Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jinxian Lu

Jinxian Lu is a short street in downtown Shanghai that, all things considered, is the best street in Shanghai. It's located a few blocks north of the Huangpi Nan Lu Subway station. I suppose it's also possible to get there by walking south along Maoming Lu from the Nanjing Xi Lu train station, for ten or fifteen minutes.

The quite obvious highlight of the street is the food. Some of the restaurants I've talked about before, like the homestyle Shanghainese restaurants Chun and Lan Xin, which are two of my favorite restaurants in Shanghai. And some other restaurants I hope to talk about in the future – say, the Shanghainese restaurant Hai Jin Zi, or the foreigner favorite Southern Barbarian, a Yunanese restaurant tucked inside a strange art mall. However I imagine there's others I'll never get around to. I'll mention them briefly, but really I recommend people go to this street whenever they feel they might be hungry, and just try everything.

At a quick look, the street isn't entirely impressive. There's lots of hanging laundry, and older medium-grade apartment buildings. While there is an art mall, for the most part the buildings are underwhelming, and the storefronts are small & recessed, occupying the first story.

I've heard the bottom dropped out of China's art scene recently, and maybe that explains why currently about half the stores in the street's art mall seem to be vacant - or maybe not, the art always seemed so cheesy, I have a hard time believing it was ever a part of any genuine art scene. Southern Barbarian is tucked away inside this mall. Surpringly enough, there's also a store which openly sells a lot of marijuana pipes, and there's a mysterious smell...these people are begging to get sent off to a re-education camp!

While I mention the restaurants, there's also a large number of fashion design boutiques along Jinxian Lu. They look whimsical, and perhaps it's not the most prestigious address for clothes, but I'm guessing they're worth a browse. Personally, I'm too tall to seriously consider buying clothes in China, and it kind of falls outside my radar, anyway they're mostly for women.

A number of stores sell old Shanghai antiques, mostly furniture. It would be really fun, if really expensive, to have a house decorated like some 1930s movie set:

There's a few European-type restaurants: the OK café/restaurant Bliss, the well-reviewed but expensive Italian restaurant Osteria, and the café/restaurant Citizen. I go to Citizen occasionally for a drink before or after a meal. The drinks aren't anything special, but it's a pleasant place to get a coffee or a cocktail, with a kind of lounge-ish atmosphere. They also serve Italian food, which I haven't tried.

Pier 39 sells food of a reasonably authentic North-Californian variety. It competes with Hai Jin Zi as the best-rated (by taste) restaurant on the street, according to Chinese foodie website Personally I think that's crazy, but I won't deny that the sandwiches are good, I particularly like the different breads which can be chosen from. They also have very good pastas and salads, and a clam chowder which is a little weak, but comes in a lunch special, alongside a sandwich, for around sixty kuai. It's a small restaurant, and I've heard that recently it's become extremely difficult to get a table.

Qing Mai Heaven describes itself as Thai food, and similarly, a pizza with ham and pineapple on it might be called Hawaiian food. But despite having almost no relationship to the sort of food found in Thailand (I'd call it "whimsical Chinese"), I still think the food manages to be decent. Additionally, the service is friendly, and the interior is incredibly packed but attractive. For a group of people wanting a good meal, they'd be crazy to pass over Chun or Lan Xin, just across the street. But for an individual diner, the lunch specials are about 30 kuai and worth checking out, although unfortunately the lunch specials menu is only in Chinese. This place will often have a line of Chinese customers.

While Lan Xin, Chun, and Hai Ji Zi are, once again, three of the very best restaurants in Shanghai, there's three more small home-style Shanghainese restaurants, in the 50-100 kuai range: Mao Long, at #134, Rui Fu Yuan, at #221, and One Family, at #128.

Finally, there's a branch of Lomography at #126, it's a company that produces or promotes toy cameras (called “idiot cameras” in Chinese), and then sells them at inflated prices – it's cheaper to buy off the Internet, or at Snaps Shop. The idiot cameras they sell are still a lot of fun, with the Holga N being the pick of the litter. There's a small gallery upstairs, and sometimes I'll have a look around. They also sell ISO 800 film, which is very difficult to find in Shanghai.

Just around the corner from all this food, on Changle Lu near Shaanxi Nan Lu, is foreign-language bookstore, Garden Books & Cafe. It's a good place to browse, and their excellent ice cream & sorbets sell at nine kuai, as a takeaway price. Mysteriously enough, it's much more expensive if you want to eat inside. Sometimes I'll get a scoop after a nice meal. There's twenty flavors or so, my favorite is when they have the ginger ice cream!

1 comment:

Rebekah said...

Nice post, Jeff. I used to live on this street. I agree that it's fantastic. Your post made me miss my old flat and this area so much. I reposted part of this post to