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Shanghai East vs. Little Shanghai?

I'm going to be in San Mateo this weekend with a friend who's originally from Shanghai but has been living in Long Island for the last few years.

I know he's going to crave food from his home town, so I did some research on the area. Both look good, get good reviews here and on yelp, and the photos look fine. Is there a definitive answer on which is best, or at least a consensus on what dishes each restaurant excels in?

Or, if there is a Shanghainese place in SF or the Peninsula that far exceeds either of these choices, we'd be willing to drive to get him a taste of home. TIA

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Shanghai East Restaurant
105 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

Little Shanghai
17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

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  1. for authentic shanghai cuisine go to shanghai bund, 640 jackson st. san francisco, ca. operated by real shanghaiese. excellent xiao long bao!
    forget about shanghai club, burlingame, runned by cantonese

    breakfast at little shanghai and happy cafe (250 s. b st) cheap and pretty good.
    shanghai east also good but the dishes are not all consistent.

    1. I was at Little Shanghai in December and liked it very much. It's been a few years since my last visit to Shanghai East and I'm told that it has lost ground to Little Shanghai.

      Another that you might want to consider is Sunny Shanghai in San Bruno, just a little further up the Peninsula. I dropped in for a quick lunch and ordered the XLB. I agree with those who say they're the best XLB in the Bay Area. That's all I had, so I can't comment on any other dishes there, but there have been many reports on the place that you can research.

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      Shanghai East Restaurant
      105 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

      Little Shanghai
      17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

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

      5 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        re: sunny shanghai
        -xlb may be the only noteworthy dish here. other dishes plain or heavily hyped by msg
        -no air conditioning here. don't go on hot days
        -bring chinese reading person, specials in chinese on black board. dim sum items on other board.
        -just found this place average or slightly above. good value though.

        1. re: shanghaikid

          What do you think about shenjian bao at Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale? So far, only that one item is worthwhile there, but if the friend has a craving for them, that's the place to go.

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          Shanghai Flavor Shop
          888 Old San Francisco Rd, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            haven't been to shanghai flavor shop. however, KK holds the shenjian bao there in high regards. been hesitant to go in since it's empty at times.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                thanx. looks delish. recently at koi palace, daly city, the shengjian bao we got was a pale clump of white dough just barely panfried. very doughy.
                lesson: never order xlb or shenjian bao in a cantonese dim sum place.

      2. Having been to both moderately frequently, I would choose Little Shanghai for your purpose. The menu is closer to pure shanghai, I think the ingredients are higher quality, the overall restaurant experience is better.

        that being said, I really like Shanghai East and eat there more than Little Shanghai because it's more 'down home' and a little cheaper. I especially like the tofu twists with pork rind dish, which isn't what they call it on the menu but hopefