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Wilmington, DE Chinese--a winner!

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Julie Oct 14, 2005 02:05 PM

After reading a blurb about Shang Hai (2815 Philadelphia Pike) in a DE News Journal article from two months ago, I finally made it over to this restaurant in Claymont for lunch today. I am thrilled to report that it was highly satisfying. This place has the standard Chinese take-out menu, chicken with cashews etc., but ASK FOR THE CHINESE MENU. (It's in English also, not to worry.) My friend and I got three items today--leek-shrimp wonton soup, sauteed string beans with pork, and crispy-fried tofu and eggplant with hot peppers. All three were very well done, with the standout being the wonton soup. The wontons were home-made and absolutely delicious, and a bowl of soup for two (ten wontons) cost $5. The string beans and the pork were tender and well seasoned (a little on the oily side, but that's to be expected) and the batter on the fried tofu/eggplant dish had just the right seasoning. With tea and rice, lunch for two was $18.75.

I am very happy to have a new home for well-made, authentic and interesting Chinese food in Wilmo (I used to hit Asian Palace regularly, but finally got way too fed up with the owner's Fascist attitude toward his customers). I plan to visit Shang Hai many more times to sample the rest of the Chinese menu. They have things like Lion's Head pork ball, cool-sounding fish dishes, sauteed greens, etc. that are very compelling.

Shang Hai's dishes are very cheap and the atmosphere is commensurate with the prices. There are only five tables, and the restaurant does a lot of take-out business, but it's still pleasant to sit there. The staff were extremely friendly. Give it a try!

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  1. k
    karen RE: Julie Oct 17, 2005 03:50 PM

    I agree, I too read the article and have eaten there several times and never disappointed. No doubt it is the best Chinese place we have. Try the salt crispy duck, it is excellent.

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      meagan RE: Julie Sep 17, 2006 03:43 AM

      We have eaten at Shang Hai a few times and really loved the food. They have soup dumplings, something I was very surprised to find in Delaware. Next time we go I want to try the Lion's Head meatballs. The place is small, the hostess/waitress very pleasant and helpful...however...if you need a bathroom, she will direct you to the Burger King up the street. We don't live in DE, just go there to visit family who are NOT chowhounds, so I wouldn't take them there.
      Meagan

      1. spyturtle008 RE: Julie Sep 24, 2006 02:46 AM

        Finally made it to Shang Hai after reading all these positive posts -- I'll just add my voice to the chorus here and say that it's indeed excellent. Had the crispy salt tofu w/ eggplant & peppers, kung pao tofu, green beans in garlic sauce, and an order of the steamed veggie buns. All were great -- the steamed veggie buns were not like any I've had before (seemed like they were stuffed with a mixture of kale, tofu, and mushrooms) and were perfect with a little dab of chili sauce for each bite. There was a good handful of veg options to chose from, and they were clearly marked on the chinese menu. I've noticed that it can be hard to communicate what 'vegetarian' means in some asian restaurants (since that often means fish / seafood are okay, which for me isn't the case), but no such problem here. The waitress is every bit as pleasant as all the previous post-ers have said, and she and her husband obviously take great pride in their work. Can't wait to go back...

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          mchuchra RE: Julie Nov 10, 2006 12:01 PM

          Hi there,

          Thanks to all of you for the great info on Shang Hai. I just tried it last weekend. Unfortunately, I failed to ask for the Chinese Menu. I ended up ordering a couple of things off the "regular menu," and I would say the food was OK, not fantastic. But now I realize my mistake and will request the other menu. Thanks for providing your insights and I am very excited to add Shang Hai to my short list of chowhound-worthy low-cost, high quality establishments in the Wilmington... Any other great food spots around Wilmington (where I work) -- be they more Chinese, pizza, any other great ethnic food?

          1. bluehensfan RE: Julie Nov 10, 2006 11:57 PM

            Genelle's on Market St. has great Caribbean eats. Good curries, jerk chicken (it's spicy though) and johnny cakes.

            1. spyturtle008 RE: Julie Nov 14, 2006 01:10 PM

              The chinese menu is right up front on the counter -- you don't even have to ask for it, necessarily, although the people that work there are especially helpful and eager to recommend dishes. There's also a dry erase board on the wall to the left that has other specials that would otherwise belong on the chinese menu. The kung pao tofu is particularly good. First time I've liked a kung pao anything, having always had it from the 'generic' chinese places...

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                travelmad478 RE: Julie Nov 15, 2006 10:42 AM

                You're right. The first few times I went to Shang Hai, the Chinese menu was only available as a photocopied piece of paper (and there were only a few of them), but I went there on Saturday night and found that it's now a laminated, permanent menu that the staff hands out right away. This is great, and seems to show that the word has gotten out about this place! Last Saturday evening, all five tables were full (three tables of Chinese and two non-Chinese), which was also nice to see. The food was good as ever, too.

                I should go back to Bon House now and see if they've made any headway translating their Chinese menu! I haven't been there since February.

                1 Reply
                1. re: travelmad478
                  spyturtle008 RE: travelmad478 Nov 15, 2006 01:12 PM

                  Re: Bon House, please report back if you make a return visit! I'd be eager to try it, but given our dietary restrictions (my partner and I are both vegetarian, which means different things to many asian cooks, and he has some allergies), I wouldn't feel comfortable without having an actual menu to order off of...

                2. s
                  Shunick RE: Julie Dec 5, 2006 01:53 PM

                  Julie can you further describe the soup "more details, thick soup, thin soup, name of the dish or the regoinal of China." There is a guy on another board that is looing for a recipe for your request but needs more information.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Shunick
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                    travelmad478 RE: Shunick Dec 5, 2006 03:12 PM

                    Not sure what soup you are referring to unless it is the wonton soup. That is a thin broth with wontons in it, very plain, but very tasty. I have no idea what region of China it (or anything else!) is from.

                  2. e
                    emperorchan RE: Julie Jan 10, 2007 07:23 PM

                    Julie, you are spot on about "Shang Hai".

                    I went there last night with some friends based on the recommendations of this board and I was truly pleased by the food, the price and the service. Thanks! Great stuff!

                    Another pretty good Chinese restaurant is in Newark, DE in the University Plaza Shopping Center, it is called "The Authentic Chinese Restaurant". Once again, I used the Chinese menu, which is in Chinese & English. The prices are definitely higher than "Shang Hai".

                    Coming from the New York City area, I am used to having good authentic Chinese food. This board and its members have been very helpful in making my assignment in the Delaware area that much more comforting. I say this because I am down in Delaware from Mon - Fri and live in a hotel room during my stay, so it is easy to understand that a good meal eases the whole process. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: emperorchan
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                      ChrisInDELAWARE RE: emperorchan Sep 30, 2007 11:26 AM

                      Is the "Shang Hai" restaurant the one on Philadelphia Pike in Claymont? It looks terrible from the outside. Also, there is little or no parking.

                      I need to find an exception Chinese restaurant. I used to live in Dallas where there are many different kinds of eateries. I know about the "P.F. Chang's" on Rt. 1 in Pennsylvania but that is too far to travel for a meal.

                      Any comments will be appreciated.

                      1. re: ChrisInDELAWARE
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                        travelmad478 RE: ChrisInDELAWARE Oct 8, 2007 07:46 AM

                        Yes, this is it. As I said in my initial review, the atmosphere is the same as the prices (minimal) but the food is excellent and the staff very friendly. There is parking, on the side of the building.

                        If you think PF Chang's is an exceptional Chinese restaurant, then you will not be happy at Shang Hai.

                    2. d
                      DonnaB3 RE: Julie Oct 27, 2007 06:14 PM

                      We just returned from Shang Hai based on recommendations from this group. Thank you to all who wrote in about this wonderful restaurant. The (Chinese menu) food is superb and truly authentic.

                      I would never have stopped in on my own, it looks like a "hole in the wall" from outside but inside it's clean and the staff is so nice. And the food is worth the trip. Also, the chef is a true chef, he was trained in a culinary institute in NW China and his certificate is on the wall behind the front counter. I am so glad we listened to the rave reviews.

                      Thanks group!

                      1. s
                        susabo RE: Julie Aug 27, 2008 06:33 AM

                        I drove over to visit Shang Hai last night but the windows were boarded up and it looks like it might be closed now. I didn't see any signs indicating they had moved to a new location.

                        18 Replies
                        1. re: susabo
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                          travelmad478 RE: susabo Aug 28, 2008 12:24 PM

                          Oh no! I haven't been there in a while, but every time I did go, they seemed to be doing a good business. That is a big drag. Hope they turn up somewhere (in a nicer location would be great!)

                          1. re: travelmad478
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                            RocknDE RE: travelmad478 Aug 30, 2008 07:25 PM

                            I read a couple of weeks ago that there was a fire and the owner suffered burns and smoke inhalation. Haven't heard anything since. Attached the link to the story. Hope he is O.K.
                            http://www.delawareonline.com/apps/pb...

                            1. re: RocknDE
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                              ChrisInDELAWARE RE: RocknDE Nov 22, 2008 09:07 PM

                              Shang Hai appears to be gone as I also drove by their old location a few days ago and the building appears to be gone! The link on delawareonline does not work so I guess they do not keep old stories online for very long. Does anyone know of another good Chinese or Thai restaurant in the Northern Wilmington area?

                              1. re: ChrisInDELAWARE
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                                travelmad478 RE: ChrisInDELAWARE Nov 23, 2008 04:20 AM

                                That's really unfortunate. However, I recently read about two new Wilmington restaurants in the News Journal's Spark Weekly: Rasa Sayang (Malaysian) in Independence Mall, and Dumpling House (Chinese) at 1128 W. 11th. I haven't been able to get to either one yet, but will definitely be giving them a try. The Dumpling House menu is online (www.dumplinghouse.com) and looks fairly modest, but that could be a good thing if they do those dishes well. If anyone tries these places, please report back!

                                1. re: travelmad478
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                                  mukalu RE: travelmad478 May 14, 2009 07:20 PM

                                  I am meeting 8 of my relatives in Wilmington on May 20, and would like to hear of a chinese restaurant I can take them to. I looked at the dumplinghouse link, and looked at google street view, it looks like this restaurant might be gone.

                                  Any other ideas for good chinese food in Wilmington?

                                  1. re: mukalu
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                                    travelmad478 RE: mukalu May 15, 2009 05:00 AM

                                    If you looked at Google street view, it might be a photo of the street before the restaurant opened. It hasn't been there that long. I'll take a drive by to check. As far as I know, they are open. They just updated their website a month ago.

                                    1. re: mukalu
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                                      travelmad478 RE: mukalu May 15, 2009 12:48 PM

                                      Dumpling House is most definitely still there. I just drove by.

                                      1. re: travelmad478
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                                        mukalu RE: travelmad478 May 15, 2009 02:35 PM

                                        Thanks for the driveby, travelmad! Has anyone tried the Dumpling House? Any reviews?

                                        1. re: mukalu
                                          wench31 RE: mukalu May 15, 2009 06:55 PM

                                          I found this review:

                                          http://delaware.metromix.com/restaura...

                                          1. re: wench31
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                                            mukalu RE: wench31 May 16, 2009 04:12 AM

                                            Thanks, Wench!

                                    2. re: travelmad478
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                                      mukalu RE: travelmad478 May 21, 2009 06:41 AM

                                      Wow! Excellent food at Dumpling House on 11th! At first, my relatives from LA and NY were complaining about the prices, which were much higher than the chinatown prices that they are used to. So, we ordered a couple of appetizers, an order of dumplings, and two main dishes for 7 of us.

                                      I hesitate to go on, wondering if I will be able to accurately describe it all and do the meal justice. First came the fried tofu, veggie dumplings, and scallion pancake. The tofu was light with a slightly crunchy exterior. As people around the table began to sample, you could hear mumurs of approval, and positive comments. All dishes arrived fresh and hot and were very good.

                                      The main dishes were absolutely superb! Fried rice noodles actually had more vegetables and toppings than noodles. Vegetarian Delight - stir fried mushrooms & vegetables, were the highlight. Although the dish is slightly sweet (not my personal preference), it contained specialty mushrooms and eggplant and for those of you who like cilantro, this is an excellent dish, with just a smattering of the usual vegetables found in a chinese stir fry.

                                      The chef came out later to greet us and I believe that she said that she is Hakka from Taiwan and uses her family recipes, and had previously owned a catering business for a number of years. She prefers that people make reservations so that she may be prepared for them. This was a great recommendation, travelmad! Thanks for your original post.

