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A Taste Of Shanghai

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albee Oct 4, 2008 04:14 PM

This place is at 39-07 Prince Street, #1A. I passed by it today and it looked very interesting. Has anyone been there and do they have info on it ?

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    Arete RE: albee Nov 15, 2008 11:45 AM

    We've been there twice and have been pretty happy.

    We were skeptical at first because we always go to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao a half block away on Prince St. for their soup buns, and didn't see a reason to go to another Shanghainese place, but one night we got to Flushing quite late and Nan Xiang was already closed, so we decided to give this place a try.

    First off, of course we ordered the soup buns. I will say I prefer the ones at Nan Xiang, which had more delicate skin and soup. That said, A Taste of Shanghai makes a pretty decent soup bun too. The soup is flavorful and plentiful, and not as greasy as that at Joe's Shanghai (which we haven't gone to since we found Nan Xiang), and the skin is pretty thin but holds up pretty well.

    We also ordered their fried buns, which were delightful. Fried just right. Has a crispy bottom but the bun is not dried out. I don't think they have dried buns at Nan Xiang.

    For appetizers, we ordered the San Huang Ji (literally, "three yellow chicken"), because they had the name of this dish made into a neon sign on the window, meaning they're pretty proud of it. You can order this as either a half-chicken portion or a quarter-chicken portion. The chicken looks pretty plain, like it's only been steamed and cut up, but the meat is really moist and flavorful. It also comes with a slightly sweet dipping sauce that makes the chicken taste even better.

    For substance we ordered another Shanghainese standard, the scallion oil noodles. Very good noodles with just the right amount of sauce, carmelized scallions, and dried shrimps. Not sure whether Nan Xiang does it better or A Taste of Shanghai -- I guess we'll have to head back for a taste test.

    Bottom line: a solid Shanghainese option that's open a little later than other places, and has more options on the menu than the nearby Nan Xiang. Definitely worth a try.

    Note: the place is cash only last time I checked.

    1. l
      lwong RE: albee Nov 17, 2008 05:51 PM

      We have eaten at “The Taste of Shanghai” a number of times and find that it provides good value for the prices charged.

      The “soup buns” that the poster “Arete” referred to in the first reply, we would assume to be Xiao Long Baos (XLB), which we found to be less than satisfactory the one time we ordered them. The XLB skin was rough and had a slightly gummy texture and there was not very much soup, nor was the broth very tasty. We agree with “Arete” that the XLB’s are much better at the “Nan Xiang” restaurant on Prince Street, although the last time we ordered XLB’s at the “Nan Xiang” restaurant, two of the XLB’s in the order were dried out and did not have any soup in them at all.

      A dish that is highlighted on a poster near the front door (in Chinese) as you come in the “Taste of Shanghai” restaurant is their “Braised Pork Leg” with brown sauce served on a bed of greens (includes the pork skin, which is considered the best part), which is quite good if you are lucky enough to get a pork leg that is freshly cooked. Our luck has been uneven, as in the four times that we have ordered the “Braised Pork Leg,” two of the times we ordered the “Braised Pork Leg” we received dish that was at least a day old and the meat was beginning to show some slight dryness, although still satisfactory. However, the two times that we did get fresh cooked pork leg, the meat was very rich in flavor, tender, and the skin was very succulent with good fatty flavor. However, we do not eat too much of the skin for health reasons. Another good thing about the dish is that it has a recession price of around $12.

      Another dish we have tried that was good was the fish head with cellophane sheets casserole. The dish had very tasty broth and the fish head had a surprising amount of meat. Again, this dish also was at the very good recession price of $7.

      They also have an extensive list of cold dishes typical of Shanghai restaurants. We have tried their “Shanghai Fried Little Fish,” which is a whole fish about three inches long (possibly a smelt) that one eats head and all. If the “Little Fish” are fresh, they are not too bad. The smoked Shanghai Fish is good also, but they will mix in some old pieces with the fresh smoked fish, but at $6 a dish this is to be expected.

      A recent dinner there with four people with plentiful food variety, cost only $50 plus not including tax and tip.

      The “Taste of Shanghai” is a very small restaurant with all of the tables in the front portion of the restaurant “2 person” tables that are pushed together or apart as the need arises. There is an upstairs section that might have the typical larger round tables.

      1. erica RE: albee Jun 4, 2009 08:12 AM

        Does anyone have a report or comment to add to these two excellent posts? (I just noticed this place and am interested in trying soon)

        16 Replies
        1. re: erica
          l
          lwong RE: erica Jun 4, 2009 07:41 PM

          Other dishes that we have enjoyed at “A Taste of Shanghai” are the “Sautéed Shrimp and Kidney,” “Braised Lion’s Head with Cabbage” (off menu, but possibly might be on the Chinese menu: very chopstick tender and flavorful – make sure not to confuse this with the “Lion’s Head in Soup” which we did not find very tasty), the “Pan Fried Udon Noodle” dishes, “Shredded Pork with Dry Bean Curd and Chilly (sic),” and the vegetable dishes “Sautéed String Beans with ground pork,” and "Sautéed Water Spinach."

          As mentioned in our previous post, Chinese restaurants are notorious for sprinkling in their dishes ingredients that are less than fresh along with the fresh ingredients, but that is to be expected with the low prices charged at Chinatown restaurants.

          Although not mentioned in the earlier posting, but for modern art fans, “A Taste of Shanghai” has a very large original mural high on the eastern wall of the restaurant that is a “Jackson Pollock” like painting with splashes and streaks of colorful paint and on the edges of the painting has what we would interpret as the fusion Chinese influence of Goldfish swimming.

          This is the only restaurant in Flushing Chinatown where one can enjoy food and modern art at the same time if one happens to look up at the wall.

          P.S. We recently tried the “Northeast” restaurant again after over a year and found that it is still fairly good. And since you enjoy Northeast food, we thought you might be interested to try it yourself. After eating recently also at “Fu Run,” we feel that the “Northeast” restaurant is just as good if not better than “Fu Run.” But as noted in our original posting on the “Northeast” restaurant, the “Northeast” restaurant menu is full of bad English translations, hence one must be prepared to be surprised with some of the dishes that one orders if you decide to dine there.

          One dish that was listed as “Lamb chops” that we ordered turned out not to be “Lamb chops,” but instead the cut came from the sparerib and breast area of the Lamb, but still very good with sharp flavors. The “Lamb chops” dish consists of about 4 or 5 large rib sections and one eats the whole piece with your chopsticks and hands, since a knife is not provided.

          1. re: lwong
            erica RE: lwong Jun 5, 2009 04:25 AM

            Lwong: You are a star! Many thanks! I think i will point myself in the direction of Northeast Restaurant. I still have not tried Nanxiang on Prince (although I did goto one of that name in Shanghai!!); perhaps that should be tried before heading to Taste of Shanghai aka Pollock Place.

            From LWong's post on Northeast Restaurant:

            Since you are a fan of northeast food, and especially with the demise of the old “Emerald Island” and now “Waterfront International” in Flushing, you might be interested to know that there is a new northeast restaurant that opened in Flushing recently and appropriately enough, is also named “Northeast Restaurant,” which is located at the southern end of Flushing Chinatown on the western side of Main Street across the street from all the Indian stores just 1 block north of the Queens Botanical Garden. The address for the “Northeast Restaurant” is 43-18A Main Street (Tel: 718-539-3061). The restaurant has very large lit up red Chinese characters at the top of the store sign with accompanying pictures of some of their dishes underneath the red characters. Adjacent to the “Northeast Restaurant,” also owned by them, is a separate restaurant specializing in Chinese northeast style hotpots.

