Shanghai food in Chinatown - Great Shanghai on Division past Bowery
- Susan Marme
The Great Shanghai, a restaurant we've been going to at least 1xmonth for the past 10 years NEVER (or at least seldom) seems to get mentioned on this board or in reviews/listings of Chinatown's best, etc.
I çan't figure out why - the real Shanghai items on the menu - the soup dumplings, the shredded pork with bean curd skin, fresh green soybeans, and pickled vegetable (habit-forming), the "fried fish fillet" with an incredibly crisp batter laced with a bit of seaweed, the pea shoots with baby shrimp, and so forth.... are all well worth an eat and are very reasonably priced to boot.
They also have great homemade scallion pancakes. Their American-style Chinese offerings - kung pao shrimp, and so forth - are also good, if that's your thing.
The service is very pleasant - the place is run with an iron hand (in a velvet glove) by Mrs. Mao, a former teacher from Shanghai, and the waiters are uniformly nice and helpful - the decor modern, with Miro and Klee prints on the walls, (even though you don't eat the decorations...).
A much more agreeable experience than some of the shoehorn-you-in popular Shanghai joints. You don't even have to insist on getting the real stuff (just ask for recommendations if you're not sure, the English menu descriptions can be a bit misleading). It more than satisfies the cravings developed by a couple of years in Taiwan, HK, and the PRC.
I also have been going to Great Shanghai even before their renovation to the now passe 'post-modern'interiors. Anyway the truly authentic Shanghaise item there is not quite on the menu and they only serve it during lunch before 2.30pm. It is the Braised Chicken Noodle Soup - Shanghaiese noodle in a creamy broth that is infused with the taste of chicken and bits of fresh tasting Bok Choy vegetable. Request for slices of chicken or they would use shredded chicken.
I find their Braised Chicken Noodle is even an improvement on the ones served in Shanghaise Restaurants in Hong Kong. Used to crave that as a child growing up there and then oreder it again when I was back therea couple of years ago. It arrived with a golden glistening layer of chicken fat floating on top, now some would be ectasy over that but it was a bit of a turn off for me. Then the chicken was a mixture of dark and white meat with quite a bit of chicken skin but the taste was disappointing. The Great Shanghai's version is closer to the taste I craved as a child and it is healthily devoid of signs of chicken fat, all tender slices of white breast meat yet the silky and cloud like softness of the noodles with the creamy soup have a full bodied chicken flavor enchanced further by the fresh bits of green vegetable. The shanghaiese cook simmer their noodles a bit with the soup thus lending a creamy thickness to it.
Haven't found a single Shanghaiese Restaurant outside of Shanghai that serves Soupy Dumplings as good as one restaurant in Shanghai that specializes in it. One orders by number of steamers. They serve twenty-four dumplings per steamer and the custom is at least one steamer per customer. The dumplings are bit sizes - they are half or one third the size of the usual ones found in American Shanghaise restaurants, just the right size to gently put it one's mouth gracefully without beaking them and let the flavor literally burst and be captured in an instant. It is a magical layering of flavors and textures.
Thanks for the tip - it sounds wonderful.
I remember soup dumplings no bigger than 50-cent pieces at the Sui Yuan restaurant in Taipei in the early 80's - they were divine little mouthfuls - nothing in NY compares, although the ones served at the Evergreen on the Upper East Side, those at Joe's in Midtown, and Shanghai Tang's Soho branch capture the flavor if not the exquisite balance of flavor impact/small size.
Does anyone know if the Sui Yuan is still in business? Chung Hsiao E. Road across from the Ding Hao supermarket? I know Taipei is nothing like it was in the 80's...