Tag Archives: dining

Tokyo for the New Year: Ushigoro

Austrian Airlines Business Class Chicago to Vienna
Austrian Airlines Business Class Schengen Lounge Vienna
Austrian Airlines Regional Business Class Vienna to Prague
Turkish Airlines Regional Business Class Prague to Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Istanbul to Tokyo Narita
Park Hyatt Tokyo
Shinjuku Kuyakushomae Capsule Hotel
Ushigoro
Hilton Narita
Narita-san Shinsho-ji
Swiss Business Class Tokyo Narita to Zurich
Park Hyatt Zurich
Oneworld Lounge Zurich Airport
Swiss Business Lounge Zurich Airport
Austrian Airlines Regional Business Class Zurich to Vienna
Austrian Airlines Business Class Vienna to Chicago


The best meal that I ate in Tokyo–and one of the best meals I ate in 2013–was at a yakiniku restaurant called Ushigoro. This restaurant was recommended to me by my friend Aimal who spent two months working in Tokyo earlier in 2013.

I don’t like making reservations in advance for fancy restaurants during short trips, as I’m never sure what my jet lag will be like and if I’ll want to eat a 2-hour meal at 7pm on the first day I’m in a new city. As a result, I didn’t make reservations for this restaurant until I arrived at the Park Hyatt. Luckily, when the concierge called, there was space available for me that same night at 5pm, provided that I finish my meal by 6:30pm, which I was happy to do.

The restaurant is located in Roppongi, roughly a 10 minute walk from the Roppongi metro station.

Restaurant facade

Restaurant facade

I was the first diner to be seated. At the table was a bib to wear instead of a napkin. I’m not sure if this is a traditional thing, but the food wasn’t messy at all so I’m not sure why they offered a bib.

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They have one waiter who speaks fluent English, and he was quite friendly and willing to explain to me how to eat each course (he also remembered Aimal from his numerous visits). My friend had recommended that I get the most expensive set menu (10,000 yen), which isn’t actually listed in the English menu, so that’s what I went with. As a result, I’m not 100% positive on what I ate at times, so I apologize for mislabeling in advance.

English menu (but not exactly what I ordered)

English menu (but not exactly what I ordered)

I was first served an assortment of kimchi and a small, simply dressed salad. The kimchi wasn’t overly spicy or overly sauced, and it was a great, crunchy, slightly sweet and spicy assortment of vegetables to get my mouth excited for what was to come.

Assorted kimchi and salad

Assorted kimchi and salad

The first three courses of beef were all served raw. From left-to-right, it seemed to be a take on carpaccio, tartare, and sushi. I don’t have much experience eating raw beef, but each of these bites was astounding, with the beef sushi being the best piece of sushi I had in Tokyo (better than the sushi I had at the Tsukiji fish market).

Raw beef three ways

Raw beef three ways

Next up were three different cuts of beef that were grilled by my server. Since each cut was relatively thick, this was done to make sure that I didn’t overcook or undercook the beef myself. There were a couple of garnishes as accompaniments, as well as a healthy serving of freshly grated wasabi. Unlike the fake stuff that’s endemic in the US, this wasabi tasted fresh and subtle. Each cut of meat was cooked perfectly, with a nice sear on the outside and the juiciest, most succulent red meat on the inside. The meat was also well-seasoned, highlighting the incredible flavor of the beef. While it’s clear that this meat had a lot of fat content to be so flavorful, nothing felt fatty.

Three cuts of beef to be grilled

Three cuts of beef to be grilled

Freshly grated wasabi

Freshly grated wasabi

Beef on the grill

Beef on the grill

I was then served a bowl of soup with a meatball. While I’m sure that people who enjoy soup would have liked this more, this was my least favorite course of the night.

Meatball soup

Meatball soup

The next course was a large, thin slice of sirloin grilled by my server and then rolled up and dipped into a delicious ponzu sauce with radish. The meat was tender and yielding to my teeth and yet so full of flavor, which is usually rare to find with beef.

