On a cobblestone pedestrian street just behind Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Peninsula Shanghai stand several handsome buildings dating back to Shanghai’s golden age. One of them, identifiable by its intricately carved doorframe, is the former YWCA, recently restored to its former glory and now home to three of Shanghai’s newest restaurants. The 1933 building, designed by New York-born, Pratt Institute graduate Poy Gum Lee, blends East and West, fusing elements of Art Deco with traditional Chinese motifs. Its façade is made up of red brick and granite from nearby Suzhou. Above the main entrance is a tiny version of a traditional Chinese roof. Stepping into the historic building, we look at what’s buzzing on floors six, seven and eight.
Light & Salt
It seems apt for a restaurant housed inside the former YWCA to take its name from a Bible verse, but the religious buck stops there. Light & Salt, committed to feeding mind and body, does so with food, drink and literature. The space has three distinct concepts. Miss Ding’s Dining, named for Ding Shuijing, a founding member of the YWCA, serves cuisine inspired by 1920s and ’30s Shanghai. Chef Rafael Qing’s menu features dishes such as the Russo-Shanghainese soup, beef and vegetable terrine in warm beetroot foam (think upmarket borscht) and potato salad gone decadent with quail eggs and caviar. For drinks, there’s the Library Distillery, a speakeasy-style craft cocktail lounge for which you’ll need a password to enter. We won’t tell you how to get it, but we recommend making a reservation. At L&S Books, peruse shelves of foreign and domestic reads, and, by night, the wine selection. 6/F, 133 Yuanmingyuan Road
Color is everywhere at this ultra-sleek Japanese restaurant, from the red walls and ceiling to the orange slices of salmon nestled on your plate. Though quite popular with locals, particularly those holding large group dinners, Ippin Sashimi is quiet and serene, thanks to a handful of private dining rooms where boisterous sake consumption goes on behind closed doors. At the six-seat sushi bar or at one of the long wooden tables, diners tuck into gorgeous sushi and sashimi flown in from Japan. Thickly cut sashimi, including top-notch salmon and toro (fatty tuna), is the big draw here, but there’s plenty for those who don’t like their fish raw. Cooked options include tender beef short ribs; an assortment of hot, crispy tempura; and a warm, comforting seafood soup. Reservations for large parties are essential here, and likewise if you want to sit at the bar. 7/F, 133 Yuanmingyuan Road
Delighted diners at this upscale Cantonese restaurant can thank Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong: General manager Calvin Wong, sommelier Bobby Wong and chef Ma Kwai Ming all worked together at the hotel’s Lung King Heen. Ma runs a tight ship; in the kitchen at La Société, there are more than 30 chefs dedicated to producing heavenly Cantonese food. The restaurant is open all day, but for dim sum, you’ll have to go for lunch. In a regal setting befitting the 1920s society types who once walked these halls, one bamboo steamer after another — nestled in Art Deco-inspired metal rings — delivers divine dim sum. The abalone tart, with a thick, flaky and buttery shell, melts in your mouth. Classic shrimp dumplings are plump and juicy, their delicate folds making them look like beach shells. Vegetarians should be sure to order the morel mushroom dumplings, a mix of nicely spiced mushrooms, diced carrots, water chestnuts and sweet summer corn. Wrap up the meal on a sweet note with candied walnut pastries.
8/F, 133 Yuanmingyuan Road
Photo Courtesy of iStock Khao Yai Boy