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Taste of Shanghai (Shang Hai Xiao Chi) - delicious shanghainese in flushing

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I heard about Taste of Shanghai on chound and yelp. I also read that it was the former chef from Shanghai Tide, which is run by the same owner / chefs as the now defunct Yangtze River Restaurant across the street, which was the best shanghainese in NYC by far when it was open. So I was excited to try it since Yangtze River was really good.

It occupies a space that has been a rotating door for chinese restaurants on the corner of 39th and Prince wedged between the parking lot for the Sheraton and a chinese bar who's name escapes me. It's got a yellow onning and is hard to miss. When you walk in there are two stories and maybe 6-7 smaller tables on the bottom floor and 5-6 bigger tables upstairs. The decor is nothing to write home about, but its not a total dump either.

The service was brisk, but fine and the waiter was reasonably helpful when ordering explaining some of the dishes. I'm not sure how good or not good their english is b/c we ordered in chinese, but the menu is totally translated into english, so it shouldn't be a problem either way. The menu is 90% shanghainese dishes with a few random other dishes in the mix. The prices are super cheap, I think the most expensive dish on the menu was maybe $15, most dishes range between $5-8.

We ordered an absolute ton of food (we were there for 2 hours):
- scallion pancake with beef (niu rou jia bing): this isn't really a shanghainese dish, I've had it at lots of taiwanese places and the best version I've ever had is at a shandong place in LA. It's pretty self explanatory, its a scallion pancake brushed with hoisin (haixian) sauce, sliced beef and cucumbers. It was pretty tasty, the scallion pancake was a bit thick, but fresh and crispy and not that oily at all. The combo of everything went well together. Fyi, their version is pretty small, its probably meant for two people (we had four people).
- cold cucumbers in garlic sauce: this was excellent, the cucumbers were very fresh and were sliced small enough (I hate when they give you big chunks), had sesame oil, garlic and a big a salt. Very refreshing
- crab and pork soup dumplings (xie fen xiao long bao): the XLB here are decent, but not great, I don't think they are any better than the ones in manhattan. The skins are slightly thicker than most, the filling was good and a little lighter than most XLB. The crab wasn't really worth it as they didn't really give you very much. I'd order them if you can if you like XLB, but you're not going to be wow'd by them
- sauteed watercress (kong xin cai): pretty standard, just sauteed kong xin cai with oil and garlic. I'm not sure if this was on the menu or not, but the waiter recommended it as a vegetable, so we got it. I love kong xin cai, so it was good.
- egg and tomato: this is sort of a homestyle dish. It's basically just scrambled eggs with tomatoes. Wasn't the best version, I've ever had, but i like the dish alot, so I enjoyed it.
- scallion and dry shrimp noodle: this was interesting, the noodles sort of reminded me of ramen noodles, it was in a sort of salty sauce that was soy sauce and scallion oil. It was topped with scallion that were brown, I believe they were fermented and put in the oil, there were also tiny dried shrimps on top. It was pretty good although not mind blowing
- spicy blue crab (xiang la xie): wow this was so good, blue crab chopped into pieces sauteed in a dry sauce of oil, fermented black beans, peppers, scallions, green onions and maybe one or two other things. Really good, meat was sweet and tender, the sauce was spicy, but not overly spicy...it was also a bit sweet. Everyone was really wow'd by this dish. Fyi, the waiter said there were two preparations a dry and a soupy one, but he said the dry one (the one we got) is better.
- braised pork shoulder in brown sauce: another excellent dish, a big pork shoulder with bone-in in a semi-sweet brown sauce. The meat was fall off the bone tender and the skin / fat was melt in your mouth delicious. It's pretty self-explanatory, but really good
- meatball casserole: the name was deceiving, but its actually a light soup with meat balls, tofu and cabbage. The meat balls were pretty decent, fairly light actually. The soup was good albeit a bit too salty. Good, but not great dish
- mushroom and gluten: this was very simple dish of sauteed mushrooms and gluten. The mushrooms were good, but the gluten was weird, it was kind of mushy, so the dish was just so so.
- eight treasure rice (ba bao fan): i like this dish, its sticky glutinous rice with red beans in the middle and then they put raisins and some other dried fruits on it (they are all colorful...think of like fruitcake colorful)...i love red bean and i love sticky rice, so i liked this dish.

I really want to come back to try to braised yellow eels, which they had run out of that day.

Overall, everyone really liked the restaurant and I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of some of the dishes. What I really liked about this place was that the focus was on shanghainese food other than soup dumplings. I think shanghainese in the city has become solely associated with soup dumplings similar to how vietnamese food is now associated with banh mi and I think there is alot more to these cuisines then these famous dishes (although they are both tasty). This place is definitely worth trying out to taste good shanghainese outside of soup dumplings. I highly recommend.

