Xiao Nan Guo: Traditional Shanghainese Cuisine

April 5, 2011 in China, Food, Reviews, Travel by pacejmiller

Following our brief visit to Hongqiao International Pearl City, we ducked over next door to the famous Xiao Nan Guo restaurant with a family friend who works in Shanghai.  Apparently, Xiao Nan Guo is the standard if you want to sample Shanghainese cuisine.

From the outside, Xiao Nan Guo looks like a massive hotel, and judging from its layout I assume it probably once was.  The place is genuinely massive, with multiple floors, elevators and hallways after hallways of enormous private rooms.

We dined in one of these private rooms and allowed our friend to order all the dishes for us.  It felt kind of strange being in a room as big as the one we sat in — it was more like a party room for groups, but because they had so many of these rooms they might as well put them to good use.

For beverages, we got tea and fresh orange juice.  I’ll be blunt here: the orange juice was OFF.  It tasted weird, unlike any ‘fresh’ orange juice I’ve ever encountered.  The second jug tasted the same.  I initially put it down to the oranges they grew in China, but after tasting real fresh orange juice elsewhere in Shanghai, I became convinced that they were giving us ‘fresh’ orange juice that had been lying around for a while in a fridge, or maybe just out in the open.

As for the food, our friend went for traditional stuff we would not have had elsewhere.  I admit, the food was interesting, definitely different, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.  The dishes were exceedingly plain in flavour, usually relying on the texture to bring out the uniqueness of the dish.

The first few dishes were cold and I didn’t even know what they were.  I’ll let the pictures do the writing for me, but looking at them now they seem more appetising than I remember them.  In particular the pan fried dumplings were very good, and I also liked the salad, the jellyfish, the beef ribs and the steamed green vegies.  The crab and the vermicelli hotpot were not as good as expected (I’ve had much much better elsewhere, including in Sydney) and the noodles were just salty and oily.  Enjoy.

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I know Xiao Nan Guo is supposed to be top notch, but it didn’t quite do it for me.  Part of that may be because of the dishes we ordered, but after having one of the best Shanghainese meals ever at 1221 Restaurant (post on that place to come later), Xiao Nan Guo pales in comparison.

6 out of 10

There are a few Xiao Nan Guos in Shanghai, apparently.  We went to the East Gate branch at 3337 Hongmei Road in Shanghai.  It’s practically right next door to Hongqiao International Pearl City.