In the summer of 2007, a little-known but secret favorite Yunnan restaurant called Southern Barbarian moved from the north of town to a central location near Maoming Lu and Changle Lu. The new location, unfortunately, is hidden from the street, tucked up in the back of a very cheesy art mall -- you know, the kind with paintings of topless minority women carrying broken pottery in rural rice fields. Who buys this stuff? But Southern Barbarian is the total opposite to that nonsense.
The furnishings are bare-bones, almost minimal, with professional, for-sale black and white art photography on the walls, and the sincerity of the staff bringing respectability to the mini-mall -- far from barbaric!
If you haven't found it yet, this little restaurant is what you've been looking for. And if you do know it, chances are you're not happy that I'm giving the semi-secret Southern Barbarian more exposure. Well here we go -- after nearly a year at this location, Southern Barbarian remains one of our favorite places to eat in Shanghai.
Food from Yunnan Province has always been under-represented in Shanghai -- Lost Heavenbeing the only other one that comes to mind -- and Southern Barbarian's menu is a joy to explore and discover, especially if you're bored with other Chinese cuisines. Start with the ever popular "Yunnan ham with goat cheese" (38rmb), and you'll wonder if you're not actually eating Italian. Grab a few of the expertly BBQ'd skewer items, like the chicken wings (25rmb), which are always lightly spiced, juicy, and just slightly charred. Don't even think of passing on the "Grandma's mashed potatoes with pickled vegetables" (18rmb), which are, frankly, better than your grandma's version. Another comfort dish we like is "Yunnan sauerkraut with minced pork," (22rmb) which can be gobbled up by the spoonful.