            We have eaten at the “Northeast Restaurant” several times now, and there are quite a number of interesting dishes. Northeast cuisine, we notice, is quite inventive with vegetable dishes. There is a vegetable dish that we have tried that is quite interesting and tasty. It is just a simple Chinese eggplant dish, but they have peeled away the skin and then deep fried the eggplant lightly and then glazed it with a light sauce to give it a slight crust on the outside and much more texture than one would normally expect from eating Chinese eggplant that typically has a mushy interior, since in order to have the eggplant skin soft, the interior is cooked to death. However, the dish is misnamed as “Braised Eggplant,” whereas the Chinese characters for the dish is roughly translated as “Fire Burned Eggplant.” There are other English mistranslations on the menu, hence one might be eating dishes that one did not expect if one cannot read the Chinese characters, but one can also be pleasantly surprised in finding interesting dishes like the boringly named “Braised Eggplant” dish. Even when one can read Chinese, one can still be mislead by the menu, as on one occasion when our party ordered “Sliced Pork with Sour Cabbage,” where we were expecting a dry stir fry dish, but it turned out to be a soup with lots of broth and very fatty bacon pork, but the soup was still very tasty from the fatty pork bacon. We also tried a cold salad dish of cucumbers, shredded pork, and other items that was flavored with mashed garlic that is listed near the top of the menu on the first page that was fairly good. Another dish that we tried was “Mutton/Lamb with Cumin” which was also good where the mutton was fully covered with the cumin spices. Not all dishes that we tried were good, but there were a sufficient number of good dishes to make another trip there worthwhile to try out more of their dishes. The prices are Chinatown reasonable with quite a lot of dishes under $10. The more expensive dishes would be the seafood dishes, but even these were under $20. Most dishes have the option to order the large size or the small size with a reduced price for the smaller dishes.

            The “Northeast Restaurant” also serves the “Fried Taro with Melted Sugar” dessert described in our earlier reply posting in this thread.

            lwong Nov 28, 2007 02:08PM

            1. re: erica
              l
              lwong RE: erica Jun 6, 2009 06:23 AM

              The XLBs at the Flushing Prince Street “Nan Xiang” restaurant are fairly good on most occasions. We like them better than the XLBs at the Flushing “Joe’s Shanghai” restaurant. The broth in the “Joe’s Shanghai” XLBs always seem to have some under taste that we cannot quite put our finger on, while the broth in the XLBs at the Prince Street “Nan Xiang” XLBs are quite clean tasting.

              We have also tried the “Nan Xiang” restaurant in Shanghai (this restaurant originally created the XLB) in the Yu Garden tourist area several years ago and we felt the XLBs there were pretty good, much better than any XLBs in NYC.

              When you ate at the Shanghai “Nan Xiang” restaurant, how did you like the XLBs? Did you eat the XLBs on the third floor, which charges western prices? The XLBs on the second floor and at the first floor takeout window are ridiculously cheap compared to the prices on the third floor, which for the higher prices charged has air-conditioning in the summer and somewhat better service as there is an actual line for tables and the service staff gives out numbers in a democratic manner. On the second floor, there is no line or numbers given out for tables, but one has to stand behind someone sitting at a table waiting for them to finish eating in order to obtain the table. The takeout window has lines which were quite long when we were there. We ate at the third floor since we had read that the XLBs were supposed to be better there, plus the lines were shorter on the third floor due to the higher prices (still a 30 minute wait though), but many people have stated that the XLBs on the third floor were identical to the XLBs on the second floor and at the first floor takeout window.

              While at the Shanghai Yu Garden, did you feed the millions of Goldfish in the pond surrounding the “Nan Xiang” restaurant? We had some excess Quaker granola bars in our backpack that was brought all the way from America, which we fed to the Goldfish. We have to say that the Chinese Yu Garden Goldfish really enjoyed the American Quaker brand granola bars that were full of sugar. Below is a picture of the millions of Chinese Goldfish at the Yu Garden.

              According to Gary Soup at his “EatingChinese” website, the XLBs at the Shanghai “Nan Xiang” restaurant are only a shadow of the great XLBs that “Nan Xiang” made during their heyday many many years ago. Gary Soup sampled “Nan Xiang’s” XLBs on the third floor and echoed the same sentiment that the “Nan Xiang” XLBs were the same on all floors with the statement that “they seemed to be a bit fresher, but with little other discernible difference.” The Prince Street restaurant with the same name “Nan Xiang” as the famous “Nan Xiang” restaurant in Shanghai is just trying capitalize on the past fame of the Shanghai “Nan Xiang” restaurant.

