Cha's Restaurant felt like the Mission Chinese of Shanghai as a hip, fast food joint serving savory dishes that pack flavor. Specializing in the Hong Kong cha canting-style (tea restaurants that tend to be fast and affordable) Cha's menu consisted of all kinds of soy milks, sandwiches, instant noodles, braised seafood, fried rice plates, light beer and weak tea.
Located on Sinan Road in the French Concession, this place has lines out the door anytime between 6-10pm. We tried to avoid this window of time and went in at around 10:30pm and got seated right away (although we still had to share a 4-top with another couple).
The decor at Cha's fooled me. I thought we were entering a historic diner, instead this place is a recreation of 1960s Hong Kong with the help of plastic floral plates, an old jukebox and stained glass motifs. And it's no wonder all the I's were dotted and the T's were crossed, given that the owner is film producer Charlie Hau, who got the idea to open a Hong Kong-style restaurant while filming Lust, Caution in Shanghai.
Packed with a mix of 20-something Shanghainese and ex-pats, this place is rowdy, busy and open until 2am. They also make it easy for tourists, with translations of English on the paper menus.
Anticipating some greasiness, our meal started with some Tsingtao beer.
This was the Stir-fried Turnip Cake with XO chili sauce. The XO flavor was strong which made us happy we had some Tsingtao nearby.
Next came the Choy Sum. This was in some light broth and was a welcome break from the oily turnip cakes.
Our last dish was the Fried Rice with Abalone and Chicken. The rice was firm and had a slightly slimy texture from the abalone. There were also some small bits of crunchy melon in the rice.
It looks dark, but the flavor wasn't as strong as you might think.
Cha's Restaurant was a fun place to end the night and sober up. The abundant staff was super efficient, instantly replacing chopsticks dropped by drunken diners.
Although this place seemed very trendy and the prices were on the higher side for Shanghai, the food was solid and the service was flawless.
30 Sinan Road
T: (86 21)6093 2062