Din Tai Fung: Textbook Xiao Long Bao

Din Tai Fung: Textbook Xiao Long Bao

Ol’ Reliable.

Everyone should go to Din Tai Fung at least once to have a textbook xiao long bao, or soup dumplings.  Once you’ve been to one Din Tai Fung, you know what to expect at any DTF branch around the world.


The xiao long bao are the stars of the show for sure, and they are made with precision.  It’s fun to watch the chefs in the window weighing each piece of dough and then folding the dumplings so quickly & perfectly every time!  Makes you wonder how many thousands they have made.

Weighing the dough for each wrapper.

There are a few different varieties of bao here, but I tend to stick with the classic pork. The skin is perfectly thin, nice unctuous soup. They also have more luxurious dumplings, like the truffle xlb or the ones with crab roe. Last time I tried the mushroom stuffed bao and they were quite nice. The sweet dumpling with red bean & chestnut is a great choice for dessert.

Pork xiao long bao. Classic.

All the food here is well-made and good quality, so you really can’t go wrong.  Veggies are always fresh and the shrimp fried rice is also a crowd pleaser.

Shrimp fried rice

The atmosphere is nice & clean and the service is good. Some people scoff and say that it’s not a “real” or “authentic” experience.  Does a restaurant have to be dirty with crappy service to be good?!  No, quite the opposite!  In my opinion, a place that has good food and that serves it pleasantly and efficiently is always worthwhile.

Prices might be slightly high, but what you are paying for is actually priceless – CONSISTENCY.

More deliciousness from DTF –

Din Tai Fung has a whopping 9 locations around Shanghai, as well as outlets all over the world. I’ve listed a few of the convenient Shanghai locations here.

Nanjing Xi Lu: Shanghai Centre, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, 1/F, Room A104, near Xikang Lu
南京西路1376号上海商城1楼A104室, 近西康路

Xintiandi: Lane 123, Xingye Lu, Bldg 6, 2/F, Room 11A, near Madang Lu
兴业路123弄新天地6号楼2楼11A室, 近马当路

IAPM: 999 Huaihai Zhong Lu, IAPM Mall, 3/F, Room 318-319, near Shaanxi Nan Lu
淮海中路999号环贸IAPM广场3楼318-319室, 近陕西南路


Dog House: Gourmet Hot Dogs in Shanghai

I’ve been following all the hype about Dog House with great interest, but I’ve been wary to actually try it.  Why?  Because I had a gourmet hot dog stand in Chicago called Hot Doug’s that was THE BEST, and when they closed, it left a hot dog-shaped hole in my heart.  I vowed I would never love an encased meat ever again.

Miss you everyday. 😥

Then I was invited to a tasting at Dog House with the Shanghai Bite Club.  I thought to myself, “It’s time, Michelle. Hot Doug’s is gone.  FOREVER.  It’s time to move on.”  UGH! Breakups are just so hard, you know?

Mike and his Dog Pound (OK, he doesn’t call his colleagues that, but he SHOULD) have made me believe in love again.  Their inventive and creative hot dogs are delicious and fun and exciting!

My favorites are the Japanese, the Tropical, and the Chili.

The Japanese dog, with a yummy slaw made with wasabi aioli and topped with tobiko, nori and bonito flakes is a delicious flavor bomb!  Great layers of flavor & texture.  This dog is sophisticated.

Japanese dog – Mike is the Jiro of hot dogs

The Tropical dog is a revelation! It will go down in history as a groundbreaking hot dog.  I absolutely LOVE the combination of sweet & savory flavors, and the refreshing salsa made of mango, kiwi, papaya and pineapple, topped with coconut aioli and toasted coconut flakes is a PERFECT foil for the hot dog’s salty, savory goodness!  Don’t forget to add a squeeze of lime – like magic in your mouth.

Tropical dog – this is groundbreaking stuff, people.

After all this culinary majesty, how can the lowly Chili dog also be a favorite?  Because Mike’s housemade chili is DAMN GOOD!  Great texture, great spice level.  Then he tops it with their house-cured bacon and fried onions…oh mannn.  I need a minute alone with this hot dog.  We’re having a moment here.

Nothing gets between me and my chili dog.

SFW TIP: Go with a few friends, order a bunch of different dogs (they have 13 varieties!) and share.  That way, you can try lots of different flavors!

Their blank canvas, the actual hot dog sausage and bun, are also great.  The all-beef hot dogs are made exclusively for them and are darn good on their own.  The buns are tasty too, and can stand up to all that topping without being too dense.

And did I mention the waffle fries?!  I would get ’em with chili, cheese etc on the side for dipping, as I like them crispy and they can get soggy under that blanket of delicious chili.

