Siobhan and her family are going around Shanghai finding the best family restaurants for our readers to try! This time around she has discovered Holy Cow.
The Place & Vibe
When thinking about a hot pot establishment, one may conjure up images of a loud, bright place, filled with oily pots that could use a good scrubbing. Our party quickly realized we were in for a completely different dining experience once we arrived. Holy Cow opened its Changning location in November 2015, and showcases a relaxed space, with soft, muted colors and provides a distinctly ‘zen’ feel. Walls of wood have been cut to resemble exposed brick and the floors depict an intricate mosaic of blue and white tile which accents the vibrant blue banquettes. Our private room was lovely, with floor to ceiling windows, wooden floors, and paintings of cherry blossoms across the back walls.
From the same team behind popular Shanghainese restaurant Mi Xiang Yuan, Holy Cow was founded by chef Anthony Zhao and four partners. It is no wonder that Holy Cow won multiple awards in 2015 for Best Chinese Restaurant and Best Hotpot in Shanghai. Diners are able to choose everything from the type of broth (made by boiling beef spine bones for many hours), to the vegetables, meats, and seafood selections they would like. A wide selection of sauces, oils, garlics, scallions and sesame seeds are available. Chilis, peppers, and sugar also helped to change the spiciness or sweetness of the sauces to suit our tastes. For those new to hotpot, staff was on hand to provide instruction and suggestions. They explained the order (meat and seafood first, vegetables and carbs second and lastly soup and broth) and even helped us mix our sauces.
Holy Cow chooses only the freshest organic produce from their farm, Soleil Villa in Haimen, Shanghai. The vegetables were fresh and crisp and range from RMB12-22. Chrysanthemum, daikon, watercress, seaweed, lotus, yams, yunnan mushrooms and pumpkin were just some of the varieties offered. Cauliflower and okra are currently in season and were absolutely delicious. There are Seasonal Organic Vegetable and Mushroom Platters available for those who would like a pre-selected assortment. The vegetables provide a nice compliment to the meat and seafood options.
Skilled butchers cut the meat, unlike other hotpot restaurants that use frozen beef cut by machines. We really tasted the quality of the meat, noticing its fine and tender texture. The Kobe Beef, Beef Tendon, Handcut Short Rib, and Beef Tongue were perfectly sliced, taking only seconds to cook in our steaming pot and ranged from RMB48-128. The Tenderloin Beef was quite thick and tasty and the Handcut Fatty Lamb was delightful! Next up were our seafood selections. We had Handmade Shrimp Balls (RMB32) as well as the Imported Argentinean Giant Shrimp (RMB16 per piece). The shrimp was enormous and we cooked it whole, pulling the juicy meat out of the shell when it was done. We were also served refreshing melon tea as well as the Signature Holy Cow Imported Wheat Beer.
There is something unforgettable about communal dining with friends and family. Our children were fascinated by the activity around our simmering pot and feeling adventurous, tried everything from beef tongue to soup dumplings. The Deep-Fried Tofu Skin and Sticky Rice Cakes were a big hit, as was the Sesame Peanut Sauce. The food was neither oily nor salty, containing no MSG. The broth, veggies, and protein offered, made it a very healthy choice for our little ones. Chef Anthony explained that it was his desire to create a dining experience that all families, including his own, could enjoy several times a week because it is both affordable and wholesome. Guests will likely agree, he has accomplished just what he set out to do.
Price: RMB130 per person, including children
Recommended ages: All ages
Good for: Lunch and dinner
Join Siobhan’s family in the next issue of Urban Family as we go on the hunt for kid-friendly dining options around town!
>341 Tianshan Lu, Bingo Mall, Bldg 1, 3/F, Room 302A, by Weining Lu, 天山路341号缤谷文化休闲广场一期302A室, 近威宁路 (5297 9937).