Grilled and rolled sirloin

Grilled and rolled sirloin

The accompaniments for the next round of beef included a teriyaki-like sauce, an egg, and some rice. For this round of meat, I was to grill it myself, and each piece needed only a couple of second per side to be cooked. Again, each cut of meat was immensely flavorful without feeling fatty or too rich, and the accompaniments provided a nice slightly sweet and yolky contrast.

Dipping sauces for the next round of meats

Dipping sauces for the next round of meats

Three cuts of meat to be grilled on your own

Three cuts of meat to be grilled on your own

The last savory dish was a Japanese curry, which was the best Japanese curry I’ve ever had. The curry was complex and flavorful, and each bite made me want to eat another to unravel another layer of flavor.

Special Japanese curry

Special Ushigoro curry

Finally, I had the pudding for dessert, which was creamy and delightful and a great conclusion to the meal.

Pudding for dessert

Pudding for dessert

I have never had beef like I had at Ushigoro. Granted, I generally lean toward vegetarian tendencies, so it’s not like I’m hitting up steakhouses on a weekly basis in the US, but this was by far the best quality and best tasting beef I’ve ever eaten in my life. If all meat in the world tasted this good, I would finally understand why people eat so much meat.

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Random Travel Thoughts New Year’s Edition

I’m currently writing this from the Park Hyatt Tokyo, which is definitely the nicest and classiest hotel I’ve ever had the pleasure to stay at (granted, I haven’t stayed at that many hotels in my life). Here are some random things that are on my mind:

1. I feel so, so grateful to be able to have the experiences that I do, and a large part of what enables many of these experiences is miles and points. I doubt I’d ever have the chance to stay at the Park Hyatt Tokyo if it weren’t for points (or better yet, free night certificates via the Chase Hyatt credit card).

2. T-Mobile’s new free data roaming thing is pretty great. I took a rather circuitous routing to get to Tokyo, and in Vienna, Prague, and Istanbul, my phone was able to pick up 3G data. It’s nice to not have to worry about getting internet access or renting phones or paying extra to get basic international services via your current carrier, and this will definitely change the way that I travel.

3. I flew Austrian and Turkish in long-haul business class for the first times to get here. Austrian was disappointing because the service was honestly not very good (well, there was one flight attendant out of all of them who was actually good, but the rest were just inattentive and not helpful), and they didn’t have their typical meal service or the coffee menu. Turkish was good in most respects, and the Turkish lounge at IST is definitely the nicest business class lounge I’ve ever been to. Both Austrian and Turkish use Do & Co for their catering, and Do & Co is supposed to be the best out there, but these flights just reminded me that A) if I want gourmet food, I should eat it on the ground, and B) if my goal is to create experiences, I should forgo business class and save up for first class instead.

4. Speaking of food, I just ate one of the best meals of this year at a restaurant called Ushigoro. I’m not a big meat eater, and this was just course after course of beef, but I still loved it (although I might regret it in a couple of hours). Thanks to Aimal for the recommendation!

Eating in Hong Kong

Here’s a sampling of things that I ate in Hong Kong.

Tsui Wah
You’re not going to find anything gourmet here, but I do think it’s an interesting experience, especially if you come at 4:30am as I did on my first jetlagged morning in Hong Kong. Tsui Wah is a chain of restaurants that are essentially diners, so they’re popular with the drunk crowd late at night (the location that I went to in Central is open 24 hours).

Tsui Wah at 4:30am

Tsui Wah at 4:30am

Dim Sum
I went to the Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, One Dim Sum near Prince Edward MTR, and Dim Sum Square in Sheung Wan for dim sum during my stay. All were good and cheap and better than anything that I’d had in the US, but I wouldn’t say any of them was phenomenal or a must-eat, and I still can’t believe that Tim Ho Wan and One Dim Sum have Michelin stars.

The fabled Tim Ho Wan pork buns

The fabled Tim Ho Wan pork buns

The best item was (of course) the BBQ pork buns at Tim Ho Wan (Dim Sum Square had a very similar version). Rather than the steamed or baked versions that are common in the US, these have a sort of snowball-fried-sweet top, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever had before. It’s light and airy yet fatty and sweet. It does get a little too sweet-on-sweet for me, as the bun is quite sweet and the filling is also sweet so it gets to be almost cloying.

