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best Shanghai cuisine restaurant in the entire SF Bay Area

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I'm looking for the best and most authentic Shanghai restaurant in the entire SF Bay Area, including SF, South Bay and East Bay. Would like to try out the traditional Shanghai dishes like braised eel, lions head, shanghai stir fried noodles, shanghai stir fried nian gao, etc. Thanks in advance.

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  1. can't speak for the rest of the bay area but my vote is for Shanghai Dumpling House on Balboa.

    1. I was a big Shanghai Dumpling Shop fan until I was persuaded (by many Chowhound posts) to cross the bridge to Oakland chinatown wherein lies Shanghai Restaurant (Shanghai Xiao Chi) on Webster St. which became my new favorite.

      Both places have excellent niangao. The version at SDS with mustard greens (instead of mushy napa cabbage)is a real winner, and I think the degree of done-ness of the niangao was just right IMHO, though some people prefer it a little more al dente. SXC, however, has four different versions of niangao, including paigu (read "pork chop") niangao beloved of carnivores like me. Both places use the big Shanghai noodles for chow mein, but SDS' were cooked too soft for my taste. The lion's head meatballs were okay but not spectacular at SDS; I haven't tried them at SXC.

      I haven't tried eel at either place (not sure if they both have it) because I've all but given up on finding a good eel dish in the US. I think true Shanghai river eel is only imported frozen, and then it's only the filleted underbelly strips. I happen to like the eel back pieces stir-fried almost to a crisp, like some places in Shanghai do it.

      I doubt if anything in the Bay Area can top Shanghai Xiao Chi for an authentic Shanghai hole-in-the wall "feel," from the size and layout to the pace and the energetic music of crispy Shanghainese dialect spoken by all the staff and most of the customers.

      Great xiaolongbao, too!

      Link: http://eatingchinese.org

      1. Thanks for the responses! I'll have to try out Shanghai Dumpling Shop and Shanghai Xiao Chi. Regarding braised eel, I've actually had a pretty good dish at Hong Fu in Cupertino. Their XLB is good IMHO too. Joy Restaurant in Foster City has quite a lot of Shanghai dishes too, including stir fried nian gao. Has anyone tried it there?

        How about Ding Shen in the ABC plaza in Milpitas? I haven't tried it but have always been curious. Has anyone eaten there yet?

        4 Replies
        1. re: Dave H

          The original Shanghai Ding Sheng didn't do too well and there was a name change to just Ding Sheng. Not sure if the menu/owner changed or not since I have not been back there.

          But the best Shanghai in south bay is China First in Milpitas near Dixon Landing and Milpitas Blvd. Excellent XLB, Lions Head, Cai Fan, and even Dong Po Pork.

          -t

          Link: http://eat.tanspace.com/archives/2002...

          1. re: tanspace

            Thanks for the recommendation! Will check out China First. Your website is great, by the way. Lotsa good info. =)

            1. re: tanspace

              Are the Shanghai specialties at China First still on a separate, Chinese-only menu you have to ask for? Because when I was there, if you didn't know, you'd think it was just another restaurant.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                IIRC, it is still the same Chinese menu. I did not look at the regular menu to see if they've added the Shanghai items or not, but I doubt it.

                -t

          2. It's been a long time, and updates are due, but my favourite was Su Hong in Palo Alto.

            1. I'm bumping this up w/ my review of <B>Shanghai House</b> in the Outer Richmond area (across the street from Balboa Theatre).

              Shanghai House just opened this past Thursday. It replaced the awful Ming Gu Hawaiian restaurant. Went here for an early lunch this weekend. At first, I was a little leery because we were the only ones in the restaurant. A lot of people would walk by and look but they won't come in. Bad sign right?

              Anyhoo, we ordered the following:
              Shao Lung Bao (little pork dumplings) - 10 pieces
              Green Onion Pancake - 8 pieces
              Shanghai Thick Noodle
              Shanghai nian gao (a nice gummy oval pasta--Taiwan Restaurant makes this!)
              Pork Noodle Soup
              Chicken Handcut Noodle

              OMG! The food was delicious! I loved everything we ordered. The dumplings were very good w/o being greasy (unlike the Shanghai Dumpling King up the block). I especially liked the Shanghai chow fun and the hand cut noodle. The handcut noodle is actually shaved noodle. They take a block of pasta and they shaved it w/ a cheese cutter. I've never seen anything like this in the City.

              Most dishes were about $5-$6 tops. If you're on a budget, I suggest you get the noodle soup. It came in a BIG bowl and could be shared by 2-3 people.

              The onion pancake was good. On par w/ Taiwan Restaurant's in Clement.

              Warning: If you are in a rush, don't come here because the food came slowly (we suspect it's cuz everything is fresh). Our lunch took about an 1 hour to finish. Hopefully they will improve the service --they are new.

              This place beats the horrible, dirty Shanghai Dumpling King (I don't get the hype) up the block. They serve authentic Shanghainese food.

              2 Replies
              1. re: asianstamp

                Thank you. For those interested, here's the address -

                Shanghai House
                3641 Balboa Street
                San Francisco, CA 94121

                1. re: asianstamp

                  Nian gao / nien gau is known in English as rice cake or, more literally, new year's cake. It's good luck to eat it on new year's.

                2. I have yet to have any good shanghai food in SF. That includes shanghai dumpling king, old shanghai, and others. The most passable was shanghai noodle shop on balboa. Spices #1 has some decent shanghai stir-fries, because the two chefs from sichuan and taiwanese have some EXCELLENT stir-fry skills (you guys should try their kung pao large intestines... so frickin goooood)

                  Shanghai Taste Delight in Mtn View USED to be the best. But I haven't been there since the chef and owner from the original one left. jiang nan xiao chi (can't remember what it was called in english) at central and Rengstorff, by hobees, is decent.

                  Given the fall of shanghai taste delight, my current favorite shanghai place is Shanghai Ding Sheng in Milpitas. The xlb I only give a B+, but the rest of the food is pretty good. Their sweet-and-sour spareribs suck, as they taste more like wuxi spareribs, and aren't sour enough. THey should be BLACK but are brown instead.

                  I'll check out shanghai house...

                  1. I should add that shanghai dumpling king gets a big fat C in my book. their xlb are B+ but they cheat by using napa cabbage.
                    the rest of the food was way too heavy handed as shanghai food goes--either too sweet, too salty, too whatever. Shanghai food is supposed to be light.

                    my yelp review:
                    http://www.yelp.com/biz/WLVcFNJnnkfig...

                    1. Happy Cafe in San Mateo is excellent... truly...

                      1. just went to HC Dumpling house on sunday, and the menu has improved a lot! lots of great new sorta shanghai style stuff. the snow mustard-tofu skin-soy bean dish was tasty, though a little heavy on the tofu skin. They had great cold dishes to start, including a plum-and-shanyao dish, and a blanched chive dish. entrees were decent too-- a decent wuxi sparerib for the states, a tasty hot-stirfried fermented rice and shrimp dish, and a SUPER tasty eggplant-and-large intestine claypot (with basil and some other goodies). awesome!

                        1. I second Joy Restaurant in Foster City for the entrees in general. Haven't found a consistent XLB place. I just can't find a place to replace the Fountain Court on Clement and 6th Ave which closed 3 years ago. :(

                          Anyone know where the chef from Fountain Court work now?

                          1. Just got back from Shanghai XC in Oaktown. I really like their cold vegetable dishes-- we had the broadbeans with salted radish, "vegetable with tofu," and the honey fried tofu puff. I ordered rice cake (niangao) with pork chop and got these tubular things instead of the flat ones. I like the flat ones much better; they carry a nice wok hay punch the tubes were lacking. We also had a really good scallion pancake, and we were brave and ordered stinking tofu.

                            Won't do that again.

                            I've been there before when an order of the stuff stunk up the whole joint. Our order didn't carry like that at all. You could smell it for sure, but it wasn't making our eyes water. But man, the way it tasted. I read somewhere that it tastes quite mild. That was not my, um, experience. It tastes just like it smelled. And the way it smells to me was, and anyone who has lived in rural New England, or anywhere where there are cows will know what I'm talking about, like really rotten cow manure. Not nice fresh cow manure, but a whole barnful of the stuff that had been mouldering in a hot barn for a while. It was truly disgusting. My lovely wife was a trooper, ate more than I did. But the order was supposed to be 8 pieces and it was 13... Not sure what that was about. I think I ate four, and then said to hell with it. She was worried about offending the staff, so she ate, what, seven pieces. I talked her into leaving the last two. I love her.