                                      1. re: mukalu
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                                        travelmad478 RE: mukalu May 21, 2009 08:17 AM

                                        Fantastic! I have not yet tried this place but it's close to my house, so I'll make more of an effort soon. Glad you enjoyed it.

                                        1. re: travelmad478
                                          spyturtle008 RE: travelmad478 May 22, 2009 05:55 AM

                                          WOW. Went up there last night (walking distance from my place -- excellent!) and can confirm that neither the post above nor the metromix review are exaggerations in the least. Can't believe it took me so long to find out about this place -- but people are definitely finding it. They were slammed with a ridiculous amount of takeout orders while we were there. Given that their location is kind of tucked in an odd spot, I'm just glad it seems they're catching on -- I kind of worry whether or not Wilmington will support a place like this. The entrees are a bit pricey (worth it, but still in a bracket that will keep us from eating there as regularly as we'd like), but the food is truly spectacular. We sampled the veggie dumplings (pan-fried), the fried tofu (excellent dipping sauce), and the cucumber salad (amazing dressing, not too sweet, and the perfect balance to some of the other heavier, hotter dishes) to start. Entrees were a veggie noodle dish (good but a bit too much sesame oil for my taste) and the spicy eggplant (likely one of the best dishes I've ever had at a Chinese restaurant). Only bummer being that I'll probably never try any of the other entrees at this place -- I can't imagine not ordering the eggplant dish. Perfect level of heat, nice mix of flavor and spice, and even pretty to look at. Everything was super fresh, and I'm absolutely thrilled to have a place like this in our backyard. Also, they're BYO -- $3.50 for wine and $.50 for beer.

                                          A bonus -- while wandering around to work off the meal, we ran into an ice cream parlor in Trolley Square (Temptations) that I discovered serves Bassett's ice cream. Total fail on the working off bit, but, who knew??

                                          1. re: spyturtle008
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                                            travelmad478 RE: spyturtle008 May 22, 2009 08:57 AM

                                            OK OK, I will go this weekend, really! I am shamed into it. I live very close to this place, but it is located on an odd block that is sort of a pain to get to--so I'd never even seen it until I did the drive-by the other day!

                                            1. re: travelmad478
                                              spyturtle008 RE: travelmad478 May 22, 2009 01:02 PM

                                              Ditto, Travelmad. Last time I'd been here it was a breakfast joint (maybe a year or so ago?). I come down 10th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. all the time, but this location isn't really visible from any of the main thoroughfares. I hadn't seen any advertising, either. (And hey -- we must be neighbors!)

                                              1. re: spyturtle008
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                                                travelmad478 RE: spyturtle008 May 22, 2009 01:27 PM

                                                I'm booked for Saturday night at Dumpling House now. spyturtle008, you might be in the area but if you just found out about Temptations this week then you can't live very close to me--it's been there forever! I am quite fond of that ice cream, but it is a major PIA that the place is not open on Sunday. Ice cream is a nice thing to be able to walk to...getting in the car to schlep to Sweet Lucy's or Brewster's is just not the same.

                                                1. re: travelmad478
                                                  spyturtle008 RE: travelmad478 May 22, 2009 01:51 PM

                                                  Oh, I'd seen Temptations before, but hadn't realized they serve Bassett's is all. A decadent evening all around. And I'm on a roll -- I'm trying Moro for the first time tonight. (I live about a block and a half from the new Woodlawn Library.) Have a great time on Saturday!

                                                  1. re: spyturtle008
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                                                    travelmad478 RE: spyturtle008 May 23, 2009 06:53 PM

                                                    OK--just back from Dumpling House. We enjoyed it quite a bit--had the spicy eggplant (based on spyturtle's comments) as well as the fish curry and "3 Cups Chicken" (whatever that means!) We also started out with an order of pan-fried House Special dumplings and a dish of cucumber salad. To me the fish curry was the real standout--this was almost like a Thai curry, really flavorful. The other two dishes were very nice as well, and the dumplings were super fresh and clearly homemade, with a very light-flavored pork/cabbage filling. All of our dishes were in the "spicy" category on the menu, and we ordered them in varying degrees of heat, going from mild to medium. Interestingly enough, the spicy eggplant was hardly spicy at all, while the chicken and the curry had some pleasant heat but nothing anywhere near what I'd call really fiery.