              Check out the "EatingChinese" and the "LiaoYusheng" blogs that rates XLBs in Shanghai and provides much useful information about XLBs:

              a. http://eatingchinese.blogspot.com/200...
              b. http://eatingchinese.blogspot.com/200...
              c. http://eatingchinese.blogspot.com/200...
              d. http://liaoyusheng.com/archives/food_...

              According to Gary Soup, the "De Long Guan" restaurant now is the top XLB restaurant in Shanghai supplanting the "Jia Jia Tang Bao" restaurants (two locations in Shanghai).

              And in the Liaoyusheng blog in 2005, Liao, who is a very tough critic of XLBs, is in agreement that "Jia Jia Tang Bao" makes superior XLBs. Mr. Liao trashes the XLBs in the NYC area.

              Another good XLB restaurant is the Taiwan XLB restaurant chain called "Din Tai Fung" restaurant, but as mentioned by Soup, the "Din Tai Fung" restaurants charge western prices for their XLBs compared to the relatively low Chinese prices at "De Long Guan" and "Jia Jia Tang Bao." Soup considers that the "Din Tai Fung" XLBs to be on par with "Jia Jia Tang Bao" XLBs, but due to the cost differences, Soup does not recommend "Din Tai Fung" when there are much cheaper alternatives that are just as good or better.

              Here are two positive reviews of the Shanghai "Din Tai Fung" restaurant in the Shanghai Xintiandi location:

              a. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/13/tra...
              b. http://www.shanghaiexpat.com/modules....

              If you have read Soup’s and Liao’s blog’s in the above links on XLBs, than you are aware that there are no excellent “A” quality XLBs to be found in all of NYC. But not having tried the XLBs at the “Jia Jia Tang Bao” or “Din Tai Fung” XLB restaurants while we were in Shanghai, our XLB standards are still relatively low and we can still enjoy the XLBs at the faux “Nan Xiang” restaurant in Flushing, which we do not think are as good as the XLBs at the original “Nan Xiang” restaurant in Shanghai, which according to Soup and Liao are now of subpar quality. Everything in life is relative. (LOL

              )

              If you like XLBs, you can certainly give the Prince Street “Nan Xiang” restaurant a try. Despite the negative write-up about XLBs in NYC from the Liao food blog, the ones at the Flushing Prince Street “Nan Xiang” restaurant are reasonably acceptable. The last several times we were there, all of the XLBs had broth. The “Guo Tai” (fried dumplings) at the “Nan Xiang” restaurant are okay also. The noodle dishes regardless of whether you ordered the noodle dish with meat, are primarily vegetarian with very small amounts of meat sprinkled among the noodles, but other than this little issue, the noodle dishes are tasty.

              1. re: lwong
                l
                lwong RE: lwong Jun 6, 2009 06:33 AM

                Here is the photo of the Yu Garden Goldfish in Shanghai, which we forgot in the earlier post. For some reason, once you post, the edit function does not allow attaching of photos.

                 
                1. re: lwong
                  scoopG RE: lwong Jun 6, 2009 02:06 PM

                  Another hound's take:
                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/571225

                  1. re: scoopG
                    l
                    lwong RE: scoopG Jun 7, 2009 10:32 AM

                    Thanks for the link to the thread on XLBs on the Chowhound China Forum.

                    It appears that we are getting XLB information from similar sources, as we believe that “Xiao Yang” is a pseudonym for Mr. Gary Soup.

                    And in looking at the “Xiao Yang” China link, the poster “Erica” was aware of our XLB information already as she had posted on that thread, hence we could have dispensed with most of our Shanghai XLB information.

                    But it never hurts to practice one’s writing skills.

                    1. re: lwong
                      scoopG RE: lwong Jun 7, 2009 02:10 PM

                      That does look like Gary and Xiao Yang has very recently changed his avatar!

                      1. re: scoopG
                        Chandavkl RE: scoopG Jun 13, 2009 10:44 PM

                        Yes that's him. It took me a little while to figure out the transition from Gary Soup to Xiao Yang. Re lwong's comment about imprecise translations and resultant surprises, a place in DC Chinatown serves "Fish stew soup," which really is fish maw soup. Wonder how many tourists were tricked by that one.