                            Anyway, stumbled upon this thread while searching for Shanghai recipes. Not having much luck. Can anyone recommend a book or two?

                            Also, has anyone tried Claypot on San Pablo in Albany? Super restaurant and very Shanghai, as far as I can tell. Awesome menu, a lot of cold dishes, a lot of guts and pig ears and such. Also had the strangest dish there once, can't remember the name, but it was deep fried prawns in the shell with what was called 'sauce' but was really a dry, shredded, I dunno, condiment thing. It was gold colored and very fluffy. I remember thinking there may have been coconut in it but damn if I could figure anything else out. Does that ring a bell,anyone?

                            This is my first post here because although I swung by a long time ago, I couldn't get used to the old way of posting and reading. I like this much better.

                            4 Replies
                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Aka Shanghai Restaurant on WEbster in Oakland Chinatown.

                                2. re: essvee

                                  The "sauce" on the prawns is probably an XO sauce, which is not particularly Shanghainese. My impression of the Clay Pot restaurant was that it had a few Shanghainese specialties grafted onto a one size fits all menu. Shanghai Xiao Chi's menu is Shanghainese to the core, and all the staff speak Shanghainese. I had lunch there yesterday, and the xiaolong bao was as good as ever. The "xiao" wonton was a good version too.

                                3. Thanks Joel. I just thought of the Shanghai place in the Pacific East Mall as well. Anyone been there? I've enjoyed a couple of good meals there and their menu is interesting.

                                  That's something many Shanghai restaurants seem to share: a menu that is much different than the standard-issue Chinese menu fare found at almost every other Chinese place around, even the outstanding ones. Comments, anyone?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: essvee

                                    Different regional cuisines. Most Chinese restaurants in this area are more or less Cantonese. Canton (Guangzhou) and Shanghai are about as far apart as Rome and Copenhagen. Different cultures, different languages, different cuisines.

                                    1. re: essvee

                                      The Shanghai region has a very distinct cuisine of its own, and there are a lot of dishes which are recognizably Shanghai specialties. Shanghainese restaurants typically shy away from including a lot of standards from other regions, though some Sichuan dishes have been incorporated into the corpus of Shanghainese restaurant cusine in a dumbed-down form, like mala doufu and yuxiang rousi.

                                    2. Of all places, in Berkeley. I tried this place many times when it first opened this year. The first time was an "oh my God I can't believe I found this restaurant" experience. It truly (not condescendingly) was the best Shanghai restaurant in the Bay Area at that moment. Shanghai shrimp, preserved cold fish, nian gao, xiao long bao. A couple of months ago (I also ordered wrong beef and fish for out-of-towners) I found the food overly salted and rather ordinary. But it was just that one time.

                                      I haven't been back since. I hope they are still doing well. It's upstairs, divey, and can be hard to find. Good luck.

                                      Shanghai Restaurant
                                      Durant Ave # D
                                      Berkeley, CA 94704

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: grocerytrekker

                                        This is the sister restaurant to the Shanghai Xiao Chi in Oakland Chinatown under discussion in this thread. The Berkeley location is luxe compared to Oakland. There's a branch in San Mateo also, called Shanghai East.

                                      2. Gary, what accompanied the prawns was definitely not XO. It was completely dry, golden in color, and very fluffy. It seemed toasted somehow, like bread crumbs. It was wild. Its name, I am almost sure I remember was Lake Tung Ting sauce. Hmm.

                                        I agree with your observation comparing Claypot's menu to Shanghai's. The difference is at least to some extent their respective locations-- Chinatown vs the bottom of Solano. But their cold menu is extensive, bigger than Shanghai's, and the specials board is chock full of preserved things and other suchlike goodies.

                                        I'm not trying to argue one is better than the other or anything, though. I am a true amateur, in the Latin sense of the word. I am a professional cook of almost 20 years (now on the reserve list, but I keep my hand in by teaching workshops for CCSF) but what I know of Chinese food is entirely self-taught. I have many many cookbooks-- The Classic Food of China by Yan Kit So is one of my faves. I have looked, asked, listened, learned, ate and most of all, cooked cooked cooked. My dearest wish is to have a mentor, or at least someone who can read the Chinese-only menus posted on the wall!

                                        Don't exactly know why I felt compelled to post my creds, I think just to show I am a guy who knows his XO sauce. ;)

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: essvee

                                          At the July chowdown (at Albany's Clay Pot) we had a dish that had perhaps the same topping. Here's my quote:

                                          "Bi feng eggplant: Very unusual. Grenades of flavor, consisting of two pieces of eggplant sandwiching some sort of filling (fish paste), covered in breadcrumbs (Panko?) flavored with pepper, garlic and other spices, then deepfried. Most unexpectedly, there was a huge pile of extra breading covering the plate. It is not clear to me what one was to do with this material; it was too bready to be a topping for rice, though it was tasty on its own."

                                          1. re: Joel

                                            Yeah, Joel, I noticed that. That is pretty much what was on the shrimp plate, but there was no pepper or garlic in it. It was kind of sweetish, which is why I thought coconut. Perhaps two versions of the same accompaniment?

                                            1. re: Joel

                                              There's a Hong Kong-style dish called Aberdeen crab or bei fong tong crab that's covered with a blizzard of deep-fried, sweet and crunchy garlic bits, chilis and other seasonings. Here's a thread about it -
                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...
                                              And, here's a link to a Hong Kong site that has a photo of it and recommends eating the crumbs with congee -
                                              http://www.cdnis.edu.hk/emails/alumni...

                                              Wonder if it's the same prep.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Melanie, that's it! That's the name. Not garlicky or spicy at all at Claypot, but that's what they called it. Thanks!

                                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                  I read the other thread and looked at the pix. Although I am sure that it was called bay fung tong at Claypot (in retrospect Lake Tung Ting is pretty close), because there is a restaurant called Bay Fung Tong on Franklin and 19th in Oakland (pretty good too) so it stuck in my head, for a while anyway. But there were no garlic or chiles or green onions and it was an entirely different color than what's in those pix. It looked for all the world like a fluffier version of the coconut on the outside of those toasted marshmallows you used to be able to buy. I remember thinking, maybe bread crumbs, maybe coconut, but honestly I was baffled as hell. Still am.

                                                  1. re: essvee

                                                    That photo is rather dark. The fried garlic bits can be very light tan to golden brown, and the comparison to toasted coconut is apt. They can be very light and foamy if they're fried well. Check out a jar of them next time you're at Ranch 99 or similar.

                                                  2. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    Bay Fung Tong crab is a special dish at Best Panda on Balboa in San Francisco. It's a whole crab with a topping of deep-fried bits of sausage, chiles, green onions, and garlic and it's very good! Best Panda offers a number of Bay Fung Tong dishes. They're posted on the walls of the restaurant.

                                                2. re: essvee

                                                  Dongting Lake? That would make it something from Hunan. I'm stumped, since it apparently wasn't a chili sauce or a "guai wei" sauce.

                                                  I can't be said to know my XO sauce. The only creds I have are Shanghainese food creds (through marriage and travel) and XO sauce has only reached my plate in Cantonese Restaurants. It's just the only sauce I know that's as dry as you described and still called a "sauce."

                                                  1. re: Gary Soup

                                                    Gary, I apologize if I gave you the idea that I was questioning your credibility. The XO sauce I know of is similar in consistency to sweet flour or hoisin sauce, and has luxe ingredients like shrimp roe and dried scallop. I did not know there was a dry version, so I assumed that you hadn't read my description thoroughly. Again, I'm sorry.

                                                    1. re: essvee

                                                      Nothing to apologize for. The "dry" versions of XO sauce I've had weren't actually dry to the touch, but more like a sticky agglomeration of crunchy bits, and nowhere near as liquidy as what we'd normally call a sauce.

                                                      1. re: essvee

                                                        I've been following this thread, and while I have no idea what this dish is that you're describing, the description of "gold, fluffy, dry" sounds a whole lot like the pork sung (meat fried in lard to the consistency of sawdust) that I like on congee - it's sweet and salty, barely recognizable as meat, and practically melts in your mouth, but then has some chew - is there any way that's what was on the shrimp?

                                                        1. re: daveena

                                                          Daveena, "sung" was what came to mind when I saw the description of the prawn dish as well. Seems like sung can be made from just about any protein source (in addition to pork I've also had fish sung and soy bean sung) and it's always sweet and salty, not very meaty--fish sung isn't even really fishy. Wonder if that was it?

                                                          I've been to Shanghai Gourmet in the Pacific East Mall many times. Don't know how high it rates in the Bay Area, but food is usually satisfying, the menu is fairly extensive and my mom (from Shanghai) likes it. Just stay away from the leaden yo tiao. Btw, Gary Soup, they serve crispy fried eel.

                                                          Shanghai Gourmet
                                                          3288 Pierce Street, #B109
                                                          Richmond, CA 94504
                                                          (510) 526-8897

                                                  2. Here's a nice thread about Lily's house in Lafayette.
                                                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                    The owners are lovely people. Intelligent, hard-working and proud but warm and friendly - especially young Lily. If you show interest in Shanghai her face will light up. With her limited English, she will try her best to talk to you.

                                                    I brought a copy of the Chinese menu home. Her translation is not very good, and I wish I knew more Mandarin. (Studied some in college) I find it hardest to read menus.

                                                    So here's Lily's version of the menu - it's very sweet.

                                                    Fish chowder in Shanghai style
                                                    Fish fillets marinated in rice wince sauce
                                                    Diced sea bass stir-fried with pine nuts
                                                    Roast fish tail in chef's special sauce
                                                    Same cook with above, different part of fish
                                                    Stir-fried shrimp in Shanghai style
                                                    Tofu with three varieties of shrimp
                                                    Sea cucumber with shrimp and pork tender
                                                    Stir-fried jellyfish
                                                    Stir-fried jellyfish with chives
                                                    Pan touched(?) tofu with shrimp eggs
                                                    Smoked fish
                                                    Sauteed shrimp in shell Shanghai style
                                                    Clay chicken
                                                    Crispy tender chicken
                                                    Chicken with marinated rice wine sauce
                                                    Veggie-duck
                                                    Stir-fried tofu
                                                    Rice cake in Shanghai style
                                                    Shanghai noodle
                                                    Braised meat ball
                                                    Pork thigh
                                                    Pork belly
                                                    Tea smoked duck
                                                    Boiled shredded tofu and pork
                                                    Double mushroom with
                                                    Spanish with soft tofu
                                                    Soy bean and kale Shanghai style
                                                    Three combo shanghai style
                                                    Shanghai wonton soup
                                                    Kearean(?) noodle soup
                                                    Tan tan noodle
                                                    Shredded pork with kale
                                                    Seafood noodle soup
                                                    Pickle noodle soup
                                                    Fried gluten
                                                    Crispy tender beef
                                                    Crispy tender prawn
                                                    Sauteed shrimp and eel

                                                    1. Just tried the new Shanghai House on Balboa. (Not Shanghai Dumpling). Wow. Go as soon as you can. It's worth it.

                                                      The Chinese love bright lights at chow time. Even when they have recessed lighting, they figure out a way to make it fluorescent bright. Anyway, it was good to see that it was super clean.

                                                      XLB was not oily. Not enough broth.
                                                      The skin was almost too firm - no suspense during chopsticks-to-spoon transfer! Tasty.

                                                      Five spice smoked fish.
                                                      Excellent. Again, not greasy, a little too plump for a smoked dish, but you'd love it anyway.

                                                      Tea smoked duck.
                                                      Crispy AND juicy. Rich fatty skin, lots of meat. Pointy mitten-shaped white bread to make duck sandwiches out of. Pillowy soft goodness. I didn't make sandwiches, I just had them separately. I even used a little to sop up the five spice sauce on the fish dish.

                                                      Cash only. Cash well spent.

                                                      1. shanghai noodle house? yeah that was ok. better than shanghai dumpling king for sure, where the chef is way too heavy handed with his sauce/salt/sugar/etc.

                                                        Shanghai ding sheng is my favorite in the bay area now... it's in milpitas, at the ulferts plaza.
                                                        My old favorite... the chef has moved on to like arizona or something. sigh... the original shanghai taste delight. I miss it.