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Shanghai East chowdown report

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Eleven hungry hounds braved rush-hour traffic to meet up for some Shanghai-style food in San Mateo. DeeGlaze and I have been coming here fairly regularly and it was high time we turned loose the hounds on the extensive menu. We chose a banquet menu with numerous substitutions and additions. We ate:

Xiao Long Bao (2 orders)
Combination Appetizers
Preserved Pork and Bamboo Soup
Shanghai Sauteed Prawns
Fish Filet with Wine Sauce
Combination Wild Rice Shoot (Water Root Vegetable)
Shanghai Chow Mein
Tofu Sheets with Soybeans
Chicken and Chestnut Claypot
Braised Pork Knuckle
Braised Fish Tail with Red Sauce
Bean Curd Shoots with Ham (Yangzhou Gan Si)
Pea Shoots with Garlic
Lionshead Meatballs with Cellophane Noodles in Claypot Soup
Shanghai-Flavor Rice cake with Ji Cai
Dessert - Rice Balls in Wine Soup

Overall, this was a delicious meal. The food was carefully prepared and the portion sizes were quite generous. Some highlights for me were the braised fish tails, cooked to spot-on doneness paired with an intense, dark, rich sauce. Melt in your mouth goodness. The fish filets in wine sauce were great too with flaky, perfectly cooked fish in a wonderfully balanced sauce with just the right amount of wine flavor. I went back for more and more of this. The Lionshead soup is the ultimate comfort food. The light and airy meatballs, split with a spoon, infuse and deepen an amazing anise broth. I get this every time and never tire of it. The rice cakes with ji cai were notable for their perfect texture. Toothsome but not gummy. And, yes, the XLBs were very good. If we're nit-picking, the skins were perhaps a bit too thick, but only by a little and the healthy dose of soup inside brought it all together. The only misses of the evening for me were the braised pork knuckle and chicken and chestnut clay pot. Though the knuckle was slow-cooked to fall-off-the-bone doneness, the sauce was rather thin and uninteresting. Same deal with the chicken and chestnuts - the chicken was well cooked but the chestnuts lacked flavor and the sauce added little.
And as always, another highlight was the company - a great mix of old and new faces. Thanks for a fun evening.

Shanghai East Restaurant
105 W. 25th Ave. San Mateo
(650) 522.9098

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  1. For me, there were two highlights.

    As mentioned above, the rice cakes with ji cai were perfect -- slippery and bouncy. These rice cakes are the same ovalettes often used in Korean cooking as "dok."

    The other highlight was the bean curd shoots with ham. The bean curd was cut into long, thin strips that resembled handmade soba noodles; the ham gave it some saltiness against a light broth. They came in very long strings, so it was a little challenging to eat, but well worth it. In the cold case at the register they had containers of the bean curd shoots for sale. Why didn't I buy some to take home?

    Thanks to those who organized and ordered the meal.

    BTW it was $22pp with some leftovers.

    OK, maybe three highlights: that Lionshead soup. I had never had it before. Nothing to add to ChewChew's description, other than to repeat the praise.

    1. I'm bummed I couldn't go.

      1. I agree with ChewChew, the lion's head meatball soup was wonderful, with really flavorful, yet light meatballs. And the rice cakes were a treat as so many renditions are gummy and end up sitting in the pits of your stomach.

        The fish fillet with wine sauce was also wonderful. The sauce was subtle, the fillets ever so tender. Not at all "fishy" or overcooked.

        I actually didn't find the xiao long bao to be that good. Yes, they arrived and remained intact with soup inside, but I thought the soup lacking in complexity and the meat filling rather ordinary. They were also on the small side.

        The pork knuckle had a sweeter sauce than I was expecting. Most hong shao preparations I've had are more savory then sweet. Still, the meat was soft and succulent, and not at all gamey.

        Overall, the food gets my thumbs up. Prices are great, they've got chilled/frozen items to go, and best of all it's near my office. :-)

        It was great fun getting together with a large table of hounds for a winning meal.

        1. I hope the days of eating great chinese food with hounds make a comeback, this was a delicious feast. The two fish dishes and the bean curd shoots were my favorites, and there have already been a few comments on these dishes and probably more comments to come. So I thought I'd give my two cents on the soup and the jellyfish that came with the cold appetizers.
          At first I thought the soup was undersalted. Then I took a bite of the salted pork and realized the soup was actually perfectly salted. My favorite part of the soup were the bamboo shoots. Bamboo comes in several forms (canned, frozen, fresh, preserved...) and this form was fresh, but without the usual smell and mild bitterness that fresh bamboo sometimes has. I wasn't sure if it was from a different part of the plant, or if it had just been prepped differently.
          The jellyfish was very nicely done. It had a good texture (crunchy) and the marinade was subtle and perfect. Most other versions I've had in the past few years were too vinegary, had too much sesame oil, or was too reminiscent of bottled chinese chicken salad dressing.
          Overall, the dishes were good and a few were definitely memorable. I'm already looking forward to a return visit.

          1. Here's the slideshow of our dinner dishes, missed the xiao long bao and the tang yuan for the dessert. Comments later.
            http://flickr.com/photos/melaniewong/...