[Shanghai] // The Commune Social

Address511 Jiangning Rd / 江宁路511弄
Hours: Open for lunch Tuesday- Friday from 12:00-14:30, and Saturday-Sunday from 11:30-14:30. Open for dinner Tuesday-Saturday from 18:00-22:30.
Visited: February 2018
Average Cost Per Person: 200-300 RMB

The Commune Social is truly a different level of culinary expertise gifted to Shanghai. Having become wildly cynical of the F&B scene over the last year, I’ve become skeptical of the “must-eat” institutions that tout 200-300 RMB per person price tags. And now I have to thank The Commune Social for bursting my negative bubble and bringing me at least two dishes I know I would 100% come back for.

The sharing concept is amazing. Between four people, we were able to try a total of 11 dishes, and almost each one brought a different burst of flavor. They offer 3 dishes for 188 RMB and a selection of tapas that are individually priced.

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[Shanghai] // Coquille

Address29-31 Mengzi Road / 蒙自路29–31号
Hours: Daily, 5:30 PM – 10 PM
Visited: January 2018
Average Cost Per Person: 400-600 RMB

French cuisine definitely is never top of mind when you ask me what I want to eat. I think mainly because, excuse my ignorance, I’m not too sure what French food is defined by. My memories of Paris are genuinely filled with chocolate croissants, mussels, wine, and drunkenly searching for escargot at 1 AM. Cliché. Nevertheless, driven by the strong desire to devour fresh seafood and try Scarpetta’s famous bone marrow pasta, I was driven to Coquille.

Coquille and Scarpetta are run by the same owner. While Coquille is a little pricier and is categorized as a French seafood bistro, Scarpetta leans Italian, popular for its pasta and pizza dishes. However, because they are side by side, you’re free to order from both menus (or maybe you’re not free to do so, but I was the obnoxious customer that did?).

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[Shanghai] // Jeju Izakaya by Belloco

Address1095 Yuyuan Road / 愚园路1095号
Hours: Tues-Friday, 6 PM – late
Visited: January 2018
Average Cost Per Person: 300-500 RMB

I discovered my love for Korean food while living in Atlanta. You drive a little up north towards Buford Highway, you’re bound to find among the thousands of strip malls little eateries opened by adorable Korean couples. Y’all, jajangmeyon, naengmyeon, soondubu, kimbap, that was my jam. Drive even more up north to Duluth, then you’ll discover my haven (also home of the best AYCE KBBQ I’ve ever had, I see you Breakers).

Unfortunately, in Shanghai, a lot of the great Korean places are located in Gubei. Also known as the place where none of my friends want to accompany me, and thus I’m too lazy to go by myself. Most places in Jing’an have been underwhelming– it’s just not the same when it’s not a homey place run by an ajumma and ajusshi.

So when Jeju Izakaya popped up, although the contemporary concept veers from the traditional fares of Korean food I typically enjoy, with great reviews, I jumped at the chance to book a seat. Luckily, when I only had to book a month in advance. I hear they’re now fully booked until the end of March.

The place itself is extremely unassuming. There is no sign besides a tiny stone (?) board propped up against the entrance– itself a heavy set stone door. After heaving the door open, you get exactly what you’ve heard– an eight-seater izakaya with an open kitchen concept. I was greeted by both Chan and Tom– both who alternated serving our dishes and both completely charming.

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Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies Stuffed Brownies

When I first moved back to America for college and our house finally had an oven, I was ecstatic. Having lived in China for the last 10 years, we never owned a built-in oven because we were a Chinese family and it was more important to have three different pots for soups and a heavy weight wok. We did, however, own a little toaster oven that my mother never let us use because it made too much of a mess. What was the point? The Chinese rarely bake, most of our wheat based products are steamed such as mantou, a white steamed bun, or baozi, a bun usually filled with meats or vegetables. The rest of our food was cooked over a stove.

I clearly remember moving back to the States and experiencing the wonders of Costco again. The first thing I grabbed off the shelf was a gigantic 7.5 lb/120 oz box of Ghiradelli brownie mix (you know the one!). At that point in my life, if I could make anything come out of the oven that smelled delicious, I was killing it. Those brownies were heaven. They were hefty and fudgey, with a slightly crisp top.

