Some restaurants want the dining experience to transport customers beyond the usual eating-out fare.
New theme restaurants are adopting the décor or trains, ships or planes to give diners the sensation of going places.
Follow Shanghai Daily for a sneak peak of dining by land, by air and by sea.
Dining in the air
The C-787 Airplane Theme Restaurant in Qibao Town is eye-catching even before you cross the threshold. A sign reading “boarding gate” is placed alongside a sensor entry in the shape of the cabin door of an aircraft.
The interior of the restaurant is outfitted like a huge airplane cabin, complete with porthole-shaped showcases and luggage racks.
The arrangement of the booths is reminiscent of seats in economy class. All the tables are named after airline companies. And, as you might expect, the waitresses are dressed like stewardesses.
For aviation fans, there’s also a collection of model planes displayed in the restaurant.
The cuisine on offer is a hodgepodge of Shanghai, Sichuan, Guangdong and Japanese styles, which means nothing very authentic.
The dishes have that home-cooking taste, meaning diners won’t be exhilarated by hits or disappointed by misses.
The most popular dish in the restaurant is deep-fried chicken wings with salted yolks. The yolk of salted duck eggs comprises the batter for coating the wings. The flavor of the yolks permeates the fried meat.
C-787 Airplane Theme Restaurant
Address: 4F, Bldg B, 289 Huxing Rd
Cost: Around 75 yuan/person
Dining on the sea
The Funa Restaurant is out to capture the sensation and tastes of the sea.
Funa means “boat” in Japanese, and a life-size boat inside the restaurant allows diners to take their meals sitting on deck.
There are also indoor fishing ponds, from which patrons may choose ingredients for sashimi, hotpots or barbeques.
Traditional Japanese cuisine is served in the restaurant with a touch of creativity. Snappers and sea urchins are very fresh, and customers can ask the chef to make a soup with the fish bones.
Other popular dishes are clam teppanyaki with cheese, fish hotpot and roast beef.
The Funa Restaurant
Address: 1F, 1780, Wuzhong Rd
Cost: Around 250 yuan/person
Dining on the rails
Minhang has several restaurants featuring a railways theme. Some are housed in restored trains, while others adopt the décor of a traditional train station.
The 101 Rail Restaurants is perhaps the best known of this genre in Shanghai. Hongmei Road Pedestrian Street, where the restaurant is located, is part of the railway that once carried Mao Zedong’s personal train.
The railway was called the “101 Special Railway,” which is the origin of the restaurant’s name.
The restaurant extends the length of a whole train, including a locomotive and six cabins. Altogether, six restaurants are in the cabins, providing cuisines in both Chinese and Western styles.
Unlike other train-themed restaurants, the “cabins” here are not closed. Outdoor seats are quite popular in all seasons. The street has also become a landmark for expatriates living in the city
Meanwhile, the Train Inn in Pujiang Town is adapted from a real locomotive and five “green train” cabins. “Green trains” were the slow varieties with frequent stops.
They widely operated in China before the advent of high-speed rail. Lots of memories there for older folks.
The restaurant recreates the scene of a green train stopping at an old railway station, with platforms and all. The restaurant’s décor harks back to an old-style dining car, with white gauzy curtains and hard-cushion booths.
The restaurant serves a mixture of Shanghai, Sichuan, Vietnamese, South Korean and Italian cuisines, so don’t expect anything too authentic. Among the most popular dishes are braised pork in soy sauce and stir-fried bullfrog cooked on a griddle.
The facility also provides accommodation styled to give the aura of an overnight in a train sleeper.
When in the Jinjiang Park, check out the Old Station Tea Restaurant, which is adapted from a real locomotive train made in the 1950s that once rattled along the gauge-meter track in Yunnan Province.
The waiters and waitresses are dressed as train attendants, and the pictures on the walls tell the stories of the train during its service years. The tranquil atmosphere is so different from the rest of the bustling park that many people find it a welcome respite.
The restaurant serves both lunch and afternoon tea, but seats need to be reserved in advance. The afternoon tea is especially popular. Traditional Chinese desserts are the star menu items.