                                                    The three dishes we ordered were all completely different in flavor, texture, type of sauce, etc. It was a very interesting meal, for sure. I think the culinary score would still be a little lower than Shang Hai's, but I definitely enjoyed my food very much. We brought home a lot of leftovers--the fish curry and the eggplant portions were quite sizeable.

                                                    Very friendly service from a waitress who was, I believe, Polish. Didn't see the chef but we were there at peak time on Saturday night, so I'm not surprised.

                            2. t
                              travelmad478 RE: Julie Feb 19, 2010 12:56 PM

                              Great news for Wilmington/Newark Chinese--as per the News Journal today, the owners of the old Shang Hai in Claymont are now in business again at Szechuan, in the Apollo Shopping Center on Kirkwood Highway: http://www.szechuanwilmington.com/

                              The Chinese menu is on the website--I cannot wait to run over there and get my Lion Head meatball!

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: travelmad478
                                wench31 RE: travelmad478 Feb 19, 2010 07:34 PM

                                That's great to know!

                                1. re: travelmad478
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                                  jessicheese RE: travelmad478 Feb 22, 2010 06:48 AM

                                  This place has been there for a while- are they new owners? I'm curious- my past experiences have been hit or miss to the extreme. I'd love to know that it's improved so I don't have to drive all the way down to Bon House!

                                  1. re: travelmad478
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                                    MrRuffles RE: travelmad478 Feb 22, 2010 07:29 AM

                                    Being big fans of Shang Hai, we checked out Szechuan on Saturday night. The food was good but I think they need some time to get out the kinks of running a bigger place.

                                    Despite the Chinese menu (there's also a "Popular" menu), the bulk of customers were there for the buffet option. A collection of the usual faux-Chinese suspects or what the chef's wife used to call their "fast food" at the old place. There was a constant flurry of activity keeping the buffet filled which seemed to create some kitchen service issues especially with only one server for the entire restaurant.

                                    We ordered the wonton soup with leeks to start and waited over half an hour for it to arrive. At that point we were pretty hungry and didn't have a good chance to really taste the soup. For appetizers we got scallion pancakes and soup dumplings (note that these and other appetizers aren't on either menu but we saw they offered them for Dim Sum and asked for them). We enjoyed the dumplings but found the pancakes somewhat greasier than we remember from Shang Hai.

                                    For entrees we got preserved vegetables with pork and a dry pot chicken and tofu with peppers. We couldn't put our finger on it but the pork dish didn't quite come together - the preserved vegetables lacked some of their signature tang and the taste of ginger was almost overpowering. Though not the dish we thought we were ordering, we enjoyed the dry pot chicken, it was spicy with a good balance of flavors.

                                    For those familiar with Shang Hai, Szeuchuan has a very different vibe. Shang Hai, despite being an overgrown take-out house, always struck me as a bright, warm, and welcoming place with a certain energy. Szechuan is a bit dark and threadbare and the buffet sucks something from the place. There was also a bit of a wait to leave as it's a pay-up-front place and the guy handling the cash register seemed a bit harried and overwhelmed.

                                    I do worry about how they'll keep up with more customers ordering from the menu but we would definitely go back. Despite it all, we hope they succeed and find their groove.

                                    1. re: MrRuffles
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                                      kmcdonne RE: MrRuffles Feb 22, 2010 09:55 AM

                                      Szeuchuan the one on Kirkwood is under new management and I agree, they do have some kinks. I have gotten takeout from there twice and they have messed up the order both times, one time costing me $10 more. I took the order because it was too painful trying to explain the problem. The original owners were so nice and the food so good but now I'm worried that is all gone. Why can't we get a decent Chinese restaurant? Thanks.

                                      1. re: kmcdonne
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                                        gfweb1 RE: kmcdonne Feb 23, 2010 06:17 AM

                                        Bon House is close to decent sometimes, but still very unreliable.

                                      2. re: MrRuffles
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                                        travelmad478 RE: MrRuffles Feb 23, 2010 06:17 AM

                                        Hm, sounds like things are a little messy at the moment. I haven't had time to go down there since I found out that the Shang Hai people were there, and probably won't until I return in March from an upcoming trip. But I do want to support them. I am a little dismayed by the presence of a buffet, but I assume that is a holdover from the previous operation.

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