One Dim Sum

One Dim Sum

Other items that I tried included turnip cake, sponge cake, and rice noodle rolls, but none of the other items that I tried were that much better than what I’ve had elsewhere. I definitely wouldn’t wait more than half an hour to eat at any of these places. For what it’s worth, I was seated immediately at Tim Ho Wan, although I went relatively early in the morning.

Yardbird
This place was recommended to me by a friend, and it was also mentioned in the NYTimes somewhat recently. As such, it’s pretty popular and waits can be quite long, so plan to get there early.

This restaurant is a restaurant that I’d expect to find in a place like San Francisco or New York: much of the waitstaff is not Chinese, menus are completely in English, and prices are high. It’s a yakitori place, so think skewers of chicken. I had the waiter order for me, and I ended up trying the eggplant salad, sweet corn tempura, meatball, heart, rib, and korean fried cauliflower.

Chicken hearts at Yardbird

Chicken hearts at Yardbird

All of the food was flavorful, but I got a little bored with some of the flavor profiles quickly. In particular, the most lauded dishes of sweet corn tempura, meatball, and KFC were all pretty one-note. Flavorful, yes, but interesting, not really. Coupled with relatively high prices (my food was ~$50 for not that much actual food, and it’s Hong Kong, where you can get a meal for <$5), it’s not a place that I’d highly recommend, but it’s worth trying.

Joy Hing
This was another place recommended by a friend, and I really enjoyed the simplicity of good BBQ pork on top of a bed of rice. This place isn’t fancy and it’s crowded and busy and you won’t have enough space and there’s no English, but it’s good food (and it’s cheap). Get a plate of whatever meat you want on top of rice (the recommendation being BBQ pork, of course), pour the special sauce on top, and enjoy.

Joy Hing's BBQ pork on rice

Joy Hing’s BBQ pork on rice

Joy Hing kitchen

Joy Hing kitchen

A similar place that I enjoyed was Yat Lok, although I missed out on the roast goose because I was there too early, but my bowl of noodles was just simple and tasty.

Breakfast at Yat Lok

Breakfast at Yat Lok

Australia Dairy Company
If you want an authentic dining experience in Hong Kong, brave the lines and eat at Australia Dairy Company (don’t worry, the lines move quickly). There are hordes of people inside and out and tons of workers moving people quickly through the restaurant. They even have English menus (or they at least have one), but it might take a while to get to you.

Scrambled eggs and egg custard from Australia Dairy Company

Scrambled eggs and egg custard from Australia Dairy Company

They’re known for their scrambled eggs and egg custards. I’m not sure they’re the best scrambled eggs I’ve had (that distinction probably still lies with Gartine in Amsterdam), but the food was tasty, and it feels like you’re part of Hong Kong’s bustle when you’re squished into your table with people running around, sharing a table with strangers.

Desserts
I’ll be honest, I was disappointed with egg tarts in Hong Kong. The egg tart I had from Lillian’s in Shanghai was better than the egg tarts I tried from Tai Cheong and Honolulu Coffee Shop.

What I wasn’t disappointed by were the desserts at Cong Sao and the drinks at Hui Lau Shan. Cong Sao has lots of desserts that are variations of tropical fruit (e.g. mango, durian) with potentially frozen things (e.g. shaved ice) and probably gelatinous things (e.g. mochi, boba, but not those things). Hui Lau Shan also has some of those things, but they’re better known for their ridiculously tasty and refreshing and sweet-but-not-too-sweet drinks.

Durian ice cream with stuff

Durian ice cream with stuff

B3 at Hui Lau Shan: mango, coconut, and aloe

B3 at Hui Lau Shan: mango, coconut, and aloe

Concluding Thoughts
Hong Kong has lots of good, cheap food. They also have some very, very expensive food that I did not try this time around, but I will try to get to some of those places on my next trip. I was kinda expecting more things to just blow me away like what I ate on my trip to Shanghai, but perhaps it’s just because I’m more familiar with a lot of the foods I ate in Hong Kong that I was a little less impressed.

