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Feb 11, 2002 07:25 PM

New Shanghainese Restaurant in the Richmond - Definitely Worth a Try

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There's a new Shanghainese Restaurant on 16th and Geary called Old Shanghai (I believe - it has a green awning) that is where Mike's used to be. The xiao long bao (steamed dumplings) are the best I've had outside of the famous Ding Tai Fung in Taipei. The outer skin is super thin, and the inside is juicy with broth flowing out when you bite into it.

Dumplings 101: Make sure you eat them while they're hot since the outer skin tends to harden when it comes in contact with cooler air, but be careful not to burn yourself since the broth inside the dumpling is piping hot. Use your soup spoon to hold the xiao long bao as well, since it would be a tragedy for the broth to fall on to your plate.

I've had both lunch and dinner there. For lunch, the thick noodles are good, but I wouldn't order the chao neen gao again. The potstickers are good too. The lion's head (really just pork meat balls) have a delicate taste, uniquely done in a tasty broth. For dinner we had the cabbage with preserved ham, which wasn't not the menu - delicious, a deep fried pork dish - delectable, their preserved cabbage rice, and a ton of xiao long bao.

The service is decent and helpful and the atmosphere is nicer than your average Shanghainese restaurant.

I would really like to see this restaurant succeed so give it a shot!

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  1. Wow, how long has Mike's been gone? I attended many, many family celebrations there although none in recent years.

    I'm very excited to hear about the new place. If you take a look at the link below, I've been trying to locate the Shanghai restaurant described but having no luck. Bet it's this one as the coordinates are close. Did you see beggar's chicken on the menu?


    1. Good call! I had an Office Depot run today and checked out this place for lunch.

      The downstairs dining room was full during lunch with all Chinese clientele and a mix of Cantonese and Shanghainese chatter filled the air. The English part of the menu is pretty scanty, however, to the restaurant's credit, the dishes that are translated are all Shanghai specialties with no concessions to Americanized offerings. Special dishes (including many small plates) are listed in the handwritten Chinese menu and posted on the walls. There are 4 family dinners for two to eight persons ranging from $38 to $128. The old Mike's interior is still nice and not garish, and the walls are decorated with old advertising posters of pretty Shanghai women with cosmetics and cigarettes and photos of the Bund and old Shanghai.

      I saw some amazing dishes come out of the kitchen for other tables. One platter had the protruding deep-fried head and crispy tail of a rock cod assembled with the stir-fried filets in the middle and "scales" of tomato and cucumber garnish. A glossy whole fish with brown sauce, a teepee of slices of glistening streaky side pork, a dish of small braised eels in a thick brown sauce that almost looked like they were writhing, a chili red plate of ma po tofu, and a beautiful bowl of soupy dan dan mian. I noticed that the waiters ladled out the soup and soup noodles at the table.

      My own lunch was much simpler as I was by myself and didn't have that much time. While invoking the name of the holy grail, Din Tai Fung, may not be deserved, the xiao long bao ($6) were indeed very good even if the wrapper is not super thin. Of the 8 pieces, 5 were gushers, 2 were almost dry, and one had leaked and lost all its juice. Anyone who longs for "soup dumplings" should be happy with the version here. I also had the wok fried rice cakes ($6) which had too much Napa cabbage stems and were not charry, pretty undistinguished.

      I have a copy of the four-page Chinese menu and will study it against my glossary of Shanghai cuisine translations. I look forward to a return visit to try more.

      Old Shanghai Restaurant
      5145 Geary Blvd.
      San Francisco
      Closed Tuesdays

      1. Dumplings 201: if you eat them first thing, the soup will scald you and the delicious post-soup-sucking shrapnel will be a painful rather than blissful ingestion experience.

        Let 'em sit. If you are a human with coursing blood and a pulse, you're not gonna let those babies lie so long that dough hardens. You'll err toward scalding rather than congealing.


        8 Replies
        1. re: Jim Leff

          Sounds like a good idea for an invention -- a small sensor you could place on a dumpling (or other food item) that will turn color when it reaches the optimum temperature.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            P.S. Forgot to mention, they also have XLB made with crab.

          2. re: Jim Leff

            Jim, I have to disagree on Dumplings 201, even as I sit here typing with a slightly scorched mouth from my lunch today at Old Shanghai. The broth is absorbed very readily into the wrappers as soon as they start to cool and to wait is to deprive one of the full experience.

            Here's what I was taught - the dumpling should be cradled in a soup spoon. Nip a small hole in the wrapper by biting it, being careful to only let your teeth come into contact with the steaming hot dumpling. This lets the soup inside drain partially into the spoon and vents the steam allowing the inside and outside temperatures to equilibrate. It will cool down enough to be able to eat it.

            I do find that the first three or four in a basket of xiao long bao are the best. The rest have cooled down to much by the time I get to them. This is definitely a dish best shared by more than one person, and absolutely not recommended for take-out.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I use a variation of this trick -- after the opening nibble, I test the temperature with my tongue, followed by a little breath to cool it if necessary (great for impatient eaters).

              1. re: Limster

                I do the incision/puff/lick maneuver, too. I just don't do it right as they come off the stove.

                Actually, that might be the issue here. In the NY restaurants where I order these things, they're brought, like, IMMEDIATELY to the table. Is it possible that places out there are slightly less fastidious, and that key minute of de-scalding time is passed in transit to the table?


                1. re: Jim Leff

                  I think transition time from kitchen to table varies with the place. If the bamboo basket exudes a ton of steam as it's opened, I'll still go for the dumplings with a spoon, but down it in a more leisurely way.

              2. re: Melanie Wong

                That is indeed the prescribed procedure (leaving off, of course, the dabs of hot sauce and ginger soy sauce on the spoon, and the final thrust of soupless doughy shards).

                The soup dumplings we get here in NY (which is, of course, the superior city for well as competitive ice skating) don't absorb soup into their wrappers. I've never seen that happen. How thick are the wrappers on those suckers that they could absorb this stuff?

                No dumpling, IMO, should be eaten scalding hot. To be clear, I'm not suggesting they be eaten tepid, either. Generally, the point at which one can't stand the wait anymore is just about right. Like a minute or so.

                Re: the last lonely congealed dumplings, it's a matter of careful ordering, so everyone knows their allotment and there's no demuring over the final few as they quickly expire. There is indeed a narrow window of opportunity. But it's still do-able.


              3. re: Jim Leff

                That's the thread I was looking for ...

              4. The xiao long baos are the best. It's the closest you're going to get to aunthenticity without going to China or Taiwan. I've been there a few times and every time I go I have to eat the xiao long baos. The price is fairly reasonable. It's 5.95 for an order of 8. If you really want to get extravagant you can get them topped with crab cholesterol for 10.95. If you like beef stew, the beef stew noodles is great too. It has a little kick to it. the shrimp dish is good too...forgot what it was called. If you go for lunch, they have sweet or salty warm soy milk. Chinese fried donuts are ok but doesn't compare to the ones in China. They just can't make the dough light enough in the states. The chao nian gao is NOT good; I've had much better. If you like fish or fried fish, they have a specialty called Xiao Hwang Yu, which they directly ship from Shanghai. They are about 5 to 6 inches in length and very tasty. I know this because my parents know the owners. Anyways there's a lot of goodies on the menu. The service is ok; they only have one real waiter--the owner's son. They got 3 other people to bring out dishes and bus tables. If you have a big party, I recommend making reservations ahead of time. They only take reservations of greater than 3, otherwise you have to go there and wait. Go check this place and out. It's worth it!!!