Located on the second floor of the giant San Gabriel Square mall on Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, Shanghai Restaurant seems to have escaped notice of the food writing world, but I love it, and most everything I've had has been good.
Shanghai cuisine, in my experience, is some of the most intricately flavored food around. The Shanghai sauces, often dominated by anise, can have a dense, sweet taste, almost like a licoricey black mole or a lighter, more refined taste. At Shanghai Restaurant, pork ribs or baby eel (though the eels seem to have disappeared from the menu) come slathered in these dark, anise scented sauces.
Xiao long bao (XLB to those in the know), or soup dumplings, are a popular Shanghai treat that has caught on in the US. They are made by filling dumplings with meat and jellied broth. When the dumplings are steamed, the broth melts so that the meat is suspended in a pool of delicious soup. When you bite in, watch out; if you aren't careful, you will get a lap full of piping hot broth. Shanghai Restaurant has good XLB stuffed with a mix of crab and pork, though they are not quite up to the par of the famous Din Tai Fung in Arcadia.
My favorite dish is the shen jian bao, wondrous pan fried pork buns topped with black sesame seeds and scallions with a nice XLB like broth that squirts out when you bite into them. I could just sit and eat these things all day.
Last time we visited, the waiter chastised us for ordering too many dishes with flour and suggested some dishes to provide balance. One stand out was a cold spongy bean curd with mushrooms and peanuts. The bean curd was served in the anise sauce, which it absorbed completely. The dish, which admittedly didn't look like much, was surprising addictive.
140 W Valley Blvd, #211
San Gabriel, CA 91776