New (Old?) Yeah Shanghai Deluxe
I stopped by last Saturday craving some of their delicious shanghainese cuisine and was disappointed to see that they've changed the menu to Szechuan (though they still have soup dumplings). Does anyone know the scoop on this? Have they changed owners, or just chefs? I think it even has a different name. That place was an institution!
Shanghai Cuisine is alive and well at Old Shanghai Deluxe, which is now located at 50 Mott Street (prime corner location at Bayard and Mott). It is run by the same folks who ran Yeah Shanghai Deluxe (65 Bayard, up the block); they swapped the old restaurant space for a Sichuan restaurant named Old Sichuan, which I ate at recently. So basically, they just got new digs, and some new menu items.
The place was jam-packed on a wednesday night but we had no problems with our reservation at 7:30 (which moved to 8pm, due to late arrivals) but a big round table was procured, no problem. Ordering for a table of 11, I did a little research and got some recs from our server and we had:
+ two orders of Fu Qi Fei Pian, nowhere near as good as at Old Sichuan
+ two orders xlb, pork only
+ two orders sjb, shen-jian-bao, also pork
+ three orders of shredded pork potage, thick soup with pork and ji-cai
+ subgum casserole, shi-jing-sha-guo, basically the combo casserole
+ twice-cooked pork
+ beef with house special sauce (reminded me of a wet chongqing beef)
+ shanghai bok choy sauteed
+ preserved veg with soy bean, bean cured sheet plus pork add-on, thanks buttertart
+ sauteed eel with chive, fresh eel $5 surcharge totally worth it
+ fried fish with seaweed
+ two orders of eight-treasure rice
perfect amount of food; looking back we got two soups, two meats, two fish, two veg, couple apps. not much leftovers and nobody had to stagger away from the table. this was a reunion for a group of us that had gone to Shanghai together this summer so we had eaten *extremely* well over there; this wouldn't be able to compare but I thought the meal was very good and everyone had good things to say; "xiao-lu" was very good on everything.
the sichuan app was nowhere near as good as at Old Sichuan; I honestly thought there'd be some collusion between the kitchens on this dish but it was merely salty, not oily enough, and not "ma" or "la" enough. pieces weren't as tender as at Old Sichuan. the xlb had disappointingly thick skin, seriously! not very good; not explosively broth-y. I feel that they gweilo'd the xlb, to make it safer/easier for their prime corner tourist clientele to handle but seriously, not good. the sjb were not as good as at Shanghai Cafe; small non-juicy filling, overly thick bun (still tasty).
the first soup we had was really good; a thick one but still clean taste, light; the ji-cai reminded me of chrysanthemum greens; tasty. The casserole was excellent; no MSG shortcuts and chock-full of perfectly cooked ingredients: slightly-cured pork belly slices (bo-saam style), perfectly cooked shrimp, some bouncy/tender/crunchy fish parts, really good wine-cooked chicken pieces, cabbage, vermicelli and a couple of other proteins; very good.
Double-cooked pork ("hwe-guo-zo") was a fiery contraption of large pork belly slices (also bo-saam cut) cooked in a very rich and delicious sauce with fresh cabbage kimchi; unlike any double-cook pork I've ever had, which usually features a more cured pork, with leeks and things. This was very good. The house special beef dish featured way more chilis than beef but the meat was perfectly cooked, velveted (deep-fried) to perfection and really strong and tasty. Both meat dishes were really "xia-fan".
The bok choy was perfectly fine and plain but the other vegetable was a really homestyle knockout dish so thanks to Buttertart for the suggestion. It was thick, tasty, and hard to explain but you just have to get it. It was pretty good with a dash of the xlb vinegar, some sour to cut the thickness of the sauce (but overall, still a light dish). The eel with yellow chives was good; the usual thick and gooey dish but very good nevertheless and the fried fish (not sure what kind) encased in the thick seaweed-flecked batter was good as well (typical, but good), served with the salt-pepper dip.
To finish we had two orders of ba-bao-fan but unfortunately, it wasn't very good. to be generous, the rice was "al-dente" which means, it got killed and everyone ate it, but it wasn't as soft as it should have been. still, it had good toppings and flavors.
Overall, service was excellent and we each paid around $19pp which is a friggin' steal. We whiled away 2.5 hours there, never rushed and the manager took care of us. Looking back, we ordered pretty light but I thought it was perfect; it would have been bad to have piles of food leftover. But there were some other dishes on the menu that would have been good, we just didn't order them: the tong-po pork belly, the tai-chi chicken, some other casseroles, maybe some actual dry-cooked noodles would have been good, some salt-baked seafood or whole-fish preparation. The new location is definitely taking advantage of the corner spot and I'm sure they had tons of legacy customers (tourist traffic from people looking for Mr. Tang's); I just hope they can hold down their particular flavor of Shanghainese in a sea of new Shanghainese places within a one-block radius. The food was flavorful with strong flavors, but no msg headaches, no heaviness and a great energy in the room; it felt very festive and we all had a great meal.
Old Shanghai Deluxe
50 Mott St, New York, NY 10013
It really is a good place - we've never ordered anything Sichuan there (my husband is as close to a Jangnanren as it's possible to be without having been born there) but we enjoy the Shanghai dishes a lot. Glad you liked the doufu pi dish, it's a longtime favorite and I wish more people knew about it - talk about umami, right?
I went last night , we didn't order much just one order of tong po pork belly and a winter melon soup, and shredded beef with garlic. Everything was very good, the pork belly was delicious and soft and a generous portion. I definitely want to return for the pork shoulder, a casserole, and the chrysanthemum fish looked great on the neighbor's table. Service was very friendly and we were surprised how low the bill came out-definitely will be back.