FOR meat lovers, there’s nothing like a good steak house with the best cuts of beef. And if you’re tired of Chinese food, there’s nothing like a steak.
Fine-dining steak houses are usually decorated with darkwood, sometimes chandeliers; many are patterned on steak houses in the United States.
Some serve seafood. They have extensive wine lists, featuring New World wines.
Many steak houses in Shanghai have excellent city views. Some source beef from Australia.
A few restaurateurs (see examples below) follow the concept “from farm to table,” getting involved in raising cattle to control quality from the very beginning.
By hand picking cattle and raising them separately, a restaurant can control the type of feed, ensuring it’s organic, and that living conditions are healthy and humane, says Franco Bordini, executive chef at Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai.
Beef used by local steakhouses are either grain-fed or grass-fed, depending on chef’s preference. Grain, high in protein, fattens up cattle quickly, which makes its meat more marbled, hence tender and flavorful. Grass-fed beef is comparatively leaner and firmer but is said to be healthier.
According to a report by University of California’s Division of Agricultural and Natural Resource, grass-based diets elevate precursors for vitamins A and E and cancer-fighting antioxidant.
Quite a few restaurants in Shanghai have their own aging facilities and showcase the area to diners who can check the quality, especially the color and marbling. Most steaks in China are wet-aged, which is faster and more efficient but often less desirable in terms of quality.
Dry-aging makes the meat lose some water and concentrates the flavor; it can take weeks or months.
Wet-aging — placing beef in sealed packages and storing — uses natural enzymes to break down connective tissue and make the meat tender and juicier.
The tradition of using sauces, such as steak sauce, mustard and garlic, is being replaced by simply using salt and pepper to enhance the natural flavor.
To fully appreciate the quality of steak, no sauce is added, claims Ruth’s Chris Steak house, Shanghai.
Steak houses typically offer quality seafood.
Fine dining venues typically offer excellent desserts. Sometimes the best cheesecake is not found in a cafe, but a steak house.
For those who can’t afford prime steak, try the beef burger at lunch. The ground beef usually comes from the same producer as the steak.
Here are 10 recommended steak house destinations, some have been popular destinations for years, others are new and offer new dining concepts.
The 1515 WEST, Chophouse & Bar
The decor combines classical American grille features with 1930s Shanghai for a special ambience. Visitors are greeted by the aroma of freshly baked bread from two vintage ovens.
The venue serves large portions of Queensland, Australia, grain-fed beef, dry-aged for 45 days for concentrated flavor.
The 1515 WEST Bone in Rib Eye is recommended. Diners can watch a butcher cut and weigh their meat before sending it to the grill.
The menu includes fresh oysters and American-style desserts, including New York cheesecake and apple cobbler.
The wine and cocktail menu is extensive.
Best seat: The chef’s table accommodates six to eight people next to the open kitchen.
Address: 4/F, Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai, 1218 Yan’an Rd M.
CHAR Grill and Bar
Executive chef Vincent Song says CHAR is the only steak house in Shanghai serving the award-winning Blackmore’s wagyu beef fillet from Australia. Fed for 600 days using traditional Japanese farming methods in Australian countryside. This full-blood Japanese wagyu has a marble score of 9+.
Steak is served with half grilled lobster, seared foie gras, shaved black truffles and wild mushrooms. Black cod with homemade sauce is a signature dish.
The dessert menu features banana cheesecake. The restaurant focuses on details, from handcrafted knives to six distinctive salts to flavor the meat.
Best seat: Tables facing the Bund
Address: 29-30/F, 585 Zhongshan Rd E2
The Cathay Room
The restaurant in an historic 1920s building has an outdoor terrace overlooking the Huangpu River.
The food is based on traditional European cuisine with a modern touch.
Chef Nicholas Blair says cattle are free-range and grain-fed. Beef is dry-aged and “re-processed” by the chef using a private recipe.
Boston lobster and poached veal loin are popular.
Best seat: Terrace seating
Address: 9/F, Fairmont Peace Hotel, 20 Nanjing Rd E.
Chicago Steak House
The decor is elegant with dark wood and stone. Customers can see how their food is prepared at their table.
Signature cuts include Australian Angus rib eye and the T-bone weighing 16 ounces.
Popular dishes include Lobster risotto, homemade pappardelle pasta and lamb chops in pistachio crust with orange-scented mashed potatoes.
Best seat: A long table for 12 people facing the open kitchen
Address: 4/F, Eton Hotel Shanghai, 535 Pudong Ave
Tel: 3878-9888 ext 6341
As the name indicates, the restaurant in a hotel basement is decorated as a dome. Decor features exposed brick and dim light. It’s exquisite, like a private dining room accommodating 30 guests.
Grain-fed Australian beef is delivered weekly.
The menu features seafood as well as a surf and turf of baby lobster and grilled tenderloin with baby lobster, mushrooms verdure and vegetables.
Baked Alaska is the signature dessert.
Best seat: A private booth
Address: B1, Shanghai Marriott Hotel Changfeng Park, 158 Daduhe Rd
JW’s California Grill
This is one of Shanghai’s earliest and most popular steak houses because of its consistently high quality. It’s on the 40th floor of JW Marriott Hotel with stunning views of the Puxi skyline.
The menu features both Angus grain-fed beef and wagyu beef. Hailing from Spain, newly appointed Grill Chef Joan Ruiz Alba highly recommends the wagyu beef, which is very tender and has a slightly nutty flavor.
The grilled Boston lobster and Caesar salad are recommended.
This month the restaurant opens a ham corner, serving quality ham, fresh oysters, a range of cheeses and Mediterranean olives.
Best seat: Window seats
Address: 40/F, JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square, 399 Nanjing Rd W.
Tel: 5359-4969 ext 6455
The steak house is famous for its Ningaloo Tomahawk, a prime rib weighing 1.8 kilograms — probably the biggest steak in Shanghai.
As they enter the restaurant, diners are greeted with the aging room where all meat is aged for at least 14 days.
Decor includes, leather armchairs, a fireplace flanked by mounted steer horns and lighting that appear to be bright red vertebrae. The feeling is classic and contemporary.
If the Tomahawk is too intimidating, there are prime rib, T-bone and other cuts, all flavorful, tender and juicy.
The menu also features grilled seafood, pork, lamb and poultry.
Chocolate lava cake is the signature dessert.
There’s a sommelier to help with pairing, but diners can also try home-brewed beer.
Best seat: Limited seats next to floor-to-ceiling windows offer a view of Pudong Central Park and its greenery.
Address: 2/F, Kerry Hotel Pudong, Shanghai, 1388 Huamu Rd
This popular entertainment venue is actually an award-winnning steak house as well. The restaurant steak is known for its quality, special sauce and Asian-influenced side dishes.
On the top floor, it’s one of the few places where diners can enjoy a 360-degree view embracing the Bund, Pudong skyline and People’s Square.
Wagyu steak, dry-aged for 30 days, is served with a special Chimmichurri sauce made from parsley, garlic, oregano and olive oil.
Popular entrees include steamed lobster, grilled black cod with lime, and tuna tartare with wasabi.
Best seat: Front row of tables facing the Bund
Address: 24/F, 318 Fuzhou Rd
Morton’s The Steakhouse
The American-style venue features dark wood, vintage photos and subdued lighting. It also features a large al fresco terrace.
The restaurant is known for its grain-fed, wet-aged beef that’s tender, juicy and flavorful.
Portions are large, including the signature porterhouse (1,300g), New York sirloin (550g) and double cut filet (340g).
The wine and cocktail list is extensive. Two additional private rooms are reserved for cigar and wine connoisseurs.
Best seat: Book a private alfresco seat on the terrace with a view of the Lujiazui skyline and Huangpu River
Address: Shop 15-16, 4/F, IFC Mall, 8 Century Ave, Pudong
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
The new restaurant in a historical building features New Orleans cooking with a strong Creole and European touch. Flavors are rich and robust.
It offers a view over the Huangpu River of the Pudong skyline.
It features Australian wagyu beef with good marbling, grilling it quickly at 982 degrees Celsius to lock in all the juice. It’s served on platters heated to 260 degrees to ensure it’s sizzling hot.
No sauce is served to obscure the taste of the meat, just salt and pepper.
New Orleans special include barbecued shrimp, sizzling blue crab cakes and bread pudding with whisk crab cake are recommended.