But times have changed, and I typically avoid pre-boxed baking goods. I have nothing against them, but there’s a satisfaction to playing around with ingredients from scratch and understanding how different elements create chemical reactions with each other to produce different results.

I had been meaning to make brownies for a while, but thought: “It’s such a simple recipe. I have so many others in my archives.” (also, this thought is so incorrect, because brownies are definitely not simple) But sometimes, when you’re craving a brownie (and also a whole box of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Cookies that are almost going to expire) (I know, what was I thinking letting a whole box of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies go unseen in the back of my pantry?), you just need to whip these bad boys up.

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[Shanghai] // Sunny’s Burgerland

Address286-1 Fengxian Lu, near Shaanxi Bei Lu  // 奉贤路286-1号, 近陕西北路
Hours: Closed
Visited: October 2017
Average Cost Per Person: 60 RMB

Pulled in by the number of rave reviews about Sunny’s Burgerland concept, I decided that I had to give into the hype. Located in a quaint space on Feng Xian Rd, the space stands out with its bright yellow and blue front door signage. The space inside only hosts around 7-8 tables, and allows in plenty of sun on a warm day with their full-length window panes.

Their menu is short, which is perfect. Too many choices is overwhelming, and luckily, everything seems pretty standard fare for a so-called quirky concept burger joint. They have their Classic Burger (60 RMB) that’s simply 180 grams of their Australian angus beef patty, a Bacon and Cheese Burger (68 RMB) (self-explanatory), the Amigo Burger (68 RMB) is “aptly” named with Central American inspired ingredients such as corn, pieces of tortilla chips, and guacamole, and a Sun-rise Burger (68 RMB) served with a delectable sunny side up egg, beans, and bacon. The Budapest Burger replaces the beef patty with a large chicken schnitzel covered in sour cream and parmesan. Level up options include the Surf ‘n’ Turf (78 RMB) includes several pieces of grilled shrimp, while The Royale (88 RMB) gets a little fancier and is served with a topping of foie gras, mushrooms, and bacon.

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[Shanghai] // Colca

Address2/F, 199 Hengshan Lu, near Yongjia Lu // 衡山路199号2楼, 近永嘉路 (Line 1 Hengshan Rd, it’s literally right next to the exit)
Hours: Tues-Sun, 5:30 PM – 10:30 PM, Sat-Sun, 11 AM – 1 PM for brunch
Visited: January 2018
Average Cost Per Person: 200-400 RMB

Colca is nestled in the Former French Concession in an area that houses a number of expat-friendly restaurants such as Garlic. Situated on the second floor, there’s a huge patio near the entrance which will make it a definite brunch re-visit when we get that one month of nice weather between winter and summer. The inside is what you would expect from a Shanghai establishment that averages around 250-400 per head– dark. However, the inside is surprisingly large, so you never feel like the next table is crowding into your conversation as it seems to be the case for several Xintiandi locations.

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Eating Through Kyoto

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Kyoto is a completely different beast from Tokyo. While Tokyo has its lights and crowds parallel to the quaint, quiet neighborhood streets, Kyoto retains a relative calm. Even in Gion, one of the more tourist-ridden areas, the buildings are built much lower and the streets are incredibly wide, making room for everyone.

Although home to only 1/9th of the population of Tokyo, Kyoto holds it own through its depth in culture. There are an abundant number of shrines and temples to visit. The famous Inari Shrines and the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest aren’t far off either, both only a couple subway stations away. I would 100% recommend finding time in your itinerary to explore these two areas. Although Kyoto had been extremely hyped by at least two people (many of them saying I should spend less time in Tokyo and allocate more time in Kyoto), I felt like my three days were plenty.

I think it really depends on your preferences. I can see why some people prefer Kyoto over Tokyo, but as someone who constantly craves a faster pace and enjoys sensory overload, Tokyo’s livelihood is more my cup of tea.

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