Immerse yourself in the experience & eat straight from the bowl, just like a REAL dog!

Their house cider from Cider Republic is also awesome!  Perfectly crisp and great for washing down some dogs.


Mike, the owner, is a great guy who really loves his product and wants you to love it, too! He’s got a great sense of humor and really brings passion to the business.  I love how so much of what they serve is made in-house.

Thank you, Mike and Dog House, for helping me to move on from my heartbreak. You’ve taught me how to love again. I’m forever in your debt.

Dog House has several locations within shopping malls in Shanghai:

Dog House – Xintiandi: 388 Madang Lu, SOHO Fuxing Plaza, B2, Room 06, near Fuxing Zhong Lu

Dog House – Crystal Galleria: 68 Yuyuan Lu, Crystal Galleria, B2, Room LG2-03A, near Changde Lu
愚园路68号晶品购物中心B2楼LG2-03室, 近常德路

Dog House – Joy City II: 198 Xizang Bei Lu, Joy City II, 8/F, Room 802-17, near Haining Lu
西藏北路198号大悦城北楼8楼802-17室, 近海宁路

Dog House – Lujiazui: 8 Century Avenue, IFC mall, B2, Room LG2-B10, near Yincheng Xi Lu
世纪大道8号国金中心B2楼LG2-B10号, 近银城西路

Dog House – Raffles City: 268 Xizang Zhong Lu, Raffles City, B1, Room B1-K13, near Fuzhou Lu
西藏中路268号来福士广场B1楼B1-K13室, 近福州路

Lanna Coffee: Tiny But Mighty

Lanna Coffee: Tiny But Mighty

What a cute little hideaway!

Dragged my hubs here for a late breakfast while out running errands.  Mr Man was HANGRY and I was hoping that Lanna would calm the beast.  We each got the sandwich set, which includes a sandwich and a coffee for 48RMB.  Unfortunately you CANNOT get a cold brew as part of the set, so I settled for an iced latte.  A really nicely made latte – good balance of creamy milk and bold coffee.  They even have fancy demerara sugar!

Bacon, egg & cheese sammie set

Sandwiches took a bit long to arrive, but they did not disappoint.  Really nice bacon, egg and cheese sammies on good, soft bread.  I wasn’t expecting a side salad but it was fresh with a tasty sesame dressing.  Even the hubs was happy!  WHEW!  You can upgrade your sandwich to a bagel sandwich for only 5RMB, which is a great deal.  I also love the smoked salmon sandwich because Lanna is very generous with the salmon.

Life is too short for bad coffee. Love these Yunnan beans.

I had heard a lot about Lanna’s Yunnan coffee, so I wanted to take a bag of beans home.  I was a little surprised that they only had 1 bag of beans available!  I asked them to grind it for me, which they are happy to do.  Slight miscommunication about wanting a grind for pour-over or Chemex brewing, so I will specify a coarser grind next time.  Coffee is super aromatic – I even detect some wine-like notes!  (#coffeesnob)  I recommend picking up some beans if they have any available.


I love this tiny little place.  Yuyuan Lu is becoming something of a “cafe street”, and I like Lanna the best. It’s a great nook to hide away with a book on a lazy afternoon, or to just sit and watch the world go by.  There are only 2 or 3 indoor seats, with another handful more outside and only partially covered, so best for when the weather is nice or for popping in for a coffee to go.  I also love their blue color scheme! Please observe my photos where all the patrons cooperated by wearing color-coordinating outfits.


Lanna Coffee: 8 Yuyuan Dong Lu, near Tongren Lu
愚园东路8号, 近铜仁路

Yolota: Summery Sesame Noodles


Came here for lunch at 12:30 on a weekday and it was packed!  Service was very good and efficient and we only had to wait for a few minutes for a table.  Granted, we had to share a table with 2 other ladies.  But this means you can scope out what they’re eating and ask them if it’s good! 😉

After reading reviews and looking at photos, I already knew I wanted the cold sesame chicken noodles.  A nice sized portion for a great price – about 25RMB.  Noodles had a perfectly chewy texture, sauce had great flavor and only a tiny bit spicy.  Chicken might have been a tad dry, but once you’ve mixed everything all together, that doesn’t matter so much.

I’m not the biggest soup noodle fan, but my friend’s beef and tomato noodles smelled SO GOOD!  It’s a huge bowl too, glad that my order was not so giant!  I had a small bite and they were fine.  Nothing amazing.  (Mine were better!)

We also had some greens, which were pretty average.  Also noticed some of the leaves were a little brown on the edges, so maybe not so fresh.

