I spent three nights in Shanghai in March, 2010. This was my second visit to this fabulous eating city and I want to extend my thanks to all who were so generous with advice regarding the selection of eating places. I had three dinners in the city and this is the report on the first, and finest, at JESSE, aka JiShi.
JESSE RESTAURANT No. 41 TianPing Road Phone: 62829260 (Note that the restaurant is located a fair distance from the People's Park area; we were advised to allow 40 minutes for the taxi ride, to arrive in time for an 7:30pm reservation on a Friday night. We arrived with not a minute to spare)
I liked this place as soon as I walked in. There are two floors; we were seated in the small and crowded downstairs dining room, where there are about 6 tables and every inch of space is spoken for. We (myself and two friends) were the only non-Asian diners in the room when we arrived; by the time we left, there was a crowd of locals and foreigners milling about outside, waiting for tables. We were seated directly at the entrance, beside the cash register; not the most comfortable seats in the house, but we could easily attract the attention of the server when needed. The menu has English translations; servers speak minimal English. Beer is served.
This is what we ate; I am a novice on the subject of Shanghainese food and apologize in advance for any errors in descriptions or names.
1. JiShi chicken: Hacked pieces of (cold) chicken that had been steamed with wine. This was my least favorite dish; the yellow skin was flabby and the chicken was not tender. I know I am missing something because this dish was on every other table in the room. Price: (32 Y or about US$4.20 at 7.65RMB to the US dollar)
Another dish that graced every table were the "Sugar Candy Kumquats" (28Y). This is the sweetened rind of the popular Asian citrus and was very interesting. (Neighboring tables were more gracious about offering tastes to this curious newcomer).
While we were waiting for our food to arrive, I noticed a server ferrying a dish of Bean Curd Rolls in Chicken Essence up the stairs to the second-floor dining room. This was a plate of rich-looking chicken broth with bean curd rolls nestled within. I am so sorry that I did not add this dish to our order; I am still fantasizing about it three months later--that's how delicious it looked to me that night.
2. Dates with Glutinous Rice: (18 Y). I loved this dish of red dates stuffed with creamy, gooey rice. The dates reminded me of chestnuts. I think this is an essential dish here.
3. Wild Herbs with Dried Bean Curd (22Y). This dish had been highly recommended on CH, but iti was a bit too grassy in flavor for me: A mound of coarsely chopped cooked greens studded with cubes of dried bean curd. Certainly interesting but I would not order it again.
4. Mixed Mushrooms with BeanCurd. (18Y)These shredded mushrooms in a light oil/vinegar sauce lavishly dotted with dried red chilis was among my favorite Shanghai dishes. Ever. Absolutely essential.
5. Fried River Shrimp. (98Y). This dish also found its way to most of the nearby tables. Tiny cooked shrimp, not fried. Unadorned and just not that interesting to me, especially since they are more expensive than most of the other dishes we enjoyed.
6. Baby Cabbage with Gluten (18Y). A green vegetable (unrecognizable to me as cabbage) surrounded by unctuous, gooey balls of gluten which was very different than the gluten in kaufu. Very, very good.
7. Hong Shou Rou. Served in a round clay pot, this was by far the best version of this signature Shanghai pork dish that I had ever tasted. Lots of fat and slightly singed, rich pork. Worth a trip to Shanghai! Well, almost! Essential. Wonderful. FAbulous!
8. Scallion Cake. (18Y). (In the noodle section of the menu). Very tasty. Studded with sesame seeds. Ask for black vinegar for dipping.
Another dish on most tables was a fried whole fish. Not sure of more details.
Our dinner for three, with Tsingtao beers, totaled 345 RMB or just under $50. This was my favorite meal of the Shanghai portion of our trip and perhaps the best of the entire 5-week vacation.