Late Night Eating in Helsinki

My second and final day in Helsinki, I did something rather stupid and let myself fall asleep at 4pm. I was exhausted and jetlagged (I find it harder to travel east than west) and ended up sleeping for 8+ hours and thus woke up past midnight without having eaten dinner.

There is not much to do in Helsinki in November; there is not much to do in Helsinki on a Sunday; there is not much to do in Helsinki between the hours of midnight and 6am. Combine all three of those, and I felt like I was in a bit of a pickle, especially since I was getting hungry.

After doing a little bit of research online, I found just about the only two restaurants open at 1am on a Sunday night: 1) a random hamburger stand that was featured in the New York Times many years ago and is best known for serving something called the “Kannibal”; and 2) McDonald’s. I ended up going to both.

I’m sure that during the summer months, Jaskan Grilli is much more crowded, but in November, it was dead. I was heartened to see light inside of the little stand, although I’m sure that they don’t do much business during the winter months.

Jaskan Grilli

Jaskan Grilli

Approaching the stand, everything was in Finnish. And the woman working there didn’t speak much English besides “hamburger” and “hot dog”. And there wasn’t anyone around to ask for help. So I ended up communicating to her that she should just give me anything, and she ended up making me what I believe is the Jaskan hamburger, which is two patties, an egg, and a slice of cheddar in a roll, and slathering it in all of the sauces and condiments.

The vast menu

The vast menu

I'm pretty sure this is the Jaskan Hampurilainen aka Jaskan hamburger

I’m pretty sure this is the Jaskan Hampurilainen aka Jaskan hamburger (6 euro)

This was unlike any other hamburger I’ve eaten. I think that it’s quite rare to find a good burger outside of the US, but this was oddly tasty with the confusing number of sauces and components. I got rid of most of the cheese bits, but the meat patties themselves were a little lean but still flavorful, and some of the sauces were pretty darn delicious. The garlic sauce in particular was potent and tasty (I could still taste it after brushing my teeth twice).

After eating a burger, I naturally wanted fries, so I stopped by the McDonald’s in the Sokos mall that’s open 24 hours a day. Inside, most of the patrons appeared to be drunk Russian people, with all of the women ordering fries only and all of the men ordering at least 2 burgers.

The 24-hours McDonald's

The 24-hours McDonald’s

Russian tourists

Russian tourists

All in all, I didn’t have many options open late at night on a Sunday in Helsinki, but I was pretty satisfied after my trek to Jaskan Grilli and McDonald’s. I’m sure that Jaskan Grilli would be a great place to visit on a summer night when lots more people are around (and can help you order), but it’s definitely the epitome of greasy drunk food.

Dining Review: Luomo, Helsinki, Finland

Eating out in Helsinki is generally expensive, and I hate spending money on mediocre food, so I figured that I might as well just splurge a little bit and get significantly nicer food. One of my new year’s resolutions was to eat 12 new Michelin stars this year, and Helsinki features 5 starred restaurants, so I was in luck.

I ended up walking in to Luomo around 9:30pm, as I had passed out for a couple of hours after checking into my hotel and didn’t wake up until 9pm. I first tried to get a table at Olo, but they were full for the night (and completely booked about 3 weeks out when I started thinking about reservations). Luomo is located only a block away, and both are located right next to the market square.

The actual restaurant is located on the second floor of a building, so you need to walk up some stairs in a sterile hallway, but the restaurant itself features a minimalist decor.

Restaurant entrance

Restaurant entrance

You can order 3, 5, or 7 courses from the menu. 3 courses gets you one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert, while 5 courses gets you all three appetizers, one entree, and one dessert. I opted for all 7 courses, and it looked like all the tables around me did the same.

Menu for the night

Menu for the night

To start, I received 4 amuse bouches that were different plays on things found in the market square located nearby. First was a meat pie ice cream served with ketchup, then a cup of “coffee” made out of black olive puree, next a spoon of yogurt with leek made to look like bird poop, and finally a taste of herring and fennel. This was both the best and worst dish of the night: while I loved the playfulness and fanciful nature of these bites, none was actually very tasty.