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  1. Thanks Lau for your diligent review - I've a hankering for blue crab!

    17 Replies
    1. re: scoopG

      yeah its worth trying...i was very pleasantly surprised

      1. re: Lau

        their fish head casserole (sa guo yue to, i know a massacred this) is great and a bargain at $7.50, i think. nice big pot filled with fish, tofu, noodles.

        1. re: FattyDumplin

          i almost ordered that dish, but i was getting full so i passed...ill have to try that next time along with the braised yellow eel

          1. re: FattyDumplin

            I loooove that dish, this is up next for next Flushing trek, husband will go anywhere for the real thing zhen zheng Shanghai cai.

            1. re: buttertart

              i highly recommend that spicy blue crab dish...it was definitely the best dish...the braised pork shoulder was also very good

              if you have a chance try the braised yellow eel, i really wanted to try that dish, i was disappointed they were out of eel

              1. re: Lau

                Look forward to it, maybe this weekend. Love crab too.

                1. re: Lau

                  By the way, are they licensed? Or BYOB?

                      1. re: buttertart

                        they do serve beer and its cheap as hell...$2.50 / beer

                        1. re: Lau

                          We are so there this weekend! Thanks.

              2. re: FattyDumplin

                fatty; that is a great price and, a great attempt at pinyin, not bad at all! sa-guo yu-tou is a little closer.

                1. re: bigjeff

                  Sha is the usual Pinyin for the character for sand. Not to ba a pest or anything...

                    1. re: bigjeff

                      Too cute, reflects Taiwan pronunciation as well. I was very surprised to see Pinyin in the Taipei subway - a friend opined that it was of DPP origin...??? Sa guo, sha guo, the yutou and the doufu still taste wonderful.

                      1. re: bigjeff

                        Guys, both your pinyin translations are extremely helpful, but there might be some minor dialect issues here. Thank you both!

                        1. re: diprey

                          Indeed, not minor. As you doubtless know, Shanghainese Wu dialect - which Lau notes is spoken here - is very unlike standard Mandarin. Would love to learn it someday.

                  1. re: Lau

                    OK all hehe I took some PICS of course

                    well i was not too adventurous as i tried 2 items Lau reviewed..

                    1) scallion pancake with beef and pepper
                    2) pork shoulder with brown gravy

                    LARGE PORTIONS! WOW

                    pancake was really nice, as stated in review not too greasy, nice shreaded beef and semi-spicy green peppers. I really liked these

                    Pork ... well what can i really say lol ... i felt like i was in the flintstones cartoon! this was a 2+ pound pork shoulder, here i am sitting alone with my new buddy, the shoulder. fall off the bone tender, brown sauce that was sweet at first but kinda evened itself out as you ate it. the green vegetables were steamed and there bitterness went really nice with the gravy. A+ for sure. i have enough for dinner for my family tonite taboot

                    here are some pics:

                     
                     
                    1. re: chefjellynow

                      haha sorry i didnt tell u how big that dish is...that place is really cheap now that i think of it based upon portion size and prices

                      1. re: Lau

                        oh yea i forgot Lau, i asked for yellow eel and no go they had none again
                        boooo

                        1. re: chefjellynow

                          i read somewhere that it is good there and i like that dish, so i really want to try it

                      2. re: chefjellynow

                        Looks great, can't wait, thanks for pics!

                1. Many thanks, yet again, Lau, for your thorough report. Since my only experience with Shanghai in Flushing has been Shanghai Tide, which I've liked and about which I have written a couple of very short notes here, I am wondering if you have, indeed been to Shanghai Tide and how this new place compares.

                  When did the ST chef relocate here?

                  Thanks again! a faithful reader

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: erica

                    well he opened the restaurant, so it must've been in the last 6-9 months b/c the restaurant is pretty new

                    I still haven't gone to shanghai tide although I heard that the actual shanghainese food (not the hot pot) is still quite good since the entire staff from yangtze just relocated, so i cant compare although I can compare it to yangtze and while it was good, yangtze was better

