Fumin and Julu - the expat crossroads. Guyi, La Grange, Coconut Paradise, Mesa, Otto. Their draw is enough to keep A Mao almost exclusively Shanghainese, packing this little restaurant so regularly that they've had to open a second, more modern branch half a block farther down Fumin Lu.
This, the original, is a warren of tiny rooms hidden up a steep staircase. The floors are slightly uneven, and the atmosphere is boisterous and mildy chaotic. There’s a chandelier but it’s not fancy – not easy to get a table, either, even for a weekday lunch.
Dishes are uncomplicated and portions are generous. Hongshao rou, the dark hometown favorite of braised pork belly, comes as a sticky, soy-draped mountain begging for a safety sign: Slow Down, Heart Attack Ahead, 100m. Shredded white radish sits on top, for appearance’s sake. See, customer, we’re thinking about your health! With a dish of cold, mock chicken and tea-leaf-boiled eggs, they might have a point. We’ll give them the things in rice wine, too: flash-fried river shrimp tossed in a sweetened sauce of it, and fingernail-size baby clams marinated in it and served raw. Actually, most of it’s healthy. One of A Mao’s standout dishes is a plain, but delicious, steamed chicken in broth with nothing but ginger to keep it company. (Finish the broth and they’ll give you the ¥10 option to add more broth and baby bok choy. Take it.)
It’s homestyle Shanghainese at its best – unfussy, warming, and perfect for winter.