Produced by: Dan Hwang
Written by: Emily Chang
There is much to be said about the city of Shanghai. In fact, there is so much to be said that it seems dauntingly impossible to summarize one of the most dynamic cities in the world into a single post. How would it be possible to describe a city that once served as a gateway to Western Oriental imagination, a city that is a playground for foreigners in the 1920s, and later, a favorite city of trade in the 1980s, which had since then burgeoned into one of the key economy centers of the world, and a leading one for Asia at that.
Today, amidst a mist of nostalgia that weaves through the city, evocative of the city’s decadent and notorious past in the provocative smoke rings of opium, of sexuality, new found freedom and luxury, the city is a collage of the past and the present, stamped with European-style cityscapes– remnants of the early 20th century– and fresh sci-fi skyline of Pudong, erected with a proud outlook and hope for the future.
Nestled in the ambivalence and juxtaposition of the old and new, between massive malls and modern architecture and temples and classical Chinese gardens; hidden between the enveloping lights of luxury fashion houses like Louis Vuitton and Chanel, and the aged Chinese street markets, there is only one thing to be said about Shanghai– that the city’s special blend of old world and contemporary charm, lit by candles and neon lights alike, is something to be experienced instead of read.
So, for the new and second installment of Fresh Destination, we have trooped around the world from London, and now landing in Shanghai, with our friend Adrian Lai from Wieden+Kennedy Shanghai, who will be taking us on a tour through a city that is as much business as it is pleasure.
Before that, let’s get to know our tour guide a little better:
Adrian Lai heads up digital production at Weiden+Kennedy Shanghai, and he oversees work for clients such as Nike, Converse and Nokia. Lai is quite a globetrotter, having lived in cities such as New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, and now, Shanghai. Aside from discovering new digital fortresses and dimensions for his clients, Lai takes the same thrill of discovery into his travels, and when he is not at W+K, he is also a DJ, a photographer, and a ping pong aficionado. Be sure to also download the W+K Shanghai Guidebook app.
777 Julu Lu (near Fumin Lu) | Map
The new found Aegis Coop is one of the best places to find luxury brands and contemporary menswear label for the “self-described modern man” in Shanghai. Expect to find a nicely curated collection of Band of Outsiders, Rag & Bone, Opening Ceremony and Naked and Famous denim if you need something nice and is not too concerned about luxury tax imposed on imported goods.
However, if you are seeking something uniquely local, there is also a well stocked inventory of Flying Scissors leather accessories and other interesting knick knacks.
Building 3, 758 Julu Lu (near Fumin Lu) | Map
Since buying imported goods could be expensive, Spin offers something local and unique, and is ” the epitome of “Made in China” “. This is a store/showroom whose mission is to design ceramics that are “simple, elegant, organic and fluent”. They are hand-made in Jingdezhen, China’s porcelain capital since the Song Dynasty.
Check original expressions of Chinese ceramics that ” would be equal suitable in a display case or as functional house and tableware “. Expect to see Spin’s Creative Director, Gary Wang, sitting in his corner sketching out new ideas for products, so do remember to say hi. New designs are introduced every three months, so do remember to check back whenever you visit.
107 Wukang Lu (between Fuxing Lu and Hunan Lu) | Map
Think of Saville Row, but affordable with the same quality, W. Sanford is a ” small gentleman’s tailoring and shoemaking shop in the heart of the former French Concession “. The owner and tailor, Sanford Wu, is well versed in not only performing bespoke work but also understands the importance of bespoke quality. He is extremely meticulous about details like hand-stitched sleeve buttons vs. machine-stitches ones. Get your suit custom made and stock up on oxford shirts. Every man needs one good suit, and this is a great place to invest in a timeless piece at a more affordable price.
1295 Fuxing Lu, Lane 142, No. 52 | Map
Sure, almost everyone totes a digital camera these days, but Sdodo will reignite your nostalgia and interest in film photography. This is a small camera shop which specializes in film photography and they purvey a wonderful collection of vintage cameras as well as souvenirs hand-picked from the owners’ travels.
Developing film here is cheaper than it is on the stateside, and they can do anything from Medium Format to Black and White to Color Negatives–you name it.
Just one note– the shop is rather difficult to locate– ” You have to walk into a long, quaint lane until you hit a big wooden door with numbers. Make a right to the old lady barbershop where you’ll find a smaller lane. The shop is right off it “.
2/F, 20 Donghu Lu (near Huaihai Lu) | Map
With only 14-seats, Oyama is intimate and special. You get to pick your own ceramic plate and cup, and Chef Oyama is happy to ask you what you like so he can add a personal touch to the always surprising and remarkable omakase. You’re especially in luck if the Ankimo (Monkfish liver) is on the agenda. The set menu is about $100 USD, but worth every penny. Oyama is one of the few places in the world I would describe as a magical dining experience. Make reservations a few days in advance and ask to sit at the bar. The fish is air-flown daily from Japan and always fresh.
2905 Xietu Lu (near Lingling Lu) | Map
Beatles and yakitori? Worry not, this is not just a novel concept that can’t last beyond the first bite of your dining experience. Like John, George, Paul and Ringo, Kotas has staying power with really good yakitori (skewers).