                  2. We went yesterday afternoon and had the sheng jian bing - which were OK, basically thickskinned dumplings fried on one side - and the scallion pancake with braised beef - which was delicious; the Yangzhou doufu gan si dry beancurd strips which were served heaped in an excellent broth with pork and black mushroom strips and doumiao pea shoots; the redcooked knotted dry beancurd sheets and pork belly; the kong xin cai green veg; and the spicy blue crab - the sauce for which is similar to a Sichuan hot pot preparation, very mala, and the crab is served on a bed of udon-type noodles in the sauce. The crab was fantastic, and the other dishes were very good indeed. Given the Tatung plates and the unsimplified characters on the menu (and on the sign in the rest room), I would expect this place is owned by people from Taiwan. It reminded us rather of Jiangzhe places in Taipei, with the admixture of some Sichuan-leaning dishes to the menu as was often the case there - Shanghai being the NYC of China in a way, drawing culinary influences from all over. Loved the food and we will definitely be back. The Taiwan place across the street at the corner of 39th and Prince looked very interesting as well (are their "Manile clams with basil" really haiguazi, I wonder?) and the place advertising Northern and Jiangzhe snacks on their awning just up from it on Prince is also tempting. I just don't know how we will be able to pass up the blue crab next time in Flushing! (One of the best things I have eaten in a very long time, and that long time includes some truly spectacular meals.) And it's amazingly cheap: all the above plus 4 Tsingtao beers, $60.00 before tip.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: buttertart

                      you know thats actually a good point, it does taste like how a shanghainese restaurant in taipei would taste like although i know the chef was at yangtze restaurant which was definitely run by shanghainese (my friend knew the owners and they would always blab away in shanghainese)

                      glad you enjoyed...that blue crab is really very excellent and i'd probably concur that its one of the better chinese dishes ive had in NY in a while

                      i think you're talking about lu's seafood (its changed names once or twice, cant remember if thats its current name), but they have good pai gu fan although i havent been there in a while, but they are known for their pai gu fan

                      1. re: Lau

                        we went back to taste of shanghai this weekend. was not as good as i had remembered it. their xiao long bao were mediocre this time - very little juice and pretty thick skins. the sen jian bao were ok also. and my wife was disappointed by her shredded vegetable and pork strip noodle soup. kind of weird, because my toddler son, who loved it the last time here, kept spitting it out, so something may have been off.

                        the fish head casserole was great again though. so cheap, great flavors and chock full of noodles, fish and tofu.

                        the eels are back. apparently, his supply here got disrupted, but its back now. although it is 14.95, not 12.95 as it says on the menu.

                        1. re: FattyDumplin

                          ohh i have to try the eels, maybe going this weekend

                          their XLB as i said in my original post are not that great, but that isn't the reason to come to this restaurant...highly suggest u try the crab and pork shoulder

                          1. re: Lau

                            darn, i totally forgot. i'd had those two recos in mind before i went, but froze up when i went. so only remembered the eels. will need to give it another shot.

                            1. re: FattyDumplin

                              its worth going back, its one of the better meals ive had in flushing in a while

                              1. re: Lau

                                One of the better meals I've had anywhere in the city recently too. The crab is spectacular.

                                  1. re: jsigalow

                                    39th and Prince, Flushing, as stated in Lau's original post.

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      nice, gonna try the eel tomorrow yay, will report with pics of course lol

                                      1. re: chefjellynow

                                        Second the pork shoulder: so tender you don't need anything but chopsticks...

                      2. re: buttertart

                        ya that stretch of Prince Street is just chock-a-block with restaurants, almost insane.

                        anyone try the hotpot place at the end of prince street, next to ramen setagaya? looked ultra-modern with the individual booth flat-screens, and the "default" vegetable platter looked very nice as well.

                        lau, your ordering above is pretty much the classics; sounds like a real good time. how does this stack up to any manhattan places?

                        1. re: bigjeff

                          way better than the manhattan shanghainese places, which for the record i generally think are pretty bad, so i rarely go to them

                          although i know the chef / owner is shanghainese, the food almost tastes like shanghainese you'd get in taipei....any which way, its very good esp the crab and pork shoulder...you should def try

                      3. Ate there last night. had the crab, great sauce but could use bigger crabs to hold the sauce. The pork leg, omg......and to think Spicy & Tasty is aroung the corner. Can anyone name a better 500 feet to eat out? I think not.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: MOREKASHA

                          well they are blue crabs, so they're not going to be that big..i like the meat in blue crabs, its very good and the shells are easy to breakthrough in fact sometimes u can just eat them

                          1. re: Lau

                            My husband does just that with the thinner pieces, he can lay waste to a lot more crabs than I and still have a lot less debris left on his plate. No GI issues fromn them either. Man or goat? (We took the noodles home, made a tasty lunch in themselves.)

                            1. re: Lau

                              I like them too, it's just that you run out of them so quickly. The blues are so much sweeter than the dungeness out west.

                            2. re: MOREKASHA

                              Blue crabs are about as big as you'd get in Shanghai. Be thankful you were weren't dealing with dazha (hairy) crabs.