Dim sum is one of those treats that is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace with a large group of friends. Literally translating to “touching the heart” (diǎnxīn, 点心), these small plates of delicacies generally hail from the Cantonese region – Guangdong Province and Hong Kong – but the style of eating was quickly picked up by diners around China. Shanghai has more dim sum spots that you can shake a stick at, but here are eight of the best bets around the city. (Note: times represent the hours each restaurant serve dim sum, not general opening times.)
Pronounced “Dao Xiang” in Mandarin, Tao Heung is the place to go for delicious Cantonese-style dim sum, served all day at a reasonable price. The Hong Kong-based restaurant is almost always booming (especially on weekends), but the absolutely cavernous restaurant makes for quick turnover – even if there are 15 parties in front of you. No reservations are taken, just get your number from the front desk and wait – the steamed dumplings and XO sauce turnip cakes (XO jiàng luóbo gāo, XO 酱萝卜糕) will make it all worthwhile. Go with a big party – the more people, the more dishes you can get.
This upscale chain hails from Singapore and features delicate dim sum in sleek surroundings. While there are different spots around the city, the restaurant in Xintiandi is the first and also generally the most consistent in terms of quality. Go for their elegant steamed shrimp dumplings or the roasted meats. On the weekend, reservations are essential – the place gets absolutely mobbed.
For sweeping views and flashy (yet well-made) dim sum, make a reservation at Hakkasan. In addition to rubbing elbows with Shanghai’s seen-and-be-scene crowd, you’ll be treated to delicious steamed custard buns and sparkling scallop-topped siu mai dumplings (yúzǐ dàizi shāomai, 鱼子带子烧卖). If the urge for luxury really takes you, there are also foie gras-stuffed dumplings with gold leaf.
Recently awarded two Michelin stars, Yi Long Court will impress guests with its surrounding and kitchen. The beautiful dining room is designed in the style of a 1930s Chinese nobleman, and both the private and public dining areas are filled with interesting art and pretty wood. The afternoon dim sum is also a work of art, where each dish is delicate and carefully arranged.
Lynn’s serves up a good dose of nostalgia along with a modern take on classic Shanghainese dim sum. Long a staple in the city, the chic interior features plush 1920s accents and proves especially popular on the weekends when they trot out an all-you-can-eat dim sum menu for 88 yuan (US$13). Make reservations far ahead of time, and go with a group to fully take advantage of the bounty.
For the best pineapple buns in Shanghai, head to Jade Garden in the Jing’an Kerry Centre. The flagship concept of Hong Kong’s powerful Maxim Group almost always requires a long wait in line, but the wait is worth it. The roasted pork and duck feature shatteringly crisp skin, the shrimp dumplings are plump, and the aforementioned pineapple bun melts in a puff of butter and air.
Yue 1525 is traditional Cantonese fare with excellent dim sum, plus clay pot dishes, and double-boiled soup. Set on the second floor of the New World Shanghai Hotel, this restaurant is particularly popular on the weekend, and offers private dining for larger groups or special occasions.
The serene interiors of Jing Cai Xuan help make some of the frenzy associated with a dim sum weekend fade into the background. The food is nothing to snuff at either, served with an elegance that matches the surroundings. About those weekends though – there are no reservations taken, so if you don’t arrive before 12pm, be prepared to settle in for a long wait.