Shanghai Surprise

An old favourite that’s still going strong Reviews

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With its delightful cream and brown décor, Shanghai Surprise feels more like an old-school Italian bistro than a traditional Chinese restaurant. But the unmistakable aromas of fresh ginger and chilli that greet your entry, coupled with the clang and sizzle from the open kitchen, act as sharp reminders that this experience is most definitely Oriental.

The evening kicks off with a delightful portion of complementary crispy kimchi salad and an endless supply of prawn crackers until we’re ready to place our order. The salad is beautifully spiced, packs a punch and offers a tantalising hint at what’s in store for the rest of our experience.

Given that Shanghai Surprise has such a genuine, authentic feel to it we opted for a classic starter to get things going in the shape of the xie rou chun juan – succulent crab meat with crispy vegetables lightly seasoned with chilli and ginger in a delicate pastry skin roll. They were sumptuous, tasty and would easily work as an appetiser for two. Nestling back in preparation for our mains the friendly and attentive waitress produced a burning incense bowl, which was a delightful although, frankly, unnecessary touch.

Next up was the chef’s signature menu for our mains (it’s worth noting that the menu has a substantial selection of vegetarian dishes) and the la wei ji was particularly appealing. Essentially consisting of shredded chicken cooked with green and red chilli (you can have it spicy or really spicy) it’s not the most extravagant of dishes but this is what Shanghai Surprise excels at – they do the simple food incredibly well. Despite going for the spicier option it wasn’t overloaded with chilli and the chicken was an absolute delight – neither too tough or spongey while the sauce was just on the right side of sweet without being sickly. Unlike others we’ve tried in the city the chicken doesn’t leave you feeling bloated and lethargic either.

We’ve also heard great things about the stewed chicken meatballs and although tempted to order another main the chicken we had was suitably filling. We did manage to find just enough room for a spot of dessert, however, and therein lies the one main criticism we can level at this particular eatery – the sweet offerings were feeble. A dessert menu should tease and taunt, it should invite you to open up that belt one more notch and make way for something naughty to finish off the evening. This one left us feeling a little like a balloon with the air slowly being released – deflated, limp and no fun at all. Having said that, the one dessert that did appeal was an absolute triumph. We can heartily recommend indulging yourself with the fried ice cream, covered in chopped nuts and chocolate sauce. Okay, it’s a massive departure from the rest of the traditional menu but who cares, when it’s as wickedly decadent as this. No real surprises (sorry) here then, but why fix it if it isn’t broke?

The bill (for one)
Crab spring roll Dhs25
Chilli chicken Dhs40
Egg fried rice Dhs25
Fried ice cream Dhs15
Total (excluding service) Dhs105

By Sara Taher
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.


  • Location: Al Diar Capital Hotel, Al Markaziyah, Abu Dhabi
  • Tel: 02 677 7010
  • Travel: Mina Road
  • Website | Send mail

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Shanghai Surprise On The Map

User reviews

  • Users voted this restaurant most suitable for: Family friendly

User reviews:

Posted by: Karim on 08 Dec ' 12 at 12:53
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? No

it was the worst Chinese food i ever tried, i highly DON'T recommend it to Anyone.
i ate Sweet and sour chicken + Sweet corn soup and they both tasted nothing like that.
price is over compared to the other Chinese restaurants.

Posted by: Rami on 15 Oct ' 10 at 21:26
  • Best for: Family friendly

Appitizers are fantastics, main dishes are normal, while service is not that good.

Posted by: Mini Rajendran on 13 May ' 10 at 11:20
  • Would you go back to this restaurant? Yes

Very nice food, ambience. One place I want to go again and again. One place I want to take my guests who love to have Chinese food

Posted by: Prateek Mohan on 15 Sep ' 09 at 11:01

Great food... really hospitable staff... This place has been one of my favourites in my last 1 year of stay! A MUST TRY...

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