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A taste of history that comes with good taste

LUXURY restaurants abound in Shanghai, but the Junyue Restaurant on Yongjia Road offers its patrons a lot more than a rich menu. Nie Xin looks over the history and style of a classic city eatery.

For most Chinese people, abalone and shark's fin are a culinary luxury. Only at very important occasions such as a wedding is an abalone or shark's fin dish served.

Sure, there are plenty of restaurants in Shanghai serving this kind of food, but few of them are like the Junyue Restaurant on Yongjia Road which not only serves quality dishes, but also provides a historical regal atmosphere.

Junyue Restaurant, also known as the Red Wall Restaurant, reopened in autumn 2003 after a six-month renovation.

At the corner of Yongjia and Wulumuqi roads, it's found inside the Yongjia Villa, surrounded by lush trees.

The villa covers 2,000 square meters and both of its buildings are in a classic British style.

One of them has more than 100 years of history. It used to be a private residence for celebrities in old Shanghai, such as Premier Zhou Enlai (1898-1976) who once lived there when he was in Shanghai.

The other one was built in the 1970s by the Shanghai government and now the whole villa belongs to the government.

"Upon my first arrival here in 2003, I fell in love with it at first sight and made my decision to open a restaurant," recalls He Xiaoping, one of the owners of the restaurant.

The rental is not cheap - about 110,000 yuan (US$16,090) per month. And decorating and maintaining the historical villa are even more difficult.

He and her husband, Zhang Huimin, have spent more than 8 million yuan on decoration and maintenance over six years.

"But the luxury and royal atmosphere of old Shanghai cannot be found in other places," says He.

Now the older house is set aside for VIP rooms. The three-story house contains four VIP rooms, three large areas and a smaller room. The large hall in the new house can accommodate more than 80 people.

Since its opening in 2003, Junyue Restaurant has become one of the favorite venues for celebrities in Shanghai. From TV hosts to the stars of traditional Chinese opera, it's always easy to spot familiar faces when you dine there.

The restaurant serves Cantonese and Shanghainese food, like abalone, shark's fin, sea food, dim sums and soups, and the dim sums are now discounted by 50 percent at lunch time.

Junyue's menu features a new concept - "Villa Food." Delicious food, silver dishes and spoons, elegant houses - all these help bring you more than just fine flavors.

The Yellow Croaker with Three Delicacies and Tea-Flavored Red-Braised Pork are the star dishes. The former is a tasty soup cooked with the maw of yellow croaker together with two whole yellow croakers, one fresh and the other pickled.

In the braised pork, fresh pork is first put in fine Fujian Iron Guanyin Tea for a couple of hours to add a special aroma.

"I hope every customer here can feel as they are going back in history, having a meal in the garden villa of a rich family in 1930s Shanghai," says He.

Opening hours: 11am-2pm, 5-10pm

Address: 628 Yongjia Rd

Tel: 5468-1177, 5468-1188


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