Amuse bouches

Amuse bouches

The first official course was a medley of different mushrooms and preparations. It was rich, earthy, and flavorful, with contrasting textures from the various kinds of mushrooms and thick foam that made the “porridge”. It was served with a brioche studded with mushrooms. This course was crazy delicious, and one of my favorite dishes of the nice. As an aside, the butter was well salted and served at room temperature and thus easily spreadable, two things that I always appreciate.

Forest mushroom porridge

Forest mushroom porridge

The next course was a lobster tartare served with pieces of lobster and various purees. To me, this dish was good, but a couple of the purees were a little too acrid and pungent, so the balance was off.

Lobster and rose

Lobster and rose

The third course and final appetizer (although all appetizers were pretty large portions) was duck marinated in anise served with pumpkin. I think it was supposed to be a soup, but it was a little confusing because they didn’t pour very much liquid into my bowl, and the liquid that they did pour wasn’t hot. I’m not sure if the temperature was intentional, but the pumpkin/licorice/duck combo worked well together. This course was accompanied by a sage roll.

Duck, pumpkin, and licorice

Duck, pumpkin, and licorice

The first entree of smoked whitefish was served with a little bit of showmanship. The course was brought covered by a glass shell to hold in the smoke, and then the shell was removed to uncover the fish and release the smoke. While the dish was competently executed and cooked well, the fish was not particularly memorable except for the presentation.

Smoked whitefish

Smoked whitefish

Next up was an intermezzo of dried apple, apple jelly, and apple ice.

Intermezzo of apple ice

Intermezzo of apple ice

For the second main course, I had lamb served with artichoke puree, cous cous, citron, and a rosemary focaccia. At this point, I was quite full of savory foods as the portions were much larger than I expected, so I couldn’t finish the plate, but I again couldn’t find fault with the execution of the lamb although it was not particularly memorable.

Lamb "Marrakesh"

Lamb “Marrakesh”

Before dessert came a pre-dessert of sweetgrass panna cotta with dried berry powders. This was one of my favorite things of the night as there was a great contrast between the delicate flavor of the panna cotta and the bold tartness of the dried berries. This dish also felt extremely Nordic and local, which I enjoyed.

Pre-dessert: sweetgrass panna cotta

Pre-dessert: sweetgrass panna cotta

Dessert #1 was a deconstructed carrot cake of carrot puree, carrot foam, marinated carrots, carrot cake crumble, cream cheese foam, and cream cheese ice cream. This was fun, playful, and had a nice carrot flavor, but there were probably 2 too many components on the plate.

Deconstructed carrot cake

Deconstructed carrot cake

The second dessert was a chocolate cake with a molten chocolate chai ganache on the inside, chocolate sauce, chai ice cream, and chai crumbles. The balance of textures was great, with the cake, the liquid filling, the ice cream, and the chai crumbles which had a chew to them. This dish wasn’t overly chocolatey but still incredibly rich and decadent.

Chai and chocolate

Chai and chocolate

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this meal and thoroughly enjoyed it. The service was competent (although sometimes hard to understand, particularly near the ends of descriptions of dishes when they would just seem to sort of trail off and their accents would seem to get thicker), and the pacing was deliberate (my meal took about 2.5 hours). The food was extremely well executed, with a couple of memorable dishes, and the food was a good combination of Nordic cuisine with a touch of molecular gastronomy. At 85 euro for 7 courses, I also think that this is a relatively good deal for this kind and quality of food (also considering the relative expensiveness of Finland and that 85 euro is inclusive of tax and gratuity).

Eating in Shanghai

Breaking Down Two Mileage Runs for 30,000 EQMs to get AA Executive Platinum
Getting a Chinese Visa
Planning a Mileage Run to Shanghai
Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines
Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Shanghai
Eating in Shanghai
Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na
First Class Lounge (No. 69) Shanghai Pudong PVG
Concluding Thoughts on My Mileage Run to Shanghai


Yang’s Fry Dumpling
Holy moly, this was possibly the best $1 I’ve ever spent on food. I went to a location on the day that I arrived and loved it so much that I knew I had to eat it again the next day. Yang’s is a chain that serves pan-fried soup dumplings (生煎包), and I’ve eaten plenty of dumplings in my life, but these are probably the best I’ve ever had (including Din Tai Fung). It’s like a soup dumpling, but it’s pan fried on the bottom so it’s crunchy and textured, and it seems all the more miraculous that there’s so much soup inside.

