The aniseed pickles were the best part of my meal at Saigon Aniseed. Cool, crisp, and sweet, they were a perfect refresher between mouthfuls of beef meatball soup, mushroom curry, and steamed rice. The vegetable base of the pickles was cabbage with slivers of carrot. The pickling liquid was smoother than the sharper sweet Japanese or Korean pickles I’ve frequently eaten.
Clockwise, from top: aniseed pickles, steamed rice, mixed mushroom curry, tea, beef meatball soup. I got this as a lunch set special instead of ordering a la carte for 52 RMB. Saigon Aniseed’s lunch set specials are good values and I’d like to try more sets.
The beef broth was like any good pho, fully flavored, easy to drink, and very comforting. The firm, bouncy texture of the meatball may be offputting to those accustomed to western meatballs.
I didn’t realize the mushroom curry would be prepared in the southeast Asian style with coconut milk as a base – I thought the curry would have been brown. I’m not a fan of creamy southeast Asian curries so I wouldn’t have ordered this if I knew what was in it but overall this curry was pleasant over the fragrant rice. Unfortunately, curry and rice don’t keep well so I had to throw my leftovers away.
Sweet chili sauce and plum sauce were on the table as condiments. These tasted homemade with deep flavors.
Aniseed Saigon has a nice interior but I couldn’t pass up the chance to eat outside, where I had a view of the gorgeous Joy City Mall, as well as the people-watching possibilities that accompanied the location. According to SmartShanghai, Joy City is the core brand of China’s largest food manufacturer, COFCO Group. I went to Joy City three times in two weeks and it’s become my favorite place in Shanghai because of its unusual and creative architecture, retail offerings, activities, and its stunning variety and quality of eateries. I’ve never been in a shopping center with so much attention paid towards interior design, and Joy City somehow manages to pull off the playful Disney-fied aesthetic with its facades without being at all tacky. And while it’s upscale, it’s still affordable – this is no IFC Center. The designers here aren’t all owned by LVMH – shocking, right?
I know this is a lot of praise without pictures to back it up. Pictures of the mall in general are coming soon, along with restaurant reviews, including a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant. If Joy City wasn’t an hour away from my dorm, I’d be eating here every day. In the meantime, check out SmartShanghai’s dining and workshops guide.
9F Joy City II North Tower, 198 North Xizang Road, Zhabei, Shanghai