My hotel: the staggeringly good Langham Xintiandi:
Generally, during my trip I aimed to avoid the big name, mostly Western restaurants down on the Bund, Shanghai's glitzy, colonial riverfront night zone. So the first night I had a reservation at Fu1088, a much-talked-about contemporary Shanghaiese restaurant based in a most uncontemporary setting: a 1930s French-style villa in the French Concession, the old colonial quarter.
It was one of the very strangest dining experiences I have ever had. The place was virtually deserted, and had the feel of a very posh provincial Welsh hotel, circa 1954.
Things grew more peculiar with the arrival of bird's nest tarts, which were essentially sweet egg custard tarts with bird's nests in them. Wouldn't have been so weird, except that they were from the savoury part of the menu.
It's rare for me not to eat up, but these and other challenging dishes at FU1088 did somewhat defeat me, so I stopped by a 7-11 for a snack. Spotted these chickens' feet:
The next day brought more fortunate culinary experiences. Local chef Austin Hu, of modern American restaurant Madison (also in the French Concession), kindly offered to guide me around the city's food scene, starting with xiaolongbao at a branch of the Taiwanese soup dumpling masters, Din Tai Fung (now a global chain, whose Hong Kong branch has a Michelin star):
And the star of the show, the soup and porked-filled parcels of pleasure, to be dipped in a ginger and vinegar mix. The Xiaolongbao Platonic ideal. Beautiful. I lost my xiaolongbao virginity to the best.