Shanghai: Jesse 老吉士

25 Nov

As mentioned in my previous post here, I had a good experience at New Jesse on my last trip to Shanghai and wanted to try the original branch on the next trip. Jesse in the French Concession area is a small and old restaurant but apparently a lot of the HK celebrities and wealthy Chinese dine here, so I definitely wanted to see what the fuss is about. This time a lunch reservation was made two weeks in advance and we trooped there bright and early expecting what some claim to be the best Shanghainese food in Shanghai.

As expected, service was surly and almost non-existent. The waiter refused to acknowledge our presence until after we repeated that we had reservations. This was definitely an authentic start. The dining area was split into two floors, with as many tables crammed as close together as possible. We had a corner to ourselves on the second floor.

Since it was only two of us this time round, we were more restricted in our choices. We ordered some dishes that we liked from our previous trip at Jesse – xin tai ruan (sugar glazed jujubes stuffed with mochi) and ji mao cai (literal translation chicken hair vegetables) that I suppose gets its name from its shape :) No hong shao rou this time round since we are both not big fans.

The salt cured chicken was very lean or some would say tough (the village chicken variety that had no fats at all), but I did like the salty flavour that permeated the meat beyond the skin. Beware of the flaky pieces of little bone fragments around, probably because of they way they chop the chicken up.

I was looking forward to the crab and tofu pot which came with a whole crab. The roe from the shell was emptied to flavour the sauce. The crab meat was surprisingly sweet and despite it being a small flower crab, had quite a bit of meat. A very comforting dish that would go awesome with rice in the thick of winter.

We decided to try the Shanghainese fried rice that every other table was ordering. The rice was fried with preserved vegetables, Chinese sausage and tasted sweet overall. I personally didn’t really like it, but it seemed like a lot of other customers did. Give me the usual Yangzhou fried rice anytime over this.

For soup, we ordered the egg drop soup with clams since we wanted something light and unfortunately it was really bad. The soup was basically tasteless and the clams had a weird plasticky taste :( Though this is probably not one of their popular dishes, we both felt that a restaurant of Jesse’s stature shouldn’t be serving something so bad on their menu. We drank like two spoonfuls and left it as that. Stick to the awesome chicken soup instead.

Not too sure if we made a few wrong choices in dishes, but I felt that our meal at Jesse was even better than Old Jesse. The weird soup definitely left a very bad aftertaste in more ways than one, plus service in New Jesse was also much better. I would say give Jesse a try for the experience and stick to the usual hong shao rou, river shrimp, chicken soup, crab/crab roe with tofu, xin tai ruan etc. but if you can’t get a reservation at the original branch, the new branches will do the trick too.

Price: $$ (~300 RMB for 2 pax, the crab dish was about half the price)
Location: 41 Tianping Lu at Huaihai Lu

One Response to “Shanghai: Jesse 老吉士”


  1. Shanghai: New Jesse 新吉士, Xintiandi « chow & the city - November 25, 2011

    […] Despite Jesse in Xintiandi being a modern jazzed up branch of the original (I was skeptical as to whether it would taste the same), I did have a very positive dining experience (including service) and made a mental note to try Old Jesse the next time I was back in Shanghai. Did Old Jesse live up to its reputation of being the best Shanghainese restaurant in Shanghai and was it significantly better than Jesse? You can read about it here. […]

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