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Find way to revive time-honored brands

By Chen Weihua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-12 14:04

Shanghai used to be known for its historical landmarks such as the Bund and Yuyuan Garden, and also the many time-honored stores that flanked the Nanjing Road and Huaihai Road.

Today, while the Bund and Yuyuan Garden are still major attractions, drawing tourists from across the world, those time-honored stores, from restaurants to specialty shops, have either disappeared or are relegated, even to the lowest ranks.

On Tuesday, I took my mom to the Red House Restaurant, hoping to rediscover the glamour of what was once the city's best French restaurant and a regular haunt of the writer Ailing Zhang.

The red-brick facade facing Huaihai Road still charms and the newly decorated bar and dining room on the second floor look neat, yet they lack history. The menu still lists once signature dishes such as baked clams, baked prawns in cheese and oxtail soup, yet the flavor and the presentation are neither pleasing to the eyes nor taste buds. Worse was the service. Inattentive waitresses kept chatting among themselves, typical of most State-run restaurants. Only a quarter of the tables were occupied, even though it was prime time for lunch.

Clearly the Red House, which was once a synonym among locals for the best French or Western food, no longer lives up to its former glory.

It was the same when I visited several other time-honored restaurants such as Wang Jia Sha on Nanjing Road. Its dumplings, once regarded a delicacy among locals, have become a huge disappointment. My experiences at Xiao Shao Xing, Shen Da Cheng, Xing Hua Lou, three other time-honored restaurants, were equally unpleasant.

And this is after the local city and district governments' repeated pledge and efforts in the past decades to restore the past glory of those time-honored stores and brands, which exceed 500 in Shanghai.

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