258 Fengxian Road
Unfortunately Vegetarian Life Style refers to a restaurant rather than a communal way of life in Shanghai but this place still manages to get it right and dish up good quality, meat free food.
Vegetarian Life Style is the building on the corner, not the building next to it also marked as number 258 which actually contains other small businesses and apartments. Spacious, clean and popular with middle-class local and foreigners craving a healthy meal, Vegetarian Lifestyle is abuzz with the clinging of tea cups and metallic chopsticks. The menu is in Chinese, English and best of all picture form, making it easy to order but hard to restrict oneself to only a couple of the mouth-watering delights on offer. I ordered far too much and was missing company to enjoy the meal with me.
The ‘roasted vegetarian fish’ was beautifully presented on nettle leaves (I think – please correct me if you are a leaf expert). Hardened tofu was served cold and wrapped in seaweed to give it a salty taste and the appearance of fish skin. I did not like this dish upon the first dish (it reminded me of substandard vegetarian sausages back home) but it grew on me as I kept eating. The leaves added a lot of flavour, the seasoning was otherwise subtle.
The ‘braised lion’s mane mushroom and bamboo shoot in spicy soup’ was delicious. The mushrooms had a grisly texture. There were not many greens but oval slices of lotus root made a nice addition. This dish was very spicy – have your tea cup close-by and full! The flavours were very tasty and strong with chilli and salt.
The crab dumplings were cute with thin rounds of carrot on the base. The filling was similar to the filling was similar to the crab meat at Godly – carrot and tofu. Eat these quickly as they harden as they cool.
The glutinous rice vegetable dumplings were served in hot water that tasted like plain water rather than soup except for the hint of rice flavouring it. The texture of these dumplings was beautiful with sticky, wet rice dough on the outside and freshly boiled greens inside. These did not have much flavour (especially in comparison to the chilli mushrooms) but were improved with soy.
As the restaurant cleared out (people eat early in China) the sound of the clanging dishes was replaced by atmospheric traditional music.