Don’t miss out on the chicken balls with quail egg, the croquette which is a glorious deep fried mixture of ground beef, potato and onion. Basically, ” a hungry man’s breakfast in spherical form “. The potato salad with raisins, parmesan and graced with bacon ” is the bomb “ Also, the flame-glazed pork belly dipped in a poached egg sauce is a must.
For a little drink to wash everything down with, go for the ume-hai (shoji, soda and salty plum), or one of their regular homemade sochu.
Ding Xiang Garden
849 Huashan Lu (near Wukang Lu) | Map
Sure, the best place for Dim Sum would be to go straight to the big guns, a.k.a. Hong Kong, but Ding Xiang Garden is perhaps the ” best and nicest in Shanghai “. Ding Xiang is located in the heart of the French concession, and it is nestled at the end of a long driveway lining a gorgeous Chinese garden.
The Har Gow (shrimp dumplings) and Pidan (century egg) and salty pork congee is to die for, for a legit Chinese Sunday brunch. What makes the food here so OG? For instance, the congee is blended rather than mixed, and the restaurant has large glass windows that bask the restaurant in sunshine on a beautiful day.
Also, Ding Xiang Garden was built in the late Qing Dynasty by a famous Mandarin for his concubine, Ding Xiang (“Clove” in English), after which, it was also a movie studio, and a retirement home for old communist officials.
Ling Long Fang
10 Jian Guo Dong Lu (near Zhaozhou Lu) | Map
One can’t claim to have visited Shanghai without trying the Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). Don’t worry about how the soup gets so perfectly encased in a delicate wrap with a special mixture of ground meat that is just as savory and juicy. All you need to know is that the best way to enjoy the Xiao Long Bao is to go straight for the best there is, at Ling Long Fang.
Sure, Ling Long Fang is the lesser-known sister shop of the famous local Xiao Long Bao spot, but with a shorter line and a promise of dumplings with the same quality, so there is no reason to fight the crowd unless that’s your hobby.
A steamer of 12 pork soup dumplings will set you back only by 8RMB, which is about 1.20 USD. Aside from the regular pork dumplings, also don’t miss out on the crab soup dumplings that is, well, ten times as pricey, logging in at 81RMB, but well worth the cost.
Another point worth noting? These dumplings are hand made on order by a crew of adorable, giggling teenage girls, so, delicate deliciousness promised aside, you might also have to wait a little longer for your food.
65-4 Maoming Bei Lu (near Yan’an Lu) | Map
There are few guilty pleasures better than reading a fresh copy of Wax Poetics while slurping down a steaming bowl of ramen. The only place you can do that in Shanghai is at Kin. Part DJ lifestyle store and part cafe, Kin is the brainchild of Gary Wang who also owns Shelter. I like going there on the weekends with my laptop. I can get some eats, do work on my laptop, and chill in the glass covered patio. If you go, be sure to try the ramen: The broth is boiled for 8 hrs with different bones. The Yodo egg (imported from Japan) is perfectly poached. And the thin slices pork belly literally melt in your mouth. If you want something sweet after, I’m a fan of the mango/lime pudding. Mango and lime were just mean’t to be…its perfectly tart and sweet.
2/F, 47 Yongfu Lu (near Fuxing Xi Lu) | Map
This is less of a bar swishing well rum and coke haphazardly into a plastic cup, but quite a measured display of artisanship in mixology. el Coctel is ” a lovingly crafted tribute to the cocktail’s Golden Era, in the early 20th century, and Japan’s fanatical obsession to the details of the drink “
No detail is spared and each drink is prepared with laboratory standard’s pitch perfect precision– highball glasses painstakingly sourced from Tokyo’s Ginza district filled with hand cut ice frozen exactly between negative 24 and 25 degrees ensure that the drink will be at perfect temperature when served.
According to Lai, the dedication to ice making must make a difference because a simple mix of dark rum and ginger beer, Dark and Stormy, is his standard drink and is just one of the drinks from the best tasting and potent line-up in Shanghai.
Remember to call ahead for a reservation if you are in a big group.
Basement of 5 Yongfu Lu (near Fuxing Xi Lu) | Map
What was an underground bomb shelter is now Shanghai’s most notorious underground (literally) music venue. Once you’ve walked through the dimly lit and slightly claustrophobic tunnel, you’re in for a surprise. Usually, the music ranges from Old School Funk to New School Electro, and the crow is hit or miss. Friday is “Back to the Classics,” where the Lab crew throws down a mix of classic Hip-Hop, Funk, Soul, and Reggae. It’s good vibes. People like DJ Premier, DJ Nu-Mark, Kid Koala, DJ Krush and People under the Stairs have all rolled through Shelter. Now you can too.
Jing Jing Massage
Floor 2, Building 6 Lane 800 Huashan Road Xuhui District
No, it’s not what you have seen in Rush Hour 2, but this is exemplifies one of the greatest things about China– unlimited access to good, cheap massages. The difference between Jing Jing and other massage parlors or spas is that you can watch a movie while you are at it. Typically, you can ” star out by soaking your feet in tea or milk water for a few minutes, followed by 10 minutes of back passage and then 50 minutes of pure foot bliss “. If you want extra loving, you can go for the 90 minute option as well. BYODVD. Just don’t expect, ahem, that kind of ” happy ending “.