Little Shanghai San Mateo dinner report
- K K Jun 20, 2008 10:35 AM
Tried this place last night with family, and first time dine-in. A previous take-out experience wasn't bad either but not as mindblowing as sit down dinner.
1) Shung Fung Er - nice way to re-label pig's ear. Giant slices but thin. Lightly crispy but smooth. Heavy hints of soy sauce, but not salty, but even heavier was the sesame paste marination (a different interpretation that I am used to) which gave it a peanut butter like feel. Big plate so we had leftovers. This was the cilantro version, supposedly not spicy but they did add some pepper to it. I believe they have a very very spicy version of this.
So far the best pig's ear cold appetizer I've had is at Every Beijing, but sadly they make it too spicy by default for some.
2) Yen Du Xien - claypot soup with bow tie tofu skin, salted pork belly, bamboo shoots. I've been pretty disappointed with a lot of renditions, and the last good one I had was Su Hong in Palo Alto. I dare say LS did the best one and even topped theirs and definitely trumped Joy in Foster City. The soup was unbelieveably good (arguably from the cured/salted pork belly and bones that gave it a good hint of smokey) and had a creamier texture than most other versions. The salted pork belly was not salty either, and it was like Dong Bor Rou melt in your mouth goodness (but in soup and not stewed/fried/steamed). A+++.
3) Xiao Long Bao - I took a bite of the first piece, and ate about half of it. Stared at my spoon for a sec and noticed a 4 inch hair sticking out of the pork (good thing I did not eat the whole thing in one bite). Showed the waiter who took away my spoon and notified the folks behind the counter. Immediately they took away the remaining XLB (without apology) and proceeded to have the kitchen re-do the order. Perhaps it is a cultural thing that they don't show admission of guilt per se (and this can be debated to death) and show actions rather than words. Luckily mom's XLB from the intiial batch was hairless. And lucky for me the hair was not the "other" kind, so let's leave it at that. We got our re-do order about 3/4 of the way through the meal, and without hesistation I dug in as if nothing happened. The skins were maybe a micron-ish thick but the overall experience was excellent and now Shanghai East up the street is totally forgettable (even if they make it a bit more refined and a little smaller in appearance). Simple broth/soup on the inside that was just right and not fatty or greasy, but not flavorless either. So much tastier after dipping in black vinegar. I still think Su Hong Palo Alto does a better rendition, but for San Mateo I have to say this is the best (yes better than Happy Cafe).
4) Ji Kuo Hwei Mien - chicken and salted ham noodle soup, bottom line. Absolutely nothing like the versions in Hong Kong where the noodle is soggy and absorbed the broth of the soup and where bak choy is finely diced to pair with small chicken cubes. But LS's version had a nice broth, pretty decent noodles. Had we not ordered the YDX, this chicken broth would have been great on its own.
5) Bamboo, dried tofu strips, and julienne pork stir fried - great rendition. They have another version stir fried with yellow chive instead of bamboo for $1 or so more. But this was good enough.
Way more than enough food for 3 adults and 1 young 'un, so there were lots of leftovers.
Other than the hairy XLB which was forgiveable due to the quality of the food, I like this place enough to come back again, especially since some of the standards were done very nicely.
And which is also why I'm curious how this place stacks up with Sunny Shanghai.
LS has two menus. One 2 pager that is cold appetizers, northern "dim sum" and noodle/rice dishes. "dim sum" section mentions nothing about which items are weekends only. The other menu is the standard one which explains the cuisine of the restaurant (nothing in English that I recall) on the first page, then all the other dishes. Some items categorized as Shanghainese, some as Jiangsu.
I have eaten there a number of times for lunch; everything's on the standard menu and it's easy to read. The place is quite accessible to the non-chinese speaker; one must simply be adventurous.
Oh, and great review. Little shanghai has not taken the place of Shanghai East in my heart, but your points are all good, and I love having two joints that close, that good. KK gravitates to different references dishes than I, I must start ordering the Yen du Xien, sounds like a great dish.
