Lunch sets are good for solo dining, running 36 to 48rmb. The Singapore-style Hainan chicken rice (possibly another "best in town", 48rmb) and Japanese beef curry (38rmb) are favorites.
It's difficult to pick out highlights from a menu so diverse, and we've tried most of them over the last three years. The stir-fried broccoli (24rmb) -- I know that sounds boring -- is the perfect 'green,' and the delicate broth it's served with reminds us that healthy, comfort food can be delicious and hit the spot. It's worth mentioning because this is the standard all other restaurants should follow. Other good vegetable choices include "catch of the day" with stewed cabbage and dried scallops (39rmb), lettuce roots as an appetizer (12rmb), and the dragon beans with a mountain of minced garlic (28rmb).
We'll fire off a few other must-haves: three-cup chicken (48rmb), cod fish with "soy curd" marinade (let it cook at the table for a while to concentrate the flavor -- 49rmb), Sichuan chicken cold vegetables (topped with wasabi and peanut-sesame sauce, the way 'fusion' should be done -- 20rmb), pineapple with shrimp donuts covered in mayonnaise (yes! -- 49rmb), minced shrimp with lettuce wraps (49rmb), steamed clams with loofah melon (42rmb), or the pickled radish omelet (24rmb).
They already deserve a perfect 10, but they get bonus points for having brown rice as an option (expat Californians rejoice!), staying open to 4am, and they usually play good music, like classic French pop, Kahimi Kare, The Kinks, or Royksopp. We are, however, dead sick of the Nora Jones album, which seems to have spread like a virus to every cafe in town. Make it stop!
Charmant has opened several other locations in other cities, including Suzhou, Beijing, and Tianjin. We hope they continue to expand!
Phone 6431 8107, 6431 8027
Address: 1/F, 1414 Huai Hai Zhong Road