and dance by Uighur Muslims from north-western China. If you like lamb, lamb or lamb, you’ve come to the right place. 

4. Yang’s Fry Dumplings

In a foodie paradise, Yang’s stands out as the real deal. Pork, shrimp or veggie dumplings, oozing with richness. Try the wanton soup with cilantro. There’s always people milling around this humble 269 Wujiang Road shop, but you should get in and out within 10 minutes.

5. Xiao Nan Guo

For fine Shanghainese food and service head for the neon lights at 699 Nanking West Road. Purple-uniformed waitresses make for a visual feast too. The steamed fish is the go-to item here, and the more eco-conscious might want to avoid the shark’s fin and turtle dishes. A few branches.

6. Street Food

Once the main restaurants and fast food joints close, vendors appear everywhere in alleys like mushrooms after rain. Nothing is more Shanghainese than shansi leng mian (eel thread cold noodles). This dish is usually served as two separate components for you to mix and enjoy.

7. Efes Restaurant

The aromatic BBQ smoke will guide you to this popular Mediterranean eatery at 665 Shang Cheng Road, Lujiazui. Savour the authentic lamb tandoori on special eggplant puree, kebabs, and chicken wings, or let the helpful Turkish owner guide you with his recommendations. Warning: very crowded on weekends.

8. Scena

Looking for something a cut above? Italian set lunch excellent value, but really becomes special with the nightly views of Lujiazui. On the 52nd floor of the Ritz Carlton you’ll be surprised by the cozy, private setting yet able to take in views with floor-to-ceiling windows. 

9. Hakkasan

Cantonese fusion cuisine with flair (think Crispy Duck, Pancakes with Caviar, and Salt & Pepper squid) at 18 Zhongshan East 1st Road, Huangpu. Start with a cocktail, then some Shanghai dumplings for starters. Or try the 3-course Taste of Hakkasan set menu. Views over the Bund.

10. Ultraviolet

Ok, you want to really blow your mind (and your budget)? This is a fully immersive multi-sensory ‘psycho-taste’ experience which encompasses a 20-course menu designed and delivered by local cult hero, Paul Pairet. Only 1 table of 10 guests nightly. Mystery location.