Thanks bb: For sure, I'm an adventurous eater - especially when it comes to foods of Asia - haven't run into too many dishes I won't try - including stinky tofu (had a waitress literally stand over me to see if I was going to eat it or not - I think she was disappointed because I did eat it, with gusto at that!)
Thanks for the report. Did the yan du xian have fresh pork as well as the pork belly in it, as is traditional?
A little off-topic, but is Happy Cafe in San Mateo still around? They made excellent xiaolong bao as of a couple of years ago.
The regular menu has English translations to the dishes. There is nothing "hidden" that I am aware of, although of course it does not hurt to come here with a Chinese reader/Mandarin speaker.
I believe the side menu (cold appetizers) does as well. No white board Chinese only specials type of thing like Happy Cafe (which to answer XY's question is still around to my knowledge since walking by that place, open for dinner Wednesdays only and the best xiao chir small plates are off the white board Chinese only specials).
About the YDX soup, I could not tell if there was fresh pork in it other than by guess, because I did not study the contents other than what was scooped into my own soup bowl. Whatever was scooped that has pork just happened to be cured pork belly.
When the weather is warmer I hope to come back on a weekend to try the brunch classics and see how they do those. For those curious, they also have beef brisket noodle soup (and one that has tendons). When I have a moment I will post my first ever experience which was takeout, from a few months ago.
re: K K
I guess you answered the age-old question "Warm enough for ya?"
The fresh pork in the YDX is mostly for symbolism and often just small slivers. It's the pork belly that gets credit for both the "yan" (salty) and"xian" delicious characteristics. It's traditionally a Spring Festival dish, and the pairing of cured and fresh pork represents the bounty of the old year meeting the fresh promise of the new.
As for the first experience, that was takeout:
I had this cold appetizer dish. I do not recall the name and I also forgot to look it up on the regular menu. Basically very thin noodle like strands of tofu with other seasonings as well as extremely finely diced and marinated spinach (?). There was definitely sesame oil in the seasoning.
Tsong Yoh Bahn Mien - classic Shanghainese noodle dish where it's cooked noodles served with oil and finely diced scallion mix (and in some cases shallots and soy sauce). Toss that up like a salad for the flavors to sink in, and ideally do it as soon as it arrives at your table (or when you get home) to prevent further clumping of the noodles. Highly recommend is to request low or no sodium/salt, no MSG (yep they were cool even with that request) for healthier yet still fairly tasty results. Went well with the appetizer. So yeah I like it. Although if you are a fan of the salt and MSG, you probably want to go hardcore and head down to Shanghai Flavor Shop for their version which is heartburn and food coma delicious. Avoid the rendition from China Bee in San Mateo, for some reason their noodles are like Italian style thin fettucine and I tasted butter in the mix....
Sahn Sien Ti Jeen - literal translation is three "freshes" hock tendon. I must say that I was disappointed with this dish, having had it a week after coming back from Taiwan where the pig feet from the butchers in Taiwan includes the tendons and are way more meatier (or porkier) in texture. The tendons here seemed to be deep fried first before the next one or two cooking processes, to buff it up and give it volume. Unfortunately much of the original texture and flavors were lost. This was served with shrimp, pork, and mushrooms and carrots. I couldn't taste the tendon flavor, and it ended up being like a chewy gelatin. Decent but forgettable and replaceable with another oder in the next visit.
As far as the other comments on this thread:
- Not all translations of the menu are 100% accurate, but at least you know what the dish entails or their themes. You might need to have some idea (or ask) before ordering, especially if you have preference or worst case allergies. Like how would you know if the pig's ear was thinly sliced like tendons (texture wise too) and seasoned with sesame oil and paste etc until you try it?
- I'd say Little Shanghai is currently where Shanghai East was when they first opened in terms of "novelty" and quality. LS just seems a little more down home to me. And yes LS has Shen Jian Bao, though haven't had the chance to try them yet.
