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Apr 12, 2008 12:10 PM

Sunny Shanghai for great xlb's in San Bruno

A non posting Chowhound invited me for a late lunch last week at a Shanghai restaurant I have not been too (for me this maybe a first, I have two on a list where I need to go) or even heard of.

It is location at 189 El Camino Real in San Bruno, 650 615 9879. It’s a small little hole in the wall where if driving by I would not look twice.

But the food was much better than the place looked.

Stinky tofu, so of the best I have had in a while. In the top four in the Bay Area, Joy in Foster City, Shanghai in Oakland (but only after 6 PM) and China Tofu (it is one the better ones around, everything else is just common). The tofu was lightly airy and of course stinky. It had the wonderful taste and texture of the real thing. It also had a mild aftertaste all of the wonderfulness of stinky tofu. Better than the one we recently had in Hong Kong from a street vendor.

XLB’s one of the thinnest skin I remember ever. Also the most soup I have ever had. In fact the skin looked so thin I was sure it would burst when I tried to pick it up. There was so much soup that the soup spoon would not hold it all. My dining buddy told me we should have asked for soup bowl. Not need but close. The soup was wonderful but the filling was just ok, but really worth while.

Kao Fu, a Shanghai wheat gluten, peanut and shitake mushroom dish. Great texture and flavor expect to me it was no the sweet side. But everything else was great.

Then we order A choy in broth and garlic stir fry/blanch. Cooked to a crispy texture not over cooked.

Had a lot of interesting dishes on the menu, but since we were only two could not eat anymore.

Of course we had a Chinese only white board which change daily. Do not order anything from the board since we were only two.

Another option for Shanghai food on the west bay.

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  1. One of these days I'll finally order stinky tofu. Thanks for the tip.

    Sunny Shanghai
    189 El Camino Real, San Bruno, CA 94066

    2 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Does anyone happen to know evening hours?


      1. re: Fine

        Well, I have the take out menu in front of me so I will copy what is says,

        Business Hours
        11 am to 3 pm
        5pm to 10 pm
        10 am to 11 pm

        Not exactly what that means, but I think that 10 to 11 maybe for the weekends. But your guess is as good as mine.

    2. Is that the place that used to be called "Shanghai Town"? New owners, I would hope.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Xiao Yang

        Do not know. Never notice it before but will as my host the next time I see him. He lives in the area.

          1. re: Nancy Berry

            Thanks for doing the leg work for me. My host just replied with the some information. Hope to check out the menu soon. My cousin has a birthday soon and she loves xlb's. There were a few dishes that sounded interesting.

        1. Thank you, Yimster... you saved me from a damnation of living in a area with so-so xlbs. I followed your posting this week to check out Sunny Shanghai and I am so happy I did. Previously, I had yet to like a xlb in a restaurant in the Bay Area. I know others like Shanghai Dumping on Balboa in SF, Shanghai in Oakland and/or San Mateo, but I find them all meh. We were rather determined as our first attempt was on a Tues (when they're closed). On the next attempt we hit jackpot.

          We ordered:
          stinky tofu
          baby bok choy with tofu skin
          red cooked lions head

          The xlbs were magnificent. They had the thinnest skins I've seen for xlbs in the US. The soup was plentiful - it filled full my soup spoon when I bit into the dumpling. The filling was lighter in flavour but still complex. The broth was more chickeny than porky, but still had that great sticky mouth feel from gelatin. Very nicely folded too.

          They ran out of orders of the stinky tofu, but gave us the four remaining pieces. Not as stinky as some in smell. A bit more deep fried on the outside texture and softer, more silken tofu inside. Different than Tw stinky tofu. Wonder if it's a Shanghainese vs Taiwanese stylistic difference?

          Baby bok choy with tofu skin. Light and clean in taste with the cabbage still crisp.

          Red cooked lions head was light and airy instead of the usual overly dense meatballs. The sauce was savory without being too rich. Not that overly cloying brown sauce seen at many Bay Area Shanghainese restaurants.

          I really love this place. Might be habit forming as it's close to my office. The xlbs were perfect and the food was homey, lighter versions of Shanghainese food that I'm partial to. What else can I ask? Well, the bill for two for al lthis food was $26. And cheap too!

          For pics...

          2 Replies
          1. re: vliang

            Yes, I agree with the skin being the thinnest in this area, I will have something to compare when I back in Richmond BC. You are right about the soup and filling being more of a chicken base. Which I have been told a chicken base soup filling would produce more soup. But I like a more rick pork flavor. But what more do you want.

            I depending will have the lions heads, my of my favorites next time I go.

            Stinky tofu is one of my favorites so I will call ahead to be sure they have some.

            1. re: yimster

              The classic xiaolongbao recipe (based on the original recipe used at the Nanxiang Steam Dumpling Shop) uses pork skin, pork, chicken and ham for the stock.


          2. Thanks to this thread, pane and I went down to San Bruno yesterday evening to give Sunny Shanghai a try. Overall, I thought our meal was very good.

            We shared three items: Sauteed greens w/ garlic (from specials board) - since the specials board is all in Chinese, we ordered this by asking if there were any green vegetables on the specials board - we were told "yes." These were very good - very garlicky, but the sauce was light and not very greasy.

            Braised pork w/ bean curd. This dish consisted of small pieces of fatty pork w/ bean curd bowties. I have had the equivalent dish at Shanghai Dumpling Shop in Millbrae and I think the version here was better. The sauce had a deeper, richer flavor and the pieces of pork were tender.

            Xiao long bao - I pretty much agree w/ Yimster's initial report. Very nice thin skin, good broth, pretty good filling - I think these are definitely better than the XLB at Shanghai Dumpling Shop (Millbrae) but maybe not quite as good as the ones at Shanghai House (Balboa, SF). But still, neither of us were complaining and these got devoured quickly.

            Last night there was a large bday party at the restaurant (two large tables) which made things pretty busy. I got a bit of food envy as I watched the dishes arrive at these tables. We didn't get to see their entire meal, but they started with an array of cold appetizers that looked good, followed by a gigantic soup, followed by XLB and tsing-tao shrimp (?) that looked great. I definitely want to try this shrimp dish next time I'm there.

            This looks like a good place for a future chowdown.....prices were also very reasonable - our meal was more food than we could finish and the price (before tip) was $22.75.

            On a side note, after dinner we drove around on Camino Real investigating various eating spots that we had never heard about - there are so many places to eat down there! We peaked into Ihaw Ihaw (this looked good - is it?), Melaka buffet restaurant (this looked bad - is it?), and a Brazilian BBQ place (that sadly didn't have acai, which is what I was hoping to find). Then we took Camino Real all the way through Colma up into Daly City and SF.

            5 Replies
            1. re: Dave MP

              Everything was really well prepared. I loved the greens in garlic, which were very garlicky but didn't have a painful garlic 'bite.'

              Service was hilarious. The owner and server were occupied by the two large birthday tables, and our teapot was empty. An official (and efficient) looking woman passed by our table, so we asked for a refill. She brought it, then Dave recognized that she was a patron, not part of the staff. She said the owners were her friends so she was helping out; then she ran off the clear someone else's table.

              I liked the XLB, especially the skins, but something about the stock or meat was definitely less flavorful. Do the ones at Shanghai House have ginger in the soup base or the meatball?

              1. re: pane

                As Xiao Yang has already posted the ingredients but the portion of each ingredient is very important in the flavor. This stock for the soup is heavier on the chicken so that there would be more soup in the xlb's. I would have liked a little more pork for flavor. But you can not have everything.

                As for other patron helping out this is common at many Chinese eateries. After many visits it like family.

                I think this eatery need further exploration in the depths of it menu. I am dreaming of a loins head soup.

                Glad you and Dave enjoyed you meal.

                1. re: yimster

                  Yes, I agree having more pork flavour would have made it even better. The whiteboard menu was really extensive, but hard to eat too much more than what we maanaged with only two people.

                2. re: pane

                  I've found that the versions in the US seem to oddly omit or skimp on the sesame oil, which, to my tastes, adds a little snap to the flavor.

                3. re: Dave MP

                  Wow, the wife & I were all set to go there last night until we remembered she's taking an herbal tonic right now that prohibits her from eating pork, so we ended up at Everyday Beijing instead. Sounds like we missed out on a rollicking time.

                  I agree that Sunny Shanghai sounds like a prime venue for a Chowdown.

                4. Does Sunny Shanghai have shen jian bao on the menu?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: K K

                    Yes, they do. But my host that day said the only time he had them they did not have soup.

                    I have had the shen jian bao at many eateries and only Shanghai River in Richmond BC had soup.

                    Hope someone so gives it a try.

                    1. re: yimster

                      Shanghai Sheng Jian Guan (I think it's called Shanghai Flavour Shop in English) in the small Plaza on Old San Francisco and Wolfe in Sunnyvale has pretty authentic Shanghai Sheng Jian and they have soup. =)

                      1. re: stillwater

                        Yes that place is a fantastic larger sized hole in the wall grease joint (where there is indeed a little grease on the chopsticks and the tables as part of authenticity) and the food is amazing from what I sampled. Their SJBs are wonderful, larger sized than the kind at Shihlin Night Market in Taipei, and they pan fry the top (pleats) of the SJB as opposed to the bottom. Their cong you ban mien (brothless noodle with green onion/scallion and oil mix) is very hearty but really tasty.

                        Shanghai Flavor Shop appears to not offer XLB anymore, at least they crossed it out on their printed menus when I went last time.

                    2. re: K K

                      they have beef shen jian bao on the menu. not at all soupy. not enough/hardly any beef filling int them. 3 for $3.50

                      1. re: K K

                        We went again for lunch yesterday and tried the shen jian bao. No soup in it, but the filling is quite juicy. Nicely browned o nthe bottom and not too thick of skin. The filling was pork.

                        We also had :
                        the xlbs (again great)
                        the loofah with bamboo pith
                        the red cooked pork belly with tofu skin bow ties
                        the shanghai noodles
                        the stinky tofu (again good but not too stinky)
                        the pork with preserved mustard greens rice cakes

                        1. re: vliang

                          How were the pork and mustard greens rice cakes? Is that on the regular menu? I think this is what we were considering ordering...