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Sep 26, 2001 03:36 AM

What's the word on Shanghai 1930

  • l

I'm considering going to Shanghai 1930 with my family. Is it worth my while?

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  1. The word is avoid it like the plague!
    Michael Bauer doesn't know his Chinese food. He rates it as one of the top 100 restaurant in the city, when I find it can't be anywhere near the top. It's over priced bad Chinese food. I had out of town friends who wanted to have Chinese food. I thought Shanghai 1930 would be a nice classy joint to take them. Granted, the interior was modern and sophicated, not your usual red walls with golden dragons, also the front bar area has live jazz nightly, that's a nice touch, but the food was not worth the trip. I think we ordered hot and sour soup, which they charged by the the bowl, a petite lamb chops in XO sauce I think, and supposly their special, a "squarral fish", which turned out to be a whole fished prepred sweet and sour style and some other stuff I can't remember. All dishes were very small, we left feeling hungry still, yet for the four of us the bill came to close to $200 with some beer and wine, no dessert. Now, when do you need to spend $200 for Chinese food?
    Don't go there if you are looking for good Chinese.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Wendy Lai
      Zach Georgopoulos

      I agree with Wendy -- same experience, except we spent even more!

      1. re: Wendy Lai

        the Guardian's Paul Reiddenger likes it a lot too. I don't know why. I've been a few times over the years and I'm not impressed. One time we even got ill. Perhaps they're past their prime? Or damaged by the economy? A lot of nice, expensive restaurants are waking up with a serious hangover these days, I imagine it's hard to keep focused and caring.

        One thing I do like about Shanghai 1930 is for after work, sit in the bar area, order some cocktails and a few appetizers/small plates.

        1. re: diligent

          Thanks for all your feedback. It's unfortunate that there aren't that many good "high-end" Chinese places in SF itself. Had to find a place in the city that's a bit more swanky-looking than Great Eastern, and I felt a bit stretched looking for a place that no only looked good but had good food too. Just settled for a dinner reservation at Harbor Village downtown. At least I know what to expect there, having had dinner there twice.

          A few of my mainland chinese friends (including a native Shanghainese) did have a few things to say about Shanghai 1930 a while ago, so it might be a question of decline or only because the kitchen did certain dishes well. It's quite low on my list, but I'll post if I end up there sometime.

          On another note, I find that Reidinger has a tendency to praise all the places he reviews. I haven't seen a bad review from him in years. He's not as strict as I would like but he does pretty well at ferreting out the lesser known places.

          1. re: Limster

            There are a couple of different theories on how to choose what restaurants (out of literally thousands in the Bay Area) get reviewed and how.

            Someone like Bauer has a responsibility to review places that are "destinations," are getting a lot of publicity or are otherwise high profile -- there's a public interest in knowing whether or not these places are worth your time and money. In reviewing places like that, a negative review is both appropriate and valuable.

            On the other hand, there's no virtue in singling out some small neighborhood place for a serious review and then trashing it. When reviewing "unknown" places the value of a review is pointing people to something good that they might otherwise have missed. That's what I expect from reviewers at the level of Reidinger and the other weeklies.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              As the Bay Guardian's previous restaurant reviewer (before Paul), I agree with Ruth. Our general policy at the Guardian was that if I couldn't find at least 50% good things to recommend at a small neighborhood place, it wasn't worth reviewing. A little local place will stand or fall on its own merits--there's really no point in trashing it top to bottom. If it's bad, the 'hood will vote with its feet soon enough. also, it may have virtues that keep it open that don't have anything to do with the food (viz. places like Lucky Penny). This did NOT mean that I felt compelled to be Little Mary Sunshine about every place I reviewed--quite the opposite. But it does readers more of a service to tell them where to go than where to avoid like the plague. And yes, big "destination" places were fair game for whatever kind of review they deserved, since they were "news". As to what places get picked--a combination of press releases, industry buzz, letters from readers, and a lot of pavement-pounding to see what looks good in a wide variety of neighborhoods.

              1. re: Dixieday

                I've never agreed with the approach expressed here on soft-pedaling in reveiws of smaller places, mostly because I think reviews should be concerned with diners first and foremost and second because places may be saved by being alerted to problems before they drag them under.

                1. re: Fine

                  I'm not sure if we're talking about the same thing.

                  I wasn't suggesting that places be given undeservedly good reviews or that reviews shouldn't be forthcoming about a restaurant's deficiencies.

                  I think what we meant was that when choosing among so many places to review (a process that involves more than one visit and a fair amount of time), there's more value to pointing people to a good place than trashing a small neighborhood place most people would never have heard of anyway.

                  After all, knowing where not to eat still doesn't tell you where to eat.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    Paul Reidinger

                    Criticism is largely the art of description. To evoke a restaurant in all its dimensions, good and otherwise, is what restaurant writing should strive to be about, in my view. Anybody can give an opinion, and who cares?

                    It's true that I've not been harsh about too many places, but that's largely because the restaurant standards for food, service and ambiance are very high in this city. But anyone who's closely read my pieces ought to be aware of the many details, dishes etc I haven't cared for. One does make an effort to maintain a genteel, civil tone; when a writer says something like, There was enough shaved ice (on some dish) to chill the whole restaurant -- as Bauer did in a piece today (1/11/02) -- he is failing to do justice both to the restaurant and to the business of writing about restaurants.

                    1. re: Paul Reidinger

                      Welcome to chowhound and thank you for filling us in on your side of the reviewing equation, especially on aspects of food writing that we don't necessarily think about when we're just going after good food.

                      One other thing that I look for in a review is a cultural or culinary eye-opener when it's appropriate. For example, it would be very beneficial if readers could learn the few key characteristics or typical dishes of say, Shanghainese cuisine (which offers a very different repeitoire from cantonese cooking -- foodfirst's Shanghai Gourmet thread is still fresh on my mind), that would aid them in ordering and getting the unique and delicious stuff.

      2. We thought we must have hit it on a really "off day". Ate there last Spring and will never go back. Expensive and bad - we asked to have the majority of the meal packed to take and then dropped it in a trash can on the way to BART.