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Shanghai: Scott Plays Exceptional Host

Standing on the promenade of the Bund, a once-chaotic river wharf at the very center of this city, you can’t help but think that if the name of the game is erecting the most impressive skyline, then the game in Shanghai has been won.   The horizon towers for 360 degrees. Neon streaks in blue, red, orange, and green punctuate new Pudong.

On the Bund across from Pudong

We visited Shanghai on April 27-May 5, 2010.  Our close friend Scott played the exceptional host, putting us up in his apartment, putting us in the care of his ayi (which translates to aunt but is, in fact, a maid), and—as only Scott can do—filled our bellies full of delicious food.

On the night of our first full day, we met his friends Henry and Michelle for cocktails at Dong Ho and then headed over to Sichuan Citizen in the French Concession for a firey dinner in a chic and renao (“noisey”) setting.  The catfish in oil was tongue-tingling delicious.

Sichuan Citizen with Scott, Henry and Michelle

Sichuan Citizen with Scott, Henry and Michelle

The next day, Scott and Lou strolled the French Concession while Laura recovered from our Yangshuo bike ride. The Shanghai French Concession was a foreign concession in Shanghai, China from 1849 until 1946, and it was progressively expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The concession came to an end in practice in 1943 when the Vichy French government signed it over to the pro-Japanese puppet government in Nanking. The area covered by the former French Concession remains one of the premier residential and retail districts of Shanghai.

That evening we had dinner with Scott and Zoe, Scott’s girl-friend-to-be, at the Art Salon. a sort of “Matisse meets Shanghai” cozy, somewhat ramshackled art salon and restaurant lodged in a French Concession storefront. The fairly extensive Chinese-only menu bulges with some excellent homemade local specialties.

Scott, Zoe and us at Art Salon

Scott, Zoe and us at Art Salon

The next day was the eve of the opening of the World Expo. We headed over to the Bund for cocktails and dinner. The Bund is an area of Huangpu District in central Shanghai that centers on a section of Zhongshan Road within the former Shanghai International Settlement. It runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River, facing Pudong, in the eastern part of Huangpu District.

Scott and us at the Bund with Pudong in the background

The Bund usually refers to the buildings and wharves on this section of the road, as well as some adjacent areas.  The word “bund” means an embankment or an embanked quay. The Shanghai Bund has dozens of historical buildings, lining the Huangpu River, that once housed numerous banks and trading houses from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the consulates of Russia and Britain. Not surprisingly, then, it’s also densely packed with stylish bars and restaurants.

Partying in the Bund

Partying in the Bund

We met up with a bunch of Scott’s friends for dinner at Lost Heaven, a posh spot specializing in the tribal cuisine of China’s Yunnan province. Lost Heaven has all the makings of a proper evening: exotic cuisine, enchanted decor, atmospheric music and dim, flickering candlelight.

Yunan Food at Lost Heaven

Yunan Food at Lost Heaven

Afterwards, we made our way  outside to watch fireworks shoot off the Oriental Pearl Tower opposite the Bund, in celebration of the opening of the World Expo.

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Fireworks off the Oriental Pearl Tower

The next day, May 1, we visited Yu Gardens and Shanghai Bazaar. Yuyuan Garden is a famous classical garden located in Anren Jie, Shanghai. The garden was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. Yu in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying, and this garden was specially built for Pan’s parents as a place for them to enjoy a tranquil and happy time in their old age. Close to the gardens is Shanghai’s bazaar, a great number of small streets and lanes where vendors sell, well, everything.

The bazaar side

The bazaar side

While in Yu Gardens, we slurped up some of Nanxiang Mantou Dian’s xiao long bao. These little babies are the quintessential Shanghai cuisine.  The Chinese name means “little basket dumplings” and they arrive at your table in a little bamboo steamer in groups of four to eight.  What are they?  Simply, xiao long bao are little balls of minced pork or chicken combined with jellified pork or chicken stock wrapped in a thin flour skin. During the steaming process, the stock liquefies creating soup within the dumpling. This is key, the pièce de résistance.

Slurping some xia long bao

That evening, we had Uyghur food at Xinjiang.  The perceptive reader is starting to understand China’s “multi-culinarism” and Scott’s ambitious quest to eat the entire country.  Later on, Laura turned in early while Scott and Lou hit some lounges and clubs—notably El Coctel and M1nt—partying with Shanghai’s gilded class.

Drinks at El Coctel

Drinks at El Coctel with Scott, Jessica and others

The next morning, after a hangover-remedying brunch at Azul, we spent an afternoon playing bocci in front of the Garden Hotel.

Bocci at the Garden Hotel

Bocci at the Garden Hotel

We ended the day with a traditional Shanghainese meal and drinks at the Vue Bar on top of the Hyatt. Shanghai is a vertical city, so there is no better place to enjoy a drink than climbing up 33 floors. The Vue Bar offers tremendous vistas of both the historic waterfront and Pudong, the futuristic business district on the other side of the Huangpu River.

The View from Vue

The View from Vue

On May 3, we hit the World Expo, which we write about in a separate, dedicated post.  Its enough to say here that it was an architecturally awesome experience.

In front of the China Pavillion at the World Expo

Below is a photolog of our visit.  You can click on any thumbnail to expand it and then manually cycle through all the gallery’s images and captions using the arrow buttons.  Alternatively, you can click on the [show as slideshow] link below to initiate an automated slideshow of the entire gallery.

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