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One of the locations that I visited

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People making deliciousness

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It’s 6 yuan (~$1) for 4. Given how meaty and soupy and fried these are, 4 was a good number for me as a mini-meal or hearty snack.

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Hot sauce and vinegar

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The juicy innards

If you go to Shanghai, I think you must go to this place at least once. It’s so cheap and ridiculously delicious, and I’ve never had anything even close to this in the US. And there are a number of locations in the city, so chances are you’ll be able to find one not too far from you.

Jian Bing (煎餅)
This isn’t a place, but rather a street food that you can get. I got mine on Fengyang Road between Huanghe Road and Xinchang Road just north of People’s Park (bonus: there’s also a Yang’s Fry Dumpling on Huanghe Road around here). Essentially, this is a Chinese version of a crepe, and it’s also ridiculously delicious. If Yang’s was the best $1 I’ve ever spent on food, this might have been the best 60 cents I’ve ever spent on food. After waiting in line, the man made me a crepe that was sweet, savory, spicy, crunchy, and pliant. All for 3.5 yuan.

The storefront

The storefront

The master

The master at work

All those delicious layers: crepe, onions, cilantro, crispiness, savory sauce, spicy sauce, and probably lots of other stuff that I can't identify

All those delicious layers: crepe, onions, cilantro, crispiness, savory sauce, spicy sauce, and probably lots of other stuff that I can’t identify

This is another must eat, again because I’ve never had anything like this in the US. And it’s also ridiculously, ridiculously cheap. You should only be limited by your stomach space.

Dou jiang (豆浆) and you tiao (油条)
Again, another food item(s) rather than a place. Not far from where I got the jian bing, I saw some tables on the side of the street and lots of locals sitting down over bowls of dou jiang aka soy milk. I was super full from eating other things, so I just watched for a while as I marveled at these two people cooking up all sorts of food and locals coming and going, but eventually, one of the women goaded me into ordering something. How could I say no to a hot bowl of soy milk and a Chinese donut (literally translates to oil stick, but it’s like fried dough)? So I sat down with my food, dipped my donut into my milk, and relished an extremely local experience.

The "restaurant"

The “restaurant”

Some of the foods on offer

Some of the foods on offer

My soy milk and donut. Total cost: 2.4 yuan (~40 cents)

My soy milk and donut. Total cost: 2.4 yuan (~40 cents)

This isn’t a must eat, as you can find this in the US pretty easily, but it was extremely enjoyable.  And again, it’s super cheap, so why wouldn’t you try it? Warning: you probably won’t find much English at places like this, but you can probably get by using gestures and pointing. You might end up with things that you might not expect (e.g. salty soy milk), but it’s all so cheap that it probably doesn’t matter that much.

Lillian’s Egg Tarts
Egg tarts are very common in the US, but the egg tarts from Lillian’s are the best I’ve ever had. Living in SF, I don’t understand why people go orgasmic over Golden Gate Bakery’s egg tarts and wait in long lines, but I could totally understand waiting for an hour for Lillian’s egg tarts. But in Shanghai, there aren’t any lines for Lillian’s! Imagine the perfect cream for a creme brulee with a flaky but not dry crust and an almost cheese-like quality because it’s so rich. All for only 4 yuan. Yes please.

Storefront in the basement of the New World Mall near People's Park at the west end of the pedestrian part of Nanjing Road

Storefront in the basement of the New World Mall near People’s Park at the west end of the pedestrian part of Nanjing Road

So many delicious egg tarts

So many delicious egg tarts

The perfect egg tart?

The perfect egg tart?

Things That I Think You Should Pass On
Two other places that I ate at during my short trip to Shanghai were Lost Heaven and Nanxiang Mantou Dian, but I think both were overrated. Lost Heaven offers Yunnan cuisine and a decent ambiance (although it’s very reminiscent of an Asian restaurant in the US trying too hard to be ethnic and hip), but the food is pretty pricey by Shanghai standards (I ordered three dishes for 156 yuan or a little over $25) and not that memorable. Perhaps I ordered the wrong things, but I felt like I wasted valuable stomach space at this restaurant. As an aside, they also seemed really weirded out that I was dining alone.