                  2. re: lwong
                    erica RE: lwong Jun 7, 2009 02:48 PM

                    LWong: You are a superstar! I will return to answer in more detail when I get a moment, but for the time being: I did not feed the goldfish. Look at what I wrote after my 2007 trip, about the xlb. I LOVED DTF and JiaJia Tang Bao.

                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/400351

                    1. re: erica
                      l
                      lwong RE: erica Jun 8, 2009 12:17 PM

                      Mmmm, after reading the Chowhound China Forum link with your post about having eaten “Jia Jia Tang Bao” and Din Tai Fung” XLBs while in Shanghai, this is both an enviable and unenviable position that you are in.

                      Enviable in that you were fortunate enough to have tasted the XLBs at “Jia Jia Tang Bao” and “Din Tai Fung” in your trip to Shanghai, and unenviable in that you may shortly eat XLB’s at the Flushing “Nan Xiang” restaurant after having tasted “Jia Jia Tang Bao” and “Din Tai Fung” XLB’s. (LOL)

                      During a work celebration where fairly terrible pizza was ordered from a local pizzeria, after eating the bad pizza we remarked to a work colleague, “it is only when one eats bad pizza that one really appreciates how good DiFara’s pizza is.”

                      Hopefully, the XLBs at the Flushing “Nan Xiang” are not so terrible that you would make the same remark as ours regarding the XLBs at the Flushing “Nan Xiang” restaurant. It will really make us feel bad if you were to make the same remark about the Flushing “Nan Xiang” XLBs. (LOL)

                      1. re: lwong
                        erica RE: lwong Jun 8, 2009 12:28 PM

                        You are a riot! Will you hate me if I tell you that I am planning to return to Shanghai next winter? I got so "addicted" to these small delights after my last trip that went on a quest to find great, or even very good ones, here. In vain. The originals are so far superior that it almost better living with the memory than being disappointed time and time again.
                        There are DTFs in California--I wonder about them.

                        1. re: erica
                          l
                          lwong RE: erica Jun 9, 2009 10:05 AM

                          If we can borrow liberally from the idiom and words of Arthur Clennam, a leading character in the recent delightful PBS mini-series “Little Dorrit” based on the novel by Charles Dickens, we rejoice at your good fortune in being able to go to Shanghai next winter to enjoy the wonderful XLBs at the “De Long Guan,” “Jia Jia Tang Bao,” and “Din Tai Fung” restaurants, as your good fortune could not be more richly deserved.

                          For ourselves, limited to eating NYC XLBs, the Chinese have a long ancient history of knowing how to “Eat Bitterness!” (LOL)

                          Supposedly, this is why the Chinese eat the vegetable “Bitter Melon,” in order to remind ones self of the “bitterness” of life.

                          Liao’s website link (comment at the bottom of the blog) in our earlier posting, indicates that the LA “Din Tai Fung” XLBs are not very good.

                          Picture of “Bitter Melons” is attached below.

                           
                          1. re: lwong
                            erica RE: lwong Jun 9, 2009 02:43 PM

                            LOL, indeed! I've told you this before but you are a riot! I hope you will come to one of our group dinners sometime. If we eat bitter melon soup together will it taste less bitter?

                            Which brings me to this: Why the heck can't xlb be mastered here? What is it about this dish that does not "translate?"

                            1. re: erica
                              l
                              lwong RE: erica Jun 11, 2009 09:41 AM

                              The issue is not that the XLB recipe cannot be “translated” here in America. It can be if there are people who are sufficiently skilled, have a passion for cooking, and have pride in their work, but the number of people who have all three attributes are quite limited.

                              An example is the quality of pizza in the NYC metro area. The pizza recipe on the surface is quite simple in just consisting of dough, tomato sauce, cheese, spices, and a hot oven, but in the thousands and thousands of pizzerias in the NYC area, there are probably no more than 10 to 40 pizzerias that serve excellent pizzas. By comparison, we would wildly guess that there are probably no more than 100 or so restaurants that serve XLB’s in the NYC area. Assuming the number of XLB restaurant owners who are skilled, have passion for their craft, and pride in their work are in the same ratio as the number of pizza owners who care about their pizzas, than it can be seen that having even one restaurant serving excellent XLBs in the NYC area would be quite uncommon. Of course, this does not preclude the possibility that an abnormally large group of top XLB cooks in China might decide to immigrate to New York tomorrow and open restaurants serving excellent XLBs, but one’s own experiences with excellence in restaurants or any other endeavors is that this is unlikely.

