Vegetarian Lifestyle AKA JuJuBe Tree 枣子树 Restaurant Review : Shanghai

§ 33 comments

Shanghai Header

Multiple Locations: Official Website (Chinese) Listings On Happy Cow

Shanghai, China

~$10 USD/person with drinks

Restaurant Type : Fine Dining | Casual
Diamonds : ♦♦♦♦♦♦

Even in the winter, where the night sky darkens early and fog roils from the Pearl River, Shanghai has it’s own luminesence. We’ve spent the day shopping, and my arms are full of parcels—stationary from Muji, a black velvet jacket that’s so outré that I probably should never wear it, and a Victorian styled dress for my friend. The street behind the mall is bustling. Though we are far away from the stately Bund district, and from the shiny new metro, the city sidewalks are teeming with people. Fellow shoppers, taxi drivers, and office workers swarm around us. We round a corner and—there—in the middle of glass skyscrapers and under neon is a branch of JuJuBe Tree, a successful chain of vegetarian restaurants local to Shanghai.

I’m always suspicious of any restaurant with more than a single branch—all too often an expansion to a second location seems to stretch resources too far—but JuJuBe Tree is special. Despite phone-book thick menus and large dining rooms, the food on offer is kept both simple, and seasonal—a surefire recipe for success no matter where you are in the world.

The hostess, sporting a bob and thick-framed retro glasses grins as we come in the door. I don’t know how she’s memorized our faces so quickly, but she greets us warmly by name, and takes us upstairs. The restaurant is indeed large, with a dining room across two expansive floors. This—an area with a tea house theme, up the stairs and perched over the first floor—is our favourite spot. There are bamboo accents and round windows that overlook the street, and we sit at two low, upholstered, benches across a dainty table. A faint scent of tea ingers in the air, seeping from a display case of both leaves and paraphenelia, and filling our nostrils with warmth.

A second host arrives with a pot of piping hot jasmine tea, and pours for us as we work our way through the menu. It bristles like an aggravated hedge-hog, there are inserts with wintery foods—burdock root, mushrooms, and winter melon feature prominently; and others with an assortment of specialty drinks.

We sip and flip leisurely through the menu. Eventually settling on a cold salad with peanuts, cucumber, and tofu; winter melon soup; a dish of blanched potatoes with spicy chillies and vinegar; asparagus with lily bulbs; and home-style tofu-sheets of thin tofu battered and fried, then dressed with red pepper and a spicy sauce. Because there are only two of us, we beg for small portions, eplaining that while we don’t mind paying the full price, we’ve nowhere to take leftovers. No problem.

Out food comes in fairly short order, and it’s excellent. The salad is delicious, though cold tofu may sound unappealling to anyone who’s bitten off an erasery chunk of firm grocery store tofu, this is fresh an creamy. It has texture, and a bright taste that’s somewhere between edamame and freshly prepared coconut milk. It’s been pickled lightly in a briney sauce that perfectly compliments the crunchy peanuts and chunks of cucumber—we’re smitten. It’s a dish we’d love to recreate at home, but know we’ll likely never crack, even living beside a tofu factory, it’s hard to get this fresh a tofu unless you make it yourself. Slightly spicy, it goes perfectly with the too huge bowl of sooup, melon balls, enoki mushrooms, and a dozen other funguses floating in a faintly umami and faintly floral broth. The taste is entirely a Chinese one, and I’m left searching as I try to come up with a Western analog. Like congee, I suspect it’s something you taste once, and take or leave for life. I’m slurping up huge sips, delighting especially in the fluid crunch of the melon, but my travel companion’s face is puckered at the bitter flavours.

“You love that? Really?”

Perhaps I’ve oversold it. I leave her the majority of the salad and suck back the entire bowl myself.

The server looks at me a little askance as she collects the leavings of our first few items. She asks us how things were, and I look at her like a happy puppy-dog, with soup like drool dripping off my chin. “Quite excellent, really good!”

I think I’m so stuffed with soup, that I’ll never eat again, but when the rest of our food comes the garlic and spice aroma changes my mind.

The blanched potato noodles send me all the way back to SiChuan, they’re threaded through with bright red chili, and the vinegary sauce is pungent and tart. Like a coal fire in my belly, they stoke my engine, and before I know it I’m devouring the home style (Jia Chang 家常) tofu. It’s a dish that’s almost hard to find in restaurants, because it’s so common at home. First, drained medium firm tofu is cut into thin centimeter thick slices, then it’s tossed in a light starch coating and fried before being served with a rich pungent sauce. It’s the perfect companion to the potato noodles, holding it’s own due to it’s own heat and blockbuster spice. The secret ingredient in good home-style tofu is HauJiao, or Pirckly Ash, the pepper-corn like berry of a plant related to juniper, it produces a tongue numbing, head elevating sensation, a sort of dull heat that’s hard to quantify, it’s not hot like ghost pepper, but produces a similar sensation without the teary-eyed choking. It’s not super hot at all, but it is super delicious when used in the right was, as in this case. My friend and I are left with flushed cheeks and tingling abdomens as we fight over the last few pieces. By unspoken agreement, we’ve saved the asparagus and lily for last. Lily bulb has a sweet and starchy refreshing flavour, that works well with umami ingredients like asparagus, together, the two scrub our palates clean. This dish is prepared with olive oil rather than the more ubiquitous sesame, and it has a clean sprightly taste. It’s the perfect denoument to a fantastic supper.

After we finish, we chat for a while over yet more tea. The hostess stops by to say hello, and we chat in broken English and Chinese about the west coast of Canada being a little like Southern China, all beautigul mountains and emerald green. When we get the bill we see they’ve charged us half-price for half-portions, we attempt to tip generously. but when we make our escape out into the night, our server runs after us:

You needn’t tip! Don’t be polite!

We smile, and know we’ll be back, and wonder how, on the other side of the Pacific, in a restaurant as large as our apartment building, we can feel so at home.

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§ 33 Responses to Vegetarian Lifestyle AKA JuJuBe Tree 枣子树 Restaurant Review : Shanghai"

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    • Kathy says:

      Your’s is a point of view where real inlegtilence shines through.

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    • http://www./ says:

      Lamidzat & Zerb : On trouve dans les Mémoires de PitjeSnot la curieuse insulte qu’est scheile napoléon et une femme stupide était traitée de scheil trut ! Mate la, sans couette !Doit-on comprendre que Sheila─qui a désigné dans les années 70, une femme stupide─ est un emprunt au belge scheil ?[Que de tubes à jeter]

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      Does anyone use Herbalife products anymore?I use to sell the products in my area, but it’s a small area and ran out of customers. I do still have my discount. So, figured maybe I should let people who still use the products use my discount. Since I don’t use it anymore maybe someone out there could get the products a little cheaper for themselves. I could sure use someones insite on the idea.

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  • http://www./ says:

    The first cup of tea is nice but your Hammersley & Co. I love. Your Chintz paragon feels luxurious and elegant. I wish you a nice day! Zinnia

  • http://www./ says:

    ” 문어”is “octpus” so I suspect their translate with intentionally this record.Actually there are legendary creature caled 鮫人(kind of snake-like marmaid) in china , which is crawded creature. Maybe “é­°é­š” implies this.It is appear that it implies Sealion(or Seals)s and It has written “可支魚”.

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