As we've covered, visitors are a great excuse to indulge in Shanghai's finest. And, naturally, you want to give them a taste of commonly-found food in China and even demonstrate the diversity of its cuisine. But after a few days of barraging them with baozi and submerging them in XLB, a certain something sets in: Chinese-food-fatigue.
No one can be blamed for this - even someone as adorably (/naively) keen as I was to only eat local for a month when I arrived begins to crave something that isn't served floating in an inch of oil.
When OD'ing on oil, starch, and sweet, the fresh flavors of Thai food are a welcome wake-up call to the palate. So when we wanted to take our family to a tasty, tony spot that isn't Chinese yet one still unequivocally Asian, we chose Coconut Paradise.
Now, despite the fact that the name sounds like a strip club, Coconut Paradise is a reliable option from the Lost Heaven group - they do with Thai what the Lost Heaven locations do with Yunnanese, meaning they manage to make Asian food approachable, delicious, and pretty damn sexy. It has the same low lighting and stylish settings, and even a gorgeous garden, canopied by trees studded with red lanterns, for the warmer months.
Start with the fantastic cocktails (eg. the "almost healthy" gin and watermelon) or fresh juices for an immediate lift before moving into the brightly-flavored food. Although everything is great, fan favorites for starters included crab sesame toast, the green papaya salad with prawns, and an aubergine salad with cashews (and inexplicably also quarters of hard-boiled egg).
To follow, we loved the asparagus topped with plump chunks of crab meat, and deeply-flavored ground beef served to be scooped into lettuce cups.
Finally, you can't do Thai without a pad thai (it's a rule), with the version here is satisfyingly customizable - bring on the pepper flakes and lime! - and one type of curry is also a must (I'm partial to green) if only to be served rice from the huge silver tureen.
So if suffering from Chinese-fatigue but still seeking Southeastern, take a trip to Coconut Paradise - it's a welcome relief.
38 Fumin Lu, near Yan'an Zhong Lu