Sugared & Spiced

pâtissière in paris, now shanghai

[Shanghai] Yuan Yuan 圓苑

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Yuan Yuan 圓苑

Add*: 201 Xingguo Lu, near Tai’an Lu 興國路201号, 近泰安路
Tel: 6433 9123
Hours: 10am-10pm
Price: ~150 RMB/person

吉士酒家 (Old Jesse) is my usual go-to place for Shanghainese food, but we all know that it’s impossible to get a seat at this ultra-popular restaurant unless you call a week in advance. So what do you do when a craving for 桂花糖藕 (lotus roots in sweet osmanthus sauce) or 紅燒肉 (braised pork belly) suddenly strikes? 圓苑 (Yuan Yuan) might just be what you need. Polished decor aside, the tables are placed at a comfortable distance from each other, something that’s not possible at the perpetually crowded Old Jesse.

*Multiple locations available, check SmartShanghai or Dianping for details.

These small dishes of appetizers are tasty and addictive (high in MSG?), but not complimentary! 5 RMB each, thank you very much.

The huge photo of 手撕鹹雞 Hand Shredded Salted Chicken (78 RMB) on the menu was so drool-inducing that I ordered it right away, but felt cheated when a tiny mound of chicken was brought to our table. Granted, the dish was delicately presented and quite delicious, but this did not justify the 78 RMB price tag, hand-shredded or otherwise.

桂花糖藕 Sliced Lotus Root in Sweet Osmanthus Sauce (28 RMB) is a must-order for me at Shanghainese restaurants, and the Yuan Yuan rendition did not disappoint. The lotus root was slow-boiled to a tender softness while still maintaining its texture. Together with the stickiness of the glutinous rice and the floral fragrance of the sweet osmanthus honey sauce, this was just lovely.

糯米紅棗 Red Dates stuffed with Glutinous Rice (26 RMB) is another no-brainer. Order it.

紅燒肉加醬蛋 Braised Pork Belly with Soy Sauce Eggs (88 RMB) is yet another Shanghai classic not to be missed. The thick, gelatinous layer of fat, the sweet sauce, the perfectly seasoned eggs – with some white rice, this has got to be one of the most satisfying combinations in Chinese cuisine.

yuan yuan braised pork

蟹粉燴豆腐 Tofu with Crab Roe and Crab Meat (78 RMB) at Yuan Yuan was a complete disappointment. I suppose I should not have ordered this dish since it’s not crab roe season.

Then there was the 西芹白果炒蘆薈 Stir-fried Celery with Ginko Nuts & Aloe (32 RMB), a decent plate of vegetables.

The highlight of the meal, surprisingly, was 鮮肉生煎包 Pan-Fried Pork Dumplings (18 RMB for three). Different from what’s served at 小楊生煎 (Yang’s Fried Dumplings), the pan-fried dumplings at Yuan Yuan have thicker and fluffier skin, crispier bottom, and fresher-tasting meat. Totally satisfying! I would come back to Yuan Yuan just for these. 

Will I come back again? Yes.

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Written by sugarednspiced

April 25th, 2011 at 10:53 pm