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November 25, 2010

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Shishang serves up the right amount of spice

SHISHANG is a charming Sichuan restaurant with an air of nostalgia due to its China circa-1960s decor.

The restaurant on Yandang Road, just off of Huaihai Road, features wooden tables and chairs, as well as old bowls and plates from that era. It also has very reasonable prices.

"From a very young age, I started collecting such old stuff related to the 'cultural revolution' (1966-76)," says Shi Xiang, the restaurant's owner.

Shishang even features a slogan - Eat Well and Sleep Well Every Day - at the entrance that harks back to the 1960s.

Shi says he decided to open the restaurant after last year's traveling to Sichuan Province, where he met two young chefs. He decided to combine his two favorites - Sichuan food with 1960s China.

Shishang opened in August 2009.

Signature dishes include pork lung in chili sauce, which is served cold, and bullfrog although foreign diners tend to prefer mapo tofu, kung-pao chicken or braised beef brisket with potatoes.

Shi says there is one regular customer, a foreigner, who visits the restaurant twice a week.

"He orders the same dish - braised beef brisket with potatoes and two bowls of rice - every time. I feel happy that he sees our restaurant as his home kitchen," says Shi, smiling.

Shi says he never expected the restaurant to be so successful.

The two-story restaurant is always full for the dinner crowd, especially during weekends.

"During the Expo period, we welcomed a lot of travelers from all over the world and other cities in China," Shi says.

The good location near to Huaihai Road commercial circle might be one of important reasons, but the low cost is also hard to be ignored.

The average cost for a meal is about 30 yuan (US$4.5) per person. There are also five to six choices of daily specials with each dish costing as little as 8 yuan.

Shi says he sources ingredients from Sichuan and that the restaurant's chefs are all from the province.

The owner says it hasn't always been easy and he's had a lot to learn since opening Shishang.

"As first I insisted on authentic Sichuan food and ignored the tastes of local people and others who can't eat such spicy cuisine," says Shi, who formerly worked in the advertising industry.

He soon learned to cut back on the amount of spice and added some new dishes, including a few Shanghainese favorites.

Shi says customers can now choose how spicy they want for each dish.

With Shishang doing so well, the owner plans to open another restaurant next year.

"It will be a new site for young people who are interested in trendy cuisine," says Shi, who is considering a movie theme.

It will feature Sichuan, Cantonese and even some Western food. He plans to open the restaurant around Xinle Road and Xiangyang Road.

Open: 10:30am-1am

Address: 17 Yandang Rd (close to Huaihai Rd)

Tel: 6385-0085


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