- YDX is probably the closest thing to Cantonese "old fire" slow cooked soup in terms of texture and flavor, or at least in parallel, and I can see why it has a wider appeal to some than other soups that could be potentially quick fixes (in preparation) with not as much material and quality of result. All I can say is that the salted pork belly melt in your mouth goodness that are the YDX's from Su Hong Palo Alto and Little Shanghai, just make this worth ordering and sharing with at least 4 people (and for the price they charge which is very reasonable, it is a steal).
This is not a fancy place like Shanghai 1930 or PF Chang's (in decor). It is just down home simple, no nonsense. Arguably Shanghai East up the street is a bit more mainstream especially with a more established presence, but to me Little Shanghai has more character in their cooking and seemingly less greasy or heavy which I can certainly appreciate.
re: K K
Stopped in tonight after the reservation I had up the street (from open table) yielded a shuttered and dark restaurant.
Was about to go home when I spotted Little Shanghai with the light still on - unfortunately as I was walking in (about 10:10) they switched the open light off, but the friendly staff agreed to give me a take out order even tho they were closed:)
I got the rice cake dish based on recom. from this thread and shanghai pork ?chops ( Don't know if this is authentic but it was a real treat) I really liked them both - but probably the rice cake would have been better without the 5 minute drive home - or perhaps not at closing would have yielded a bit more wok time? The other dish was something I'd never had before - even with dishes with the same name - almost braised extremely soft and flavorful pork, in small pieces, some with bone, with an extremely flavorful and well balanced rich sauce. I'm really looking forward to eating there again and trying more when I get there while they are still open!
I don't know if these are traditional Shanghai snacks or not, but listed under "daikon pancake" under the "Dim Sum" menu. Very interesting (to me) shredded daikon stuffed inside a seasme-crusted shell - best eaten if you let these sit and cool down a bit.
I've tried their sheng jian bao - can't recall much other than them being extremely temperature-hot and not too greasy. I do remember them being juicy inside.
My family prefers Little Shanghai over Shanghai East a teeny bit due to LS being less greasy.
Definitely Shanghainese, but "daikon pancake" is an odd name for it because it's not flat, though it is pan-fried. It's often called a "crab shell dumpling" because the shell is supposed to resemble a crab shell. In Chinese it's "xie ke huang." There's a sweet version filled with black bean, but the daikon-filled version is delicious.
Acually, I think you are right; I was perhaps having a senior moment when I wrote the above. the two are very similar in appearance, but if the stuffing is shredded daikon (lobok) it's most likely luo bo si bing. The traditional fillings for savory xie ke huang are shallot oil and pork, crab, or shrimp; while the sweet ones would have sugar, roses, sweetened bean paste, or Chinese date paste. I think of xie ke huang as more characteristically Shanghainese than luo bo si bing.
Came back here for another dinner tonight.
It was before 6:30 pm and the place was already packed to the gills. Service suffered a bit (especially towards the end). A word of advice, if you want to order dessert like the dou sa guo bing (fried flat cake with red bean paste inside), do so at the beginning and ask if it needs prep in advance.
Food was quite tip top
Appetizer: Ji Si Fen Pe - shredded marinated chicken with mung/green bean flat sheet noodle over a bed of cucumber slivers. Fantabulous, although the shredded chicken was overly salty. Marinated in a similar fashion to the Pig's ear I had last dinner, ample sesame paste and soy sauce seasoning. The fen pe was bouncy and had a nice texture. A little bit unbalanced overall in the flavors where the chicken was salty, but I have to say I haven't had cucumbers this delicious in a while, soaking in the remaining flavors.
- cong you ban mien or brothless noodle with soy sauce, oil, scallions, and dried shrimp. Got that as to-go back in Feb, and now trying it dine-in. Toss that like a salad when it arrives at the table. Definitely not as greasy and heartburning delicious like the one at Shanghai Flavor Shop, and held up on its own. No tiny bits of shredded pork like SFS, but the dried shrimplets burst with flavor and allowed this to shine. Good chewy thin noodle with ample bounce. A simple yet really well done version.
- Shanghai Cai Fan. Mini personal sized clay pot rice with diced greens and diced salted pork/pork belly. Surprisingly non greasy compared to many renditions I've had, not terribly salty, and unfortunately a bit too much rice to ingredients ratio. But a very toasty and hearty rendition where some bits of the rice carmelized and turned mildly crispy (like those Cantonese clay pot style rice).
