Sunday, May 10, 2009


I've said before that Chinese people never eat foreign foods. However, while that's not exactly a lie, that's not exactly true, either. There exists a fraction of a percent of Shanghai's Chinese population that enjoys popping into Shanghai's foreigner restaurants from time to time. And there's a much larger percentage, although still a small minority, that enjoys eating the few styles of foreign food that Shanghai has most taken to – basically that's American fast food chains, Japanese food, and to a lesser extent, Italian food. Ill have to talk about Shanghai's Japanese food some othet time - it's localized so strangely. This is about the Italian chain restaurant, Saizeriya.

Saizeriya is not anybody's version of fine dining. Even judging on a cheap-restaurant graded scale, every dish on the menu would get somewhere between a D+ and a B-. That said, there's a few things that can be said in its favor. While the food wouldn't be confused with something in Italy, it's not a totally Chinesed-out interpretation either, and is about as authentic as might be expected at an American-Italian restaurant. It's relatively cheap, most of the dishes cost about ten kaui. It's spacious and clean, whereas many Chinese restaurants are dirty and cramped. But most importantly, it's the only semi-decent restaurant in the Kerry Everbright Center, near the Shanghai Train Station. For a while I found myself frequently having to eat dinners there, so I went to Saizeriya far too many times, and I've tried a sizeable percentage of the menu. It's not something I'm proud of.

For me, the highlight of Saizeriya is that they serve large salads that, while basic, are of a high quality, and only cost six to ten kuai. They come heavy in salad dressing, so I usually get the dressing on the side. And in general the pasta dishes are all competent, I like the pesto spaghetti - the only one to watch out for the risotto, which basically amounts to a rice with cream sauce on it.

They have pizza, and ever since Hello Pizza massively raised their prices a couple years back, it's the cheapest pizza in town, costing around twenty kuai for enough to make a meal for one. They're a whole lot of cheese, and not much sauce.

The obvious weak point is at the end of the menu, with the unappetizing hamburger steaks and especially the grilled chicken, that tastes rubbery and weird. The desserts, while not bad, aren't as good as they should be – really there's no reason to get a dessert at Saizeriya, when all the locations I'm familiar with have a Beard Papa right nearby.

There's all-you-can-drink mugs for six kuai, with sodas and juice and hot chocolate and the like to choose from. The mug is small, so I end up making a lot of trips to the drinks area.

There's a few other local Italian restaurants chains I can think of, in Shanghai – Gino's and Babiya being two that stand out. They're more expensive, and while Gino's might be a little better, Babiya is much worse. There's also a number of higher-quality, expensive places that target expats. Anyway, while I don't particularly recommend Saizeriya, it's cheap, it's decent, there's locations in malls and shopping areas all around town, and if you're looking for a foreign-food fix you could do a whole lot worse.


Kathia said...

Saizeriya isn't Italian. It's a Japanese Italian-style chain. So is Babela's Kitchen and Joyfull to a certain extent.

Japanese chains have a love for reinventing European food concepts, which explain the heavy handed use of cream and salad dressing.

Jeff Rutsch said...

Yes & No - it's not an Italian company, but the food is obviously an (unauthentic) take on Italian Food, not Japanese Food. There's no sushi or Teppanyaki on the menu :)