People talk about this place like it’s noodle heaven.  I wouldn’t go that far, but my noodles were yummy and a great price.  I’ll go back for the cold noodles again but I doubt I’ll have visions of sesame noodles dancing in my head when I go to sleep tonight.

Yolota is a Taiwanese chain, and has at least 6 locations in Shanghai.

Yolota – Zhongshan Park: Lane 1310, Dingxi Lu, No 2, near Xuanhua Lu
定西路1310弄2号, 近宣化路

Senator Saloon: Whiskey with a Chaser of Nostalgia

Senator Saloon: Whiskey with a Chaser of Nostalgia

Love this place.

Big, bright, boisterous bars can be fun, but I am all about the moody, intimate bars with lots of character.  I was completely charmed by this place as soon as I walked in.  Then I saw the bourbon list and I knew I was in love.  Easily one of the largest bourbon selections I’ve seen since I’ve been in Shanghai.  Lots of interesting options.

People rave about the cocktails here, so I started with a Manhattan.  Beautiful, perfect drink.  So nicely balanced.


I took my time perusing the bourbon list and settled on a dram of Breaking & Entering, an old favorite that I hadn’t had in a while.  The waiter hesitated, went to the bar, then came back and told me that this bourbon is not available in China.  Heartbreaking!  Maybe it’s time to update your bourbon list?  I ordered a Booker’s instead, which is also a fantastic bourbon.

The theme of the place is Prohibition-era, and everything there makes you feel like you really did step right into the 20’s.  The gorgeous pressed tin ceiling, the 20’s-style music, the glassware.  The only disconnect for me was the food menu.  Were the hepcats and flappers of old eating quesadillas with their bathtub gin??  Not very likely.  That said, the food is surprisingly tasty! I really liked the pork belly sliders, nice custardy fat with crispy edges paired with something pickley, good contrasting flavors.  Mac n’ cheese was really good, I think its the caramelized onions that add that extra something special.  Chicken pot pie was also darn tasty. (Moody lighting makes for terrible food photos, sorry!)

Of course, this place is not cheap.  But you get what you pay for.  The cocktail prices are not outrageous, but very fair, considering the quality.

If you come a little early, around 8pm, you can easily get a seat.  The crowd picks up later when everyone comes in for after dinner drinks.

I will definitely be back again for a healthy dose of 20’s nostalgia and good bourbon.  Next time I’ll sit at the bar to see the action, but the booths are cozy and great for date night!

Senator Saloon: 98 Wuyuan Lu, near Wulumuqi Zhong Lu
五原路98号, 近乌鲁木齐中路

Sumerian Specialty Coffee: Java in Jing’an

Sumerian Specialty Coffee: Java in Jing’an

Welp, I popped my Shanghai Expat cherry over the weekend.  I had a coffee & bagel at Sumerian.

However, I don’t think I had the typical experience?

Many patrons comment about how crowded this place is, and indeed there are usually expats spilling out onto the street whenever I walk by.  I arrived just before 10:30 am on Sunday.  It was crowded when I arrived, but not 15 mins later, the place was half-empty and stayed that way for the next 30-45 mins until I left.

Speaking of the crowd, there was nary a hipster in sight!  The only beard I saw was on my husband’s face, which he grows for non-ironic reasons.  I only saw 1 fedora and 1 mustache the whole time!  Actually, there were a lot of locals there.

Beautifully made Americano

My Americano was good.  Best coffee in the universe?  No.  But good.  When I asked for cream & sugar for it, I was told that there is no cream and they only have agave syrup.  (OK, so there is a shade of Silverlake hipsterdom after all!)  I could have pushed for a splash of milk that they use for their coffee drinks, but I let it go and just accepted my pump of agave.  {SFW update: Sumerian now supplies sugar packets.}  Luckily, the coffee is very smooth with no acidic taste.  It was a little too light-bodied for me, but that is just my personal preference.

Sailor’s Legs bagelwich

In my opinion, a bagel smothered in shmear and topped with smoked salmon, onions and capers is one of the most perfect breakfast foods ever invented.  The Sailor’s Legs sammie is a different take on my beloved salmon & shmear, piled high with smoked salmon, olives, whipped ricotta, hummus and greens.  I should have read the ingredient list more carefully, as I wasn’t expecting the hummus, which I could have done without.  The bagel itself, supplied by Boom Boom bagels, was perfectly chewy with a slightly crispy crust. Yummy!

More bagel porn and latte art to keep it classy –

Sumerian is just a quick stroll from my apartment, so I’ll surely be back to fulfill my bagel & coffee cravings.  The Nitro and Kyoto brews sound particularly enticing!  I also like that they sell their own locally-roasted beans here.

Sumerian Specialty Coffee: 415 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu
陕西北路415号, 近北京西路