Entrance to Lost Heaven in the French Concession

Entrance to Lost Heaven in the French Concession

It's a "nice" restaurant in Shanghai

It’s a “nice” restaurant in Shanghai

Green beans, Yunnan rice cakes, and Yunnan vegetable cakes. All pretty meh.

Green beans, Yunnan rice cakes, and Yunnan vegetable cakes. All pretty meh.

Nanxiang mantou dian is famous for their xiaolongbao (小笼包) aka soup dumplings, and people reportedly wait in very long lines for their dumplings. They’re cheap (20 yuan for 16 when I went) and good and better than most soup dumplings you’ll encounter in the US, but I’ve eaten at Din Tai Fung a number of times and prefer their soup dumplings, even though DTF’s are considerably pricier. But if you’re looking for cheap and delicious dumplings, I don’t understand why you would go to Nanxiang rather than Yang’s.

Nanxiang Mantou Dian in the Yu Garden complex. It's a fun place to walk around.

Nanxiang Mantou Dian in the Yu Garden complex. It’s a fun place to walk around.

16 dumplings for 20 yuan (~$3). The teapot is full of vinegar.

16 dumplings for 20 yuan (~$3). The teapot is full of vinegar.

Soup dumpling!

Soup dumpling!

Overall
I ate some ridiculously delicious food in Shanghai. I’m still salivating over the thought of Yang’s pan-fried soup dumplings and that jian bing I got on the side of the road. And it’s all the more remarkable that you can get both of those things for less than a dollar each.

Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines

Breaking Down Two Mileage Runs for 30,000 EQMs to get AA Executive Platinum
Getting a Chinese Visa
Planning a Mileage Run to Shanghai
Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines
Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Shanghai
Eating in Shanghai
Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na
First Class Lounge (No. 69) Shanghai Pudong PVG
Concluding Thoughts on My Mileage Run to Shanghai


On my trip to Shanghai, I received 6 distinct VGML (strict vegetarian) economy meals/snacks on American Airlines. American doesn’t offer that many special meal options, but they have the basics.

First up was curried chickpeas with rice, broccoli, and a single carrot. This entree was the exact same entree as what I received on my flight on AA’s Flagship Service between JFK and SFO, but in a smaller portion and with sadder accompaniments. The carrots were still both mushy yet unchewable, a scientific feat if there ever were one, and they’re still serving a non-vegan margarine. But in all fairness, the entree is perfectly edible, except for the carrot.

I've had this meal before

I’ve had this meal before

For the mid-flight snack on flight number 1, I got some sort of wrap with wild rice and cranberries and other vaguely unidentifiable objects in it. It was confusing.

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Meal #3 served prior to arrival was some sort of pasta dish with cherry tomatoes and yellow peppers, but I have no idea what the white cheese-like curds were. They were flavorless, so that supports the idea that this dish was still vegan, but I can’t fathom why they chose to use flavorless unidentifiable white things as sauce instead of something like a basic tomato sauce. As a plus, the cantaloupe was sweet.

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All in all, the meals for my flight from ORD to PVG were unimpressive, but the meals on the way back were slightly better.

The fourth meal didn’t look promising, but it was surprisingly tasty. The couscous had flavor even without the tomato sauce, and the dessert was more interesting than a piece of fruit, but I’m not sure why they even bothered with the salad, and the bread roll was one of the toughest things I’ve ever tried to eat. I tried to rip off a piece with my hands and gave up.

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The mid-flight snack was a mini sandwich with pesto, green pepper, and squash. Somehow, the bread for this sandwich was edible while the bread that came with the previous meal was not.

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Finally, this wasn’t the strictly VGML meal since the flight attendant just gave me the normal meal as she said that the vegetarian meal was the same thing but much, much sadder. But again, given how terrible the roll in meal #4 was, I was surprised that the croissant and muffin were quite edible in this meal.

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Overall, I’d say that this was probably on par with the VGML meals I got on Air Canada, which is to say not that great. Surprisingly, I think that United does a pretty good job with their VGML meals.