Shanghai Restaurant (Oakland) - favorite dishes?
Was reading a great discussion about multiple menus and delicious pork dishes at this restaurant on a different thread, and was puzzled by the whole multiple menus thing. Then I went back for lunch yesterday and realized that 1) the reason the multiple menus never registered with me is because I always head straight for the small white check-off box style menu and 2) I always order the same thing (XLB and one of the rice cake preparations). Maybe I'll try 1 or 2 other things as well (stir-fried green veg of the day, one of the other xiao chi items) , but those are my stand-bys. So I'm compiling a list of the dishes people named, and adding my own - hoping other people can chime in. Bonus points if you know which menu it's from and the Chinese name (or the English name the way it's written on the menu).
Ruth Lafler - pork joint; lion's head meatballs; XLB
Joel - pork with bean curd (fatty bacon chunks in savory brown sauce with bean curd skin tied in knots)
two cents - small pork meatballs wrapped in gluten, served in brown sauce; shredded pork with shredded tofu; pork belly with preserved vegetable; diced fish with pine nuts, celery, wolfberries.
Robert Lauriston - reports a general gestalt of porky goodness, but names no specific dishes
Mine (off the small white menu):
rice cake with pork and preserved green vegetable - I like this preparation more than their Shanghai-style rice cake (with brown sauce), which was much greasier. They cook their rice cakes just a degree more al dente than I like (I prefer the texture at Spices 3 - prefer their Shanghai-style in general), but really love the homey flavor of the pork and preserved vegetable combo.
from the large, folded green menu:
vegetarian goose (sheets of braised bean curd skin wrapped around shiitake mushroom)
zha jiang mian (on the white menu, I think listed as "noodles with meat sauce") - they use skinny noodles for this (I prefer the chewy knife cut ones at Shandong) - I liked the base of the sauce - good, deep bean paste notes, not as sweet as Shandong's - but didn't like the way the chili was incorporated. Don't know if there's a technical way to describe this - the chili in this sauce seemed raw and shrill, hit immediately, looked and tasted like chili paste (the kind meant for stir-frys) had been mixed directly into the sauce. In this sauce, I like deep, mellow chili notes that sneak up after sweet and savory components have dissipated. I'm still going to eat the leftovers for lunch, though.
you tiao, fan tuan.
Somehow I've missed that they had that crispy eel dish. I had it at another Shanghai restaurant and thought it was great -- I remarked at the time that you could put those out at your Superbowl party and they would disappear without anyone thinking twice about the fact they were eel.
Went again last night with a party of three. This time I made sure to keep track of what we had.
XLB, good as always.
Three items from the 3-for-$15 menu:
- pig skin three ingredients: expected crispy but it was soft and bland, nobody wanted a second bite
- lion's head meatballs (called something else on the me), delicate, much better than Spices!3's version (which we ate just a few minutes before); four huge balls are a ridiculous amount of food for $5
- Crucian carp with potherb mustard: delcious, tender, whole small fish, sort of like a mild catfish; had scallions instead of potherb mustard (mizuma)
With three bottles of Tsing Tao the bill was $30. The nice lady who speaks English brought us out a bowl of fresh-made hot sauce.
re: Robert Lauriston
Went with a party of 5 so tried some new-to-me dishes. I warned my friends about the proliferation of menus but they still couldn't believe it.
Cold salty chicken was a lot like ham. Good.
Cold pig's ear, simple crunchy strips with slight star anise flavor.
Tried the shepherd's purse dumplings, which turned out to be soup. Excellent, one of the best dishes I've had there. Delicious broth. The shepherd's purse comes in frozen from China, not fresh from the Central Valley like Fountain Court used to get.
Are they called Shanghai special dumplings? Anyway, not the XLB. Pork with lots of ginger. Tasty.
Pork belly with preserved vegetable was good but a step down from Ton Kiang's.
Sesame bread was OK. Felt weird to be eating it without lamb warm pot or hot pot.
Deep-fried spareribs had a great texture but the batter was seasoned with something like mace and vanilla. Combined with undersalting that made them weirdly reminiscent of donuts. Would not order again.
re: Robert Lauriston
Some day I'm going to try to order something off the "wall" but I'm still going through the "regular" menus. This last time I ordered off three different menus: the 3-for-$15 (garlic eggplant, lion's head meatballs, chicken and chestnut claypot), the half-sheet "check-off" menu (XLB) and the white board (kaufu -- which is also on the main menu, described something like "honey-soaked glutin puffs"). With a beer after tax it came to a little over $30 (the 3-for-$15 includes rice for eat-in orders) and we could easily have fed four (except then you need another order of XLB!).
re: Robert Lauriston
Tried a few new-to-me items:
Pan fried pork buns (#12 on the dim sum menu) had a chewy rice wrapper sprinkled with sesame seeds with the bottom browned. Pretty good though not as good as the ones at House of Nanking back in the day.
Rice, vegetable, & salted pork (#62 on the noodle menu) was plain rice tossed with sauteed bok choy and I think some preserved mustard greens and topped with slices of salty ham, homey and delicious.
Radish cake (#19 on the dim sum menu) wasn't the pudding-like square I was expecting, instead it was wheat pastry filled with a mix of daikon and I don't know what. OK but I wouldn't order this again.
Shepherd's purse wonton soup was spectacular as usual. They could serve this at Chez Panisse.
"Pork joint" is English rendering of the dish more commonly translated as "red cooked pork trotter" -- it's on the "main" menu. Some of the dishes that appear other places are also on the main menu (including some of the stuff on the cold table in the back). I believe the lion's head meatballs are on both the main menu and the 3-for-$15 menu.
Another favorite from the check-off menu is the shepherd's purse wonton soup.
We invariably start with the cold dishes. They are on display in a cold case at the rear. I don't know the names of many of them, so I just point.
Among our favorites are the five-spice duck leg, the "smoked" fish, the seaweed tied in knots, and the beans (akin to fava beans).
Also, we always ask what green veg is in season. Sometimes it is just plain spinach, but whatever it is, it is always perfectly cooked.
Another fun dish is the fish-head hot pot. It comes to the table with a flame underneath, and there are several versions (we order the non-spicy one). You get half a huge fish head, and there are many succulent gelatinous bits that can be reached by adventurous dissection with chopsticks. Since I am usually the only one at our table willing to probe, I get to eat most of it.
Menu profusion is mitigated by the very friendly staff, most of whom speak excellent English.
We had a "ChowLunch" there in the summer of 2004, and we posted the report (it was a great meal). Here is that link:
Great idea, daveena!
I've been to the San Mateo branch more than Oakland, so hopefully these favorites are reproduced as faithfully there. Love the fish filets in wine sauce we had at our chowdown and have returned once just to have that dish. Here's the report with a list of dishes as printed on the menu.
Shanghai East Restaurant
105 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403
re: Melanie Wong
The preserved veg is ji cai, be sure to ask for that. I always emphasize it to make sure I get the right thing. I think that the San Mateo location has the small check-off menu and one large bound menu. Also a fixed price dinner menu handout. No table top card the last time I was there.
P.S. You and I are stuck in the same delicious rut: XLB plus rice cakes.
re: Melanie Wong