I secretly wished throughout our travels in China that some kindhearted, English-speaking local would invite The Astronomer and me to their home for dinner. There’s nothing quite like a home-cooked meal, especially while on the road, but alas (and unsurprisingly), my fantastic pipe dream never came true.
Instead, we sought out Lánxīn Cāntīng, a hole-in-the-wall located in the French Concession, for a more-accessible taste of Shanghainese home cooking.
Family-run restaurants specializing in simple local fare have grown increasingly rare here in recent years, even though demand remains sizable. That, coupled with the diminutive size of the restaurant, meant that we endured an hour-long wait for a table this evening, far and away the longest line of the entire trip.
As with most of the restaurants that we frequented in China, Lánxīn Cāntīng did not have an English-language menu. We resorted to pointing and smiling to communicate our preferences, as well as showing photos of specific dishes to our server. The former method was much more successful…
Nearly every table in the place was digging into platters heaped with the most gorgeous braised pork accented with green chilies, so we had to have some too. Served at room temperature, the bite-sized belly morsels melted in our mouths, treating our taste buds to a sweet and savory symphony.
Teeny tiny clams gently steamed with scallions and ginger were also a must. Even though the clams were quite puny in size, their flavor was wholly of the sea.
The Astronomer and I largely ignore vegetables during our travels, so sharing a plate of greens over dinner was highly necessary. We had no idea what variety these were due to the language barrier, but they looked like a member of the clover family. Wilted just so and seasoned with dark soy, the clover leaves tasted mostly of themselves.
I was hoping that our final dish would be a luxurious egg and crab number, but the server interpreted the image that I showed her as egg with scallions instead. Crabby bits don’t tend to photograph well, I guess! Although I was a bit let down with the mix up, this dish was totally comforting and delicious.
Shanghainese home cooking as I experienced it at Lánxīn Cāntīng impressed with its finesse and subtlety. Every dish was extraordinarily flavorful without an avalanche of salt or any heavy saucing. Lánxīn Cāntīng: the next best thing to a home-cooked meal.
Lánxīn Cāntīng (click on link for Google map)
130 Jinxian Road
Lu Wan Qu, Shanghai, China
Phone: +86 21 6253 3554
Our previous culinary exploits in the People’s Republic of China:
- B-Ballin’ in Beijing
- Eating in Chaoyang
- Farewell Fuwa*
- Maison Boulud – Beijing
- Peking Duck at Da Dong (with a side of baseball)
- The Great Wall of China
- Track ‘n’ Snacks in the Bird’s Nest
- Bo Innovation
- Eating in Hong Kong I
- Eating in Hong Kong II
- Eating in Hong Kong III
- Eating in Hong Kong IV
- Happy Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
- Postcards from the Road: People’s Republic of China, Better Late than Censored
- Shanghai Suppin’: Dumpling Soup & Rice Cakes
- Striking Street Food Gold: 10 Fabulous Finds on South Yunnan Road – Shanghai