Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hidden Gem: Shanghai Restaurant

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.

Good stuff!

Shanghai Restaurant
140 W Valley Blvd, #211
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 288-0991


Anonymous said...

Hehe, I love waiters/waitresses who order you around and complain about what you're ordering. As long as they do it in a well-intentioned way, of course.

sku said...

I appreciated that this was actually steering me away from the obvious. More often, it's the opposite, where the waiters see you are not of their ethnicity and assume you only want the most American-friendly dish on the menu. I've actually had that happen more in Korean restaurants than anywhere else. I sometimes have had to fight to get anything other than bulgogi.

Anonymous said...

I totally relate! There's one bibimbap place where the lady virtually insists that non-Koreans have to order #1, which is the least interesting bibimbap on the menu. I even blogged about her, it was so annoying. And Bon V. and I have gotten strange looks other places when we ordered dishes most Americans won't eat.

sku said...

Is that Jeon Ju? Jeon Ju is one of my favorite BBBs, but they are very insistent about #1. Now that I've been many times, though, I get to order from the rest of the menu;)

Anonymous said...

Nope, didn't have any problems at Jeon Ju. But maybe that's because we ordered the kalbi dolsot bibimbap, which is probably the least exotic. They let us order the whole smoked fish, though (with a strange look).

The place where I've had trouble is Gamja Bawi in the Koreatown Plaza food court.