                              In Shanghai, there are probably the identical thousands and thousands of restaurants serving XLBs, but judging from the review links of Soup/Liao, the status of excellent XLBs in Shanghai is not widespread and Shanghai probably has the similar number of 10 to 40 restaurants that serve excellent XLBs.

                              The normal distribution (the bell shaped) curve is a fairly immutable fact that describes many aspects of this world that we live in. There is certainly much controversy over the use of the normal distribution curve but there is undeniable evidence that many things in this world conform to the infamous “Bell shaped curve.” There is probably no one who would argue that the distribution of people’s height’s are not described by the normal curve.

                              Unfortunately, the distribution of restaurants serving XLBs is described by the normal distribution curve, where the number of restaurants serving excellent XLBS (far right side of the normal curve) are quite small in number. New Yorkers will have to wait for more restaurants serving XLBs to open and hope for the law of averages to catch up, before excellent XLBs are available in NYC.

                              P.S. When you visit Shanghai next winter, try the street vendor food “Jian Bing,” if you not tried them yet. In a NYT’s article in 2005, the owner of the “Jean Georges” restaurant in New York, “Mr. Vongerichten, in seventh heaven, pronounced it ‘the best breakfast in the world.’''

                              Here are several Youtube videos of Shanghai “Jian Bing”:

                              a. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQQUSi...
                              b. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIh0_8...

                              We have tried them in Beijing, and naturally, we are waiting patiently for an excellent “Jian Bing” street vendor to set up shop in Flushing. They would make $millions!

                              1. re: lwong
                                erica RE: lwong Jun 12, 2009 05:51 PM

                                What a great idea! Now I can actually understand this important street dish. You have no idea how frustrating it is to want to ask questions and be thwarted by language ignorance. I have had a "sandwich" referred to as a bing--sort of roll with sesame seeds filled with chopped meat. What does "bing" mean? Is Jian bing the name of the dish or the name of the vendor?

                                Excellent points regarding the mediocrity of most pizza and xlb. What do you suppose the less-good xlb makers do incorrectly? Would they use poor quality meat and too much fat? Not roll the dough out thin enough? Both of these, as well as other "errors?"

                                1. re: erica
                                  l
                                  lwong RE: erica Jun 15, 2009 10:40 AM

                                  The Internet is a great resource for learning new things. In the Wikipedia website, there is a nice explanation about Chinese “Bings,” a generic term for various flatbreads: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bing_(Ch...

                                  The term “Jian Bing” (a crepe pancake with eggs, a type of cracker, scallions, and various spices) refers to the street food shown in the Youtube video links in the prior posting. Our understanding is that the traditional “Jian Bing” is not made with wheat flour but instead with a Mung bean and Millet flour mixture.

                                  Your remarks about how to make bad XLBs are definitely on the right track but there are probably a million ways to make bad XLBs, but only a few ways to make excellent XLBs!

                                  The same goes for bad pizzas. We cannot tell you how many bad pizzas we have eaten in our life, but quite a lot of bad pizzas have crossed our plate! Bad crust, bad sauce, bad cheese, no taste, anything you can think of, we have probably experienced it. But the same statement can be made about anything in life, whether it is food, cars, clothes, or anything else that man or nature makes.

                                  It is the ubiquitous “normal curve” that approximates the distribution of many things in life, where unfortunately the median in most cases is not excellent enough. The median quality pizza, and XLB do not meet the mark for excellence.

                                  It is not easy to be the best in life, but as long as one takes the drive for excellence in perspective, that the eating of the best pizza or XLBs is not the “be all” of life, but that there are more important things in life besides eating or any other material desires, than all is well with life.

            2. n
              northNJfoodie RE: albee Jun 4, 2009 12:46 PM

              this place is good for soup buns and soy milk.
              Their fried noodles dishes are good too.

              1. f
                FrankieLymon RE: albee Jun 4, 2009 01:49 PM

                ive been meaning to try their eel noodle soup

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