Best spicy restaurant

Best spicy restaurant

A pepper is never just a pepper when handled by a skilled Shanghai chef. These hot stops show there’s more to spicy than mala

Recommended: Shu Fu

CNNGo Best eats Shanghai -- Shu FuShu Fu specializes in spicy lamb, but their ribs are just as hot.

At Shu Fu, spicy lamb is the specialty of the house, so if you love chili-covered lamb ribs, give it a try instead of heading to your usual table at Di Shui Dong.

The popular chain has grown from one store in Shanghai to six branches in about a year. The theme: upscale Sichuan.

The décor is opulent, with a ceiling draped in crystals, glittering chandeliers, white seats with silver backs and a view over Nanjing Dong Lu.

“Shu Fu's hand-torn mutton chops, the shui zhu yu [oil-boiled catfish], duck soup with chili sauce and bullfrog claypot are Sichuan essentials,” says restaurant consultant and chef Anthony Zhao.

Shu Fu, 2/F, Novel City, 133 Tianyaoqiao Lu, near Xingeng Lu 天钥桥路 133号永新坊步行街2楼, 近辛耕路, +86 21 3368 6597, +86 21 3368 6198, hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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Recommended: Spicy Joint

CNNGo Best eats Shanghai -- Spicy JointThis dish literally translates into "drool-inducing" frog. It's that good and that spicy.

Dear Shen Hongfei: You told us that Fu 1088 is the hardest restaurant to book in Shanghai. If you really think that the wait is a headache, scratch Spicy Joint off your list entirely.

Local entertainment website user “improve” says it best: “At Spicy Joint, you will have to wait a long time unless you show up very, very early or very, very late. You can pre-order the food on their touch screen stations while you are waiting -- that's how busy it is.”

This is the most popular spicy restaurant in Shanghai, according to You'll know why once you try the addictive fei teng yu (tender slices of fish in mala lava) and the drool-inducing bullfrog.

The cheap prices -- not to mention your newfound spice addiction -- will keep you coming back, never mind the wait.

Spicy Joint, 3/F, 1028 Huaihai Zhong Lu, Kwah Center, near Donghu Lu 淮海中路1028号3楼, 嘉华中心, 近东湖路, +86 21 6470 2777 (all branches),, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Recommended: South Memory (望湘园)

CNNGo Best eats Shanghai -- South MemoryDon't let the bright color's fool you, this green and red chili-covered fish head is a fiery force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps we should rename the spicy category “the longest lines in Shanghai.”

Here's another spicy recommendation from our expert panel that attracts a ridiculous amount of locals and expats: South Memory.

The restaurant maintains a consistent standard for flavor and has been endlessly praised by spice-loving locals.

Instead of Sichuan's mala, the dishes here are xiangla -- that means more fresh chilies and more garlic, instead of simple mouth-numbing heat.

South Memory's signature ying yang yu tou, or green and red chili covered fish head -- the ratio of fish to chili has to be 1:1 -- is essential for every table.

The restaurant also does very good spicy skewered shrimp, enoki mushroom with fatty beef and dry-hot bullfrog, according to our spice-loving experts.

South Memory, multiple locations, 6/F Hong Yi International Plaza, 299 Nanjing Dong Lu, near Henan Zhong Lu 南京东路299号宏伊国际广场6楼, 近河南中路, +86 21 6360 2797, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.

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Winner: Yuxin

CNNGo Best eats Shanghai -- YuxinIf you're going to set your mouth on fire, do it right with Yuxin's whole fish in chili oil.

Earlier this year, Sichuan capital Chengdu became the first Asian city to be named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy.

It won the designation for its legendary spicy cuisine.

Anyone who’s visited Sichuan knows just how talented the province’s chefs are at creating dishes filled with brilliant flavors, textures and, of course, the region’s addictive mala peppercorns, garlic and chilies.

Is it any wonder then that our critic's pick for best spicy restaurant goes to Yuxin Chuan Cai?

According to food writer and Shanghai dining legend Jiang Liyang, this Sichuan eatery originally from Beijing is not the spiciest in town, but it does the best Sichuan food around with herbs and chilis shipped straight from Chongqing.

"Galan" editor Rica Lou recommends Yuxin’s Chengdu Bei Lu location.

“The quality of the stores vary,” she explains.

Yuxin's most booked location on Chengdu Bei Lu takes up an entire floor and draws crowds of diners every night. Reservations are strongly recommended. Or bring a book.

After seeing the crowds, it should come as no surprise that the chain has developed a cult-like following among Shanghai's spice lovers.

Once you're seated don't be daunted by the huge, illustrated menu showing fish and fowl draped in obscene amounts of chili.

Start off slow, with cold liangfen (mung bean noodles) covered with mouth-numbing mala peppercorns, chili oil, sesame and a minced garlic dressing.

If you can endure full-on heat, venture an item from Yuxin's Double Peppercorn menu. The "Double Pepper Frog" is a favorite.

Our panel of critics unanimously agree that Yuxin’s sui zhu yu is the best in Shanghai.

“The taste is very authentic. I’ve run this dish past friends from Chongqing, and they say the same thing,” says Rica Lou.

If spicy is not your thing -- or you just need to douse the flaming red oil in your mouth -- try the tea smoked duck. Yuxin's duck is leaner than its Peking cousin, but delicious sandwiched in little white mantou buns.

Yuxin, multiple locations, 3/F Zhaoshangju Plaza, 333 Chengdu Bei Lu, near Weihai Lu 成都北路338号招商局广场3楼, 近威海路, +86 21 5298 0438, hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m.

Meet the experts who helped us choose Shanghai's Best Eats.

Full Best Eats list and winners
Joanne Yao is a writer and editor based in Shanghai.
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