Our dessert took a long time to come out. The table next to us ordered the same thing (the dou sa guo bing), and when we were ready to get the check and leave, the waiter arrived with the dessert, hesistated between our table and the one next to ours (since he kind of knew both tables had ordered the same dish, except the other table of folks arrived before us). The waiter put the dessert down on their table, and Mrs KK told the waiter in Mandarin "we ordered the dou sa guo bing and we're finished with dinner and ready to leave". Before she could say "can you cancel the order" the waiter didn't miss a beat, CONFISCATED the dessert plate from the other table, placed it on ours. No apology and no explanation to the other table, who luckily were very amused instead of angered at the abruptness, and one guy over there said to me "hey I don't suppose we can share?" (to which I replied, oh just dont' leave a tip, in jest). And this is the same dude who confiscated the offending half eaten XLB with the hair in it a week ago.
The dou sa guo bing, super uber greasy on the skins. Thin skins that were a tad crispy, although the red bean paste filling wasn't dense enough. Now if only they made them like in Hong Kong....
I'll find time to scan the takeout menu and put it up. It looks like they've also added some banquet set dinner specials too.
re: K K
Recently had a chance to compare Sunny Shanghai and Little Shanghai.
xlb's both looked, skin thickness and held together equally. Sunny Shanghai had a richer broth of the two.
Shanghai Clay Pot, Little Shanghai had less grease, but not as strong in flavor as Sunny Shanghai
Flowering Kidney better taste for Little Shanghai while Sunny Shanghai had a better texture.
Loin Head's softer at Little Shanghai and better sauce at Sunny Shanghai.
Did not have Crispy Fried Eel at Sunny Shanghai but the one at Little Shanghai was large and very well done expect the sauce was a little too strong and hidden the taste of the eels.
Over all the plus on Little Shanghai, more wait staff and kitchen staff so that they could handle a bigger crowd. Sunny Shanghai is a little under staff. The pricing at both are about the same.
Hope KK post the set dinner menus soon.
Lucky the waiter did not confiscated anything from us. :>)
I keep forgetting how good (and cheap!) this place is.
Just had lunch of (Shanghai) sweet and sour pork ribs which was a good sized serving, separate bowl of white rice, serving of (good!) hot and sour soup and a freshly made spring roll - for $6 incl tax. What a deal when some places charge $2 for a less generous bowl of rice!
Four of us had lunch at Little Shanghai yesterday. We ordered (numbers are from take-out menu)—
8. Xiao Long Bao
9. Shanghai Pork Buns
306. Pork Knuckles in Soy Sauce
308. Sauteed Prawns Shanghai Style
801. Baked Steamed Rice w/ Salted Pork and Veg.
815. Mini Sesame Dumplings in Rice Wine Sauce
We also had the fresh greens of the day which were not on the menu. Everything was good, but I was especially impressed with the pork knuckles and the sesame dumplings in rice wine sauce.
The pork was very tender and moist, and had just enough fat to provide a great slippery feel to the pork plus some intact fat pieces for wonderfully unctuous bites your doctor would not approve of. The serving size was very large.
The dessert soup broth with rice wine and some fermented rice was very pleasing in its own right, but then my first mochi ball rolled tantalizingly across my tongue, breaking open and releasing its precious sesame filling right onto my tongue and I was in dessert heaven—it all went together so perfectly.
The prawns were very small but with a delicious full flavor and came with an excellent vinegar sauce. I liked the XLB a bit better than what I had at Shanghai Dumpling King on Balboa a few weeks ago. Very plump and juicy with very good but not outstanding flavor. The skins were a little thicker than SDK IIRC.
Pia brought some of her latest batch of homemade canelé to share and it was delicious. A few more tweaks and she’ll be a threat to Pâtisserie Phillipe’s crown for top canelé in the Bay Area!
Shanghai Dumpling King
3319 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121
pilinut's canelés are very special and absolutely beautiful and delicious - I feel very honored that she shares with us! Her skill and mastery of canelé is impressive indeed. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7233...
Every dish on our table was my favorite.
-The tiny black sesame dumplings in fermented rice broth was such a treat - I would return to Little Shanghai for that alone - a very satisfying end to a wonderful lunch. Imagine the lovely burst of black sesame on your tongue with the warm sweet rice wine!
-Pilinut has mastered the Chinese pronunciation of our translated 'chicken feather' greens, delicate fronds of fresh greens in a subtle broth. '
-Sauteed Prawns Shanghai-style: tender sweet and succulent
-xlb: juicy, delicate, delicious pork mix
-Shanghai Pork Buns: pan-fried dumplings, hearty and filling with the vinegar dipping sauce
-Baked Steamed Rice with Salted Pork and Vegetables: pure comfort food in a perfect balance of flavors and texture. This dish can stand alone for lunch for one.
-The Pork Knuckle! great sauce! tender pork with delicious unctuous fatty layer of skin
Next time we'll add the Duck Soup with Bamboo Shoots and Ham to the rotation. The daily lunch plates are also a tasty value. I'll return for more. Thank you, Pilinut, for organizing a very delightful lunch at Little Shanghai.
17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403
Nine 'hounds met for lunch today at Little Shanghai in San Mateo. pilinut graciously organized our meal and pre-ordered the Jiao Jua Chicken for us (with a stuffing of preserved vegetables rather than sticky rice). Our meal included—
8. Xiao Long Bao
25. Shang Hai Zong Zi
65. Rice w/ Salted Pork and Veg.
105. Wine Chicken
111. Bean Curd w/ Ma Lan Vegetable
116. Pig's Ear in Spicy Sauce
118. Pig's Kidney Flowers
119. Spicy Combination of Cold Beef, Tripe and Tongue
204. Duck Soup with Bamboo Shoots & Ham
306. Pork Knuckles in Soy Sauce
308. Sauteed Prawns Shanghai Style
320. Jiao Hua over Chicken (stuffed with preserved vegetables) [advance order req'd]
708. Sauteed Loofah w/ Bamboo
816. Mini Sesame Dumplings in Rice Wine Sauce
Not on menu— Chicken Feather Vegetable, pronounced ji mao cai, with garlic.
We also had a cold dish of spongey cubes soaked in sweet wine which I guess was "112. Fried Puff Bean Curd w/ Black Mushroom" (the only other dish we ordered) but it contained peanuts instead of mushrooms. Whatever it was it was very good!
With one exception I liked every single dish. The appetizers in particular were all very good.
The exception was the normally wonderful "816. Mini Sesame Dumpling in Rice Wine Sauce". Usually the rice wine soup is sweet but today it was very sour, as if they just forgot to add the sweet syrup. I think they may have comp'ed us this dish when we pointed out the problem. Not to be deterred from getting a sugar high to punctuate our fine repast, several of us retired afterwards to Romolo's for cannoli, affogato, ice cream and other delights.
A Good Lunch/feeding frenzy in the din of dining; second stops for desserts at Romolo's for cannoli and affogato and Creations for mango mochi. Our thanks to pilinut for organizing, ordering, and balancing the flavors for us.
- With 20 cold plates/appetizers on the menu, we could happily make lunch of just these dishes any time.
- The resulting broth of the Duck Soup w/Bamboo is a treasure to be savored.
- Several of the xlb came to the table with tears and the broth had leaked out. There are better dishes to order and enjoy.
- Wine Chicken has clean, bright taste.
- Rice with Salted Pork and Veggies is pure comfort food/love.
- Steamed buns with the Pork Knuckle was a good call - we made sliders!
That looks like an awesome spread!
Was the "#320 Jiao Hua over Chicken" (beggar's chicken) good enough to justify the advanced ordering?
The "112. Fried Puff Bean Curd w/ Black Mushroom" is what's pictured in cysna's picture. That dish has shiitake/black mushrooms at other places, but the "black mushroom" referred only to the crunchy wood ear mushrooms when I ordered the #112 a few months back.
#112 was a favorite dish on the table, intense bursts of soaked spongy soy. I liked this a lot.
The preserved veggies in the Beggar's Chicken were salty and added the needed dimension to this subtle chicken. It's a dish that is better paired with the lightness of other dishes; otherwise it's lost in the array. I think it was slightly overcooked for my taste. Was it a favorite of others?
I agree on the overcooked--the chicken was a bit dry and not at all tender, though maybe some of that was the quality of the bird. On my first bite I thought this dish was a loser but later the flavor and the preserved vegetables saved the dish for me. I got the leftovers, and on day 2 the flavor seems more intense. I'm not sure I'd call it subtle. Definitely not the star of the meal--there were so many other great tastes.
I liked the idea of the #320 Jiao Hua Ji better than the actual execution. Cynsa is right, it was rather dry--I had been hoping for a moist, fall-of-the-bone beggar's chicken. I think I'll give it another try sometime, though I'll ask them to be more careful about making sure the chicken remains moist. Had the chicken been juicy, it would have been a wonderful dish, with the smokiness of the outer leaves and the musty salt of pickled vegetable enhancing the sweetness of the meat.
The pork knuckle, sautéed prawns, veggies, and rice, however, were as good as ever.
I wouldn't recommend the beggar's chicken here. As you'll recall from the legend associated with this dish, the reason that it's wrapped up so tightly is to contain the delicious scent. Part of the enjoyment of this dish is to catch the first aromas as the chicken is unveiled. I was sitting right next to the dish when the server cut it open. There was little fragrance. The stuffing was quite plain. While the meat does typically fall right off the bone, this was missing moisture. I tried some of the breast, drumstick and wing. The breast was tender but lacked juice. The whole thing wasn't very tasty.
What's the price here?
My first return to Little Shanghai since December 2009,
Thank you to pilinut for riding herd over ordering lunch, to Cynsa for the photos, and to Charlie for being our loyal scribe. A few impressions:
8. Xiao Long Bao – Liked the looser texture of the pork filling (most are overly compact) but not soupy enough
25. Shang Hai Zong Zi – stained dark brown from soy sauce and studded with chunks of salt pork, more explanation here,
65. Rice w/ Salted Pork and Veg – well-flavored with salt pork and chopped Shanghai cabbage, but not cooked in the pot and missing the crusty bottom
105. Wine Chicken – one of my favorites of the meal, firm and flavorful chicken served cold and on the bone, bathed in Shaoxing wine
111. Bean Curd w/ Ma Lan Vegetable – refreshing green vegetable interlude
112. Fried Puff Bean Curd w/ Black Mushroom – another favorite, a touch too sweet for me, but the smaller dimensions of the cubes let them soak up more of the marinade touched with wine
116. Pig's Ear in Spicy Sauce – good texture to the thin slivered pig ears, but didn’t like the sesame paste and muddy texture of the sauce
118. Pig's Kidney Flowers – not bad, a little overcooked and not as firm as optimum
119. Spicy Combination of Cold Beef, Tripe and Tongue – third in a row of spicy, cold appetizers each uniquely seasoned, this one had whole Sichuan peppercorns, wish I’d scored a piece of tongue
204. Duck Soup with Bamboo Shoots & Ham – loved sipping this stock, mildly gamey notes blended with sweet vegetal and briny tones
306. Pork Knuckles in Soy Sauce – generally not that fond of tipang, but quivering jelly-like infused rind made for a delectable bite sandwiched in mantoh
308. Sauteed Prawns Shanghai Style – overcooked shrimp and lacking freshness and delicacy
320. Jiao Hua over Chicken (stuffed with preserved vegetables) [advance order req'd] – below average, not tasty
708. Sauteed Loofah w/ Bamboo – lovely to be surprised with the far more delectable pith as the bamboo component, loofah not too earthy, mostly sweet but a few bitter pieces
Ji mao cai – another favorite, such a light touch in cooking this to bring out the vegetable’s mustardy flavor, highlighted with chicken essence and garlic
I had to depart early and missed 816. Mini Sesame Dumplings in Rice Wine Sauce .