How to turn 25 in Shanghai

Sunset from Google Shanghai by Expat Edna

I am notoriously kind of very over-enthusiastic about my birthday. One of those people who celebrates allll week, and always throws a big party (see: last year’s fabulous Parisian black-and-white 50s theme party).

Over the past few years I’ve toned down the hullabaloo (once I realized people’s eyes would either glaze over or start to form daggers after the 208532th mention of “DID YOU KNOW IT’S MY BIRTHDAY SOON?” — but a week and a half ago, I turned 25.

And really, I couldn’t tone things down for a milestone like that. Especially not in a big city like Shanghai.

So here’s what you do:

Reunion on the Bund Shanghai - Expat Edna

Invite four of your best friends to China.

In this case, three of my Paris besties flew into town for a four-day weekend (L-R):

Andy, who now lives in NYC
Joe, currently traveling around the world
A, now in Singapore [but is internet-shy and thus now appears as Starface]

Plus Vicky, who I met as A’s roommate and got quite close to over the course of my (surprisingly) frequent visits to Singapore the past few months.

Guest appearances were also made by Jackie, another Paris pal who now lives in Shanghai; and old friends from the last time I lived in China who amazingly still haven’t left.



homecooked shanghainese feast by Expat Edna

One of many birthday gatherings with relatives on both sides of the family. This was just half(!) of the birthday feast with my dad’s side, homecooked with my favorite Shanghainese dishes.

25th birthday cake by Expat Edna

Cake from mom’s side of the family, a classic Chinese spongecake.

chinese millefeuille birthday cake by Expat Edna

Birthday cake from dad’s side of the family — a French-style millefeuille.

Unagi, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Unagi, a newly-opened Japanese restaurant specializing in grilled eel. I want to have a standing reservation here every week.

Mr and Mrs on the Bund by Expat Edna

Edna by Joe

photo credit Joe

Mr & Mrs Bund, where I had lunch on my actual birthday. (That’s right, I brought my friends who lived in Paris, and had never been to Shanghai or China before, to a French restaurant on their first day. Oops.) Definitely recommend smoked salmon to start and the lemon tart for dessert.

Old Jesse, Shanghai by Expat Edna

The aftermath of my birthday dinner at Old Jesse, meant to be the best Shanghainese in town. Great meal, especially the braised pork belly and fish head, which must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance (…though I still think the best Shanghainese is found at the home of anyone related to me).

Lei Garden dim sum, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Dim sum brunching at Lei Garden, where the dumplings are as excellent as the decor is over-the-top (for instance, after walking half a mile just to enter the restaurant, we were sat next to a giant, glass-encircled, fancy backlit rock. Did the rock save a child from a fire? Why was it so revered? Whatever the reason, it was a pretty okay dining companion).

Hunan ribs, Guyi, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Cumin-and-magic-dust-encrusted Hunan ribs at Guyi. At this point my friends must be commended for their dedication to the cause while everyone’s stomachs screamed NO MORE FOOD FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

Birthday brunch, Madison, Shanghai by Expat Edna

On their last full day, I dragged everyone out to Madison for a 13-person Sunday brunch. For parties over ten they only serve a set menu, from which I learned two things:

1. Everything here is fantastic and I need to come back to try more, a la carte
2. We were beyond stuffed with the 150 rmb option — I can’t imagine how anyone survives the 200 rmb menu?!

Lotus by Expat Edna

Piling on the Yunnan food at Lotus just a few short hours later, because we are gluttons for punishment. Well, mostly just gluttons. Also, mint salad + fried goat cheese + pineapple black rice + yak meat is a solid way to go if you’re gonna go Yunnan.



Perrier-Jouet rose champagne by Expat Edna

French Champagne, of course. This one’s from Epernay, courtesy of Joe and zee airport duty free.

Lost Heaven terrace, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Cocktails on the rooftop terrace of Lost Heaven by the Bund.

Cocktails at 100 Century Avenue, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Post-birthday lunch, we popped across the river and up 91 stories to 100 Century Avenue at the Park Hyatt, aka the Shanghai World Financial Center, aka “the Bottle Opener” building.

Shanghai from above by Expat Edna

Given that it costs 120 rmb just to enter the observatory deck on the 94th floor, and we got the drinks at happy hour prices, it was a pretty sweet steal for the view.

Kartel, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Post-dinner drinks at Kartel, with the most unexpectedly scenic city view from the rooftop bar. Also the kind of place that makes you question if the Former French Concession really needs the “Former”, as I’m pretty sure we were the only people on the entire roof not speaking French.

Liquid Laundry, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Beers from the newly-opened Liquid Laundry, from the same people behind microbrewery Boxing Cat, Cantina Agave, and all the other popular Shanghai expat haunts. The Sichuan-peppercorn infused beer wasn’t on tap that night, making this my new favorite beer of the list: Miami Weiss. (Ha! Get it??)


Be merry.

JZ Club, Shanghai by Expat Edna

‘A Tribute to Bud Powell’ and jazzy-jazz solos at JZ Club in the French Concession.

Joe at Yuyuan by Expat Edna

Playing tour guide to the China newbies.

birthday flowers by Expat Edna

Fresh flowers from friends and family. Said the aunt who gave me the flowers on the right, “Do you like these? The florist said foreigners like these kinds of flowers.”

Munchkin by Expat Edna

Spending quiet nights in when we absolutely could not face eating any more to teach me the mildly geeky game of Munchkin. I got pretty into it. (If anyone in Shanghai has this game, let me know and I will come over immediately.)

Lunch view, Mr and Mrs Bund, Shanghai by Expat EdnaMr and Mrs Bund, Shanghai by Expat Edna

Enjoying the beautiful weather on my birthday — Shanghai is never this clear and blue!

Sunset over Shanghai by Expat Edna

Clear blue skies lead to clear gorgeous sunsets. This one’s from Friday drinks at the office.

Sunset from the SWFC, Shanghai by Expat Edna

May 22: Sunset, heights, Shanghai, cocktails, friends. All my favorite things wrapped into one.

Birthday brunch at Madison by Expat Edna

Thanks to everyone who helped me celebrate, whether in person or online. It was a spectacular, marvelous week and I gotta say: 25 is looking pretty good.

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  1. So nice to see you back blogging! Glad you had a wonderful birthday. Hope to see you soon :) xx

  2. This is seriously the most insane feast with the most obscene amount of food I had ever seen. I am totally on board. Happy Birthday!

  3. That looks like a fantastic celebration, so great that you had friends coming from far and wide too! Hope you had a lovely birthday weekend!

  4. Helin says:

    happy belated birthday! It was nice to see this pop up on my news feed :) I hope you had a great time in the US and I’m still sorry I missed you!

  5. Oh my goodness, that is quite a birthday! Looks like you had a wonderful few days of festivities – glad to see that life in Shanghai is treating you well! Miss you, my friend! Wishing you a wonderful year ahead :-)

  6. Belated but sincere birthday wishes. I’m also 25 and travel the world so I guess we have more in common than we both think :). What a great day to turn 25! I loved my stay in Shanghai and the night view was just incredible. The food looks amazing as always and look at your birthday cake! Omomomomo! All the best! <3

  7. You’re too awesome!!

  8. Happy birthday, Edna! I sure wish I were still in Shanghai to celebrate with you! It looks like you had an amazing time at some of my favorite spots!!

  9. Happiest of birthdays to you, Edna! It’s great seeing you around the blogosphere again :) All that food looks insanely amazing and you look super happy! All good to see. I still recommend your blog for food for anyone going to Paris. Food food food drool drool drool

  10. Looks like a fab celebration Edna! I’m so glad Shanghai is treating you well! All that food looks oh-so glorious….

  11. Oh yes and how could I forget, happy belated birthday!!!!!

  12. Happy birthday! Helluva celebration week(s) you had there, looks amazing and…oh wait, my tummy is rumbling now :)

  13. Wow. Happy birthday, again. I haven’t had a party like that since….umm…I’ll get back to you on that one. I’ll probably be hopping around Asia a while longer than originally planned, so maybe we’ll get to meet and celebrate past birthdays.

  14. I thought of you this morning and then bam, a post!
    You celebrated certainly in style and exactly how I’d want to- surrounded by good friends, family and lots of food! Well done!
    25 is sure looking good! woo!

  15. Happy, happy birthday Edna! It really looks like you celebrated in style and I am now even more disappointed that we didn’t have you in Shanghai as our personal food guide/guru during our week-long visit there. If you are trying to bribe us into changing our “no more China” stance and come out and visit you ASAP… it’s working! ;)

    So glad you got blue skies, lots of great food, and wonderful company to boot for the big 25. You deserve it, lady!

  16. Happy Belated, hun! It’s so nice to see another post from you! And you’re in Shanghai!!! Is this a permanent thing or are you country hopping at the moment?

    Whenever I see the word ‘unagi’, I always think of Friends. Haha.

  17. Happy belated birthday! All your pictures make me realize I haven’t seen much of SH yet..

  18. very late happy birthday my darling. Love seeing your photo! Am just stopping by to send Eric the link so he can start to stalk you between exams.


  1. […] found an apartment. Some of my best friends came to town as I turned 25. […]