Whenever I visit Shanghai, I always go out with my cousins. They’re all around my age and know all about where to go for good food and entertainment. On one of the nights during this visit, we ate at a restaurant called Ji Hui or Yoshie Japanese Restaurant (吉惠) which is a buffet Japanese restaurant. You can order a la carte but each dish is deliberately made very expensive so that you would happily choose the buffet option. This is probably the case at most buffet Japanese restaurants in China. The store is small and requires reservation beforehand and you choose the dishes from a menu and they bring it out from the kitchen like they would a la carte.
My cousin found a discount coupon on Da Zhong Dian Ping website (a website somewhat like Urbanspoon but with coupons and a LOT more restaurants from all around China) which is unfortunately only in Chinese. The coupon was for $120Yuan per person (instead of the usual $128Yuan) and if you go in a group of four or more, they give you a live fish cut into sashimi pieces. Refer below for the cool fish. It was totally still alive when it was sliced and the head and tail twitched every now and then. :S I know it’s a bit cruel but trust me, the sashimi was the freshest I’ve ever had and was oh so delicious. I have no idea what type of fish it is though. I was pretty excited when I filmed the fish moving so didn’t check the white balance before I pressed the button and I have no idea how to post edit videos so, sorry about the colour.
This dish is marinated squid sashimi (I think it was raw) mixed in a kimchi type paste. Not my favourite of the night since marinated things tend to lack that freshness, especially kimchi paste which is overpowering.
Since this was buffet, we really ordered quite a few dishes – it was for four people and my cousins have big appetites. We ordered two lots of rolled beef with enoki mushrooms, it was nicely marinated with a sweet soy sauce and wasn’t overcooked. I had quite a few pieces of this dish which made me a bit full.
We also ordered two sets of mixed sashimi with sweet prawn, salmon, this white fish (not sure what it was), tuna, white tuna and hokigai (red clam). They were all fairly fresh (of course not as fresh as that whole fish we got) and tasted like what we have in Melbourne, although perhaps not as good quality and cut into tiny pieces.
Beef tataki was of course another must order dish. It wasn’t a very big dish (as expected) and wasn’t fantastic so we didn’t order a second serving. One thing was for sure, the chef isn’t very good at cutting the meat into thin slices as you can see from the photo. It was very messy indeed that I might even be able to do a better job. The meat was dipped into a dipping sauce.
My cousin ordered a clam soup full of big clams. I’m not a big fan of clams so I didn’t have any, thought I should leave stomach to eat those things I actually wanted to eat. Although I can’t comment on the taste, it did look nice. The clams were big and there was a generous serving.
The prawn skewers we ordered were average, nothing spectacular as it just tasted like….prawns. It was slightly salted on the outside but not too much, but the one thing I didn’t like was the shell. It wasn’t that crispy!! I had to take all the shell off to eat the tiny meat inside when normally I’d have expected the shell to be completely cooked through and crispy enough to eat as well.
The fried mackerel was quite tasty. It was cooked to the right consistency and was nicely salted. Not much more I can say about it really, although I didn’t like the little bones.
I didn’t like the oysters all that much, the sauce was a bit too overpowering, I can’t quite remember what the sauce was now but I always thought oysters should be eaten raw so this wasn’t my favourite. Because there was four of us, the waiters intelligently brought out many dishes in fours like this one.
Although this next dish wasn’t wagyu, it was the closet we got that evening. I believe it was just BBQ beef (not sure which type) and well, it was fairly tender, although no where near the softness of good grade wagyu. I can’t wait to have grade 5 wagyu in Japan. I love the fried garlic on top, one of those condiments that I always pick off.
Yes, we ordered more, a lot more. This is only half way through. What came next was a bit funny, can you guess what it is? It’s mini sweet potatoes. They were exactly the size of doggy poop and starkly resembled it as well. :S Nevertheless, it was very sweet and moist, the skin was edible and fit in my mouth in one bite – totally delicious.
We also ordered two sets of mixed tempura, it came with 4 prawns and mixed veggies such as pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot and eggplant. It was as expected, nothing special. It was nicer than some places I’ve had in Melbourne though, at least that part’s nice. The batter was good, not too thick and not too oily which is very important.
The scallops in mushroom sauce was probably the least Japanese dish of the night. The mushroom sauce tasted very similar to the canned mushroom soup we get in supermarkets but went fairly nicely with the scallops. Although not the biggest scallops I’ve seen, the sizes weren’t all that bad considering it’s a buffet.
Gyutan (ox tongue) – another must order dish. We also ordered two servings of gyutan and couldn’t quite finish the second one. It was cut into reasonably thin slices and was cooked on the hot plate that was brought to our table. Being nicely seasoned, it also didn’t lack Japanese authenticity as we were served ponzu sauce to dip the gyutan in (a common citrus dipping sauce for gyutan).
Nigiri sushi was another dish we ordered (but could probably have lived without because we were so full by then) and consisted of tuna nigiri and Californian hand rolls. What I find in many Japanese restaurants in China is overly sour rice produced by putting too much sushi vinegar in it. This time it was just right although I didn’t eat many to really get any taste out of it. As we arrived late (around 8:30pm) and the restaurant kitchen closed at 9:30pm, we had to make our last order before we knew what our appetite was like, sorry wasted food! We didn’t really waste that much so it’s ok. :S
There was also a plate with marinated mussels and BBQ white fish (no idea what type of fish). I ate my share but there were some left over. The fish was yummy, it was marinated in a sweet soy sauce and cooked through. It was still very moist so wasn’t at all overcooked – I hate overcooked fish that’s dry and flaky. This was just right, it just didn’t come at the right time. :S The mussels were average. Mussels are not my favourite type of seafood to begin with and it was smothered in a thick layer of Japanese mayonnaise. You guessed it, it was totally overpowered by the sauce! This is a dish we could have done without.
We also ordered another white fish, this time it was deep fried in bread crumbs and dipped in tonkatsu sauce. I also ate my share but my cousins didn’t eat theirs. By all means, it wasn’t bad, it was cooked perfectly – just the right crunch and tonkatsu sauce is never bad. I was totally full by then though so couldn’t stomach much more.
Being quite greedy, my cousin also ordered a serving of agedashi tofu cooked on a hot plate and topped with bonito flakes. I only tried a tiny bite as I really couldn’t fit in much more. It’s a little different to the usual agedashi tofu since this is cooked on a hot plate in a rather thick sweet sauce compared to the usual tofu that’s drenched in a watery sauce. I didn’t get much taste out of it though as I was so full and didn’t fully enjoy it as much as I should have.
Lucky last dish of the evening (finally) was the salt and pepper squid. It was WAY too peppery for my liking, although flavour wise was quite nice. The pepper though just overpowers everything else so overall wasn’t a good dish. Being the last dish as well, we had to sadly let it go to waste.
Everyone was given a complimentary dessert – red bean soup with mini glutinous balls. The soup was very thick and sticky but was a very nice change to all the salty dishes we just had, although the balls made it a bit too filling. I almost fell over as I walked out of the restaurant, partly from being so full and also partly because I drank a whole glass of umeshu (Japanese plum wine). As my face was very hot (having a serious case of the Asian flush), walking out into the cold night with wind on my face was both very refreshing and happily welcomed.
Ji Hui has several stores around Shanghai, the one we went to was Chang Ning Qu.
Yoshie Japanese Restaurant (Chang Ning Store)(吉惠日本料理长宁区)
Phone: +8621 6211 0835
Yan An Xi Lu No.626 Hua Ming Shi Ji Guang Chang, Chang Ning Qu (延安西路626号华敏世纪广场)
Earlier in the evening, we spent several hours at a spa resort called Xiao Nan Guo Spa Resort. Such places are very popular these days, brought about by the onsen craze from Japan and Chinese peoples’ love for entertainment. I’ve been to many spa places in Shanghai but still like Xiao Nan Guo the best as it has a good variety of hot spas and has free table tennis, a fairly worn out but still good billiard room and various other entertainment such as swimming pool, a paid gym area and a nightly dance and singing show free for the guests.
Xiao Nan Guo also owns many Shanghainese food restaurants around Shanghai and rest of China so of course their food is also quite nice. However, as you’re pretty much locked inside with nothing else to eat, the food can get quite expensive. We usually choose to leave just before dinner and eat elsewhere (in this case we went to Ji Hui above).
If you feel like splurging, you can also go for massages while you lie down and watch TV (or the nightly shows) in one of the few lounges ranging from head, foot, back, full body and many more. You can even get your ears picked or nails cut for you. The selection of pampering is endless. I usually get a full body exfoliation for $68 Yuan with milk and cucumber face mask which goes for around 45 minutes (this is done inside the bath area and yes, you have to be naked…) and foot massages for around the same price for an hour (which is done in the lounge). What a life!
Xiao Nan Guo SPA Tang He Yuan SPA (小南国海之源日式温泉虹梅路店)
No.3337, Hongmei Road, Shanghai (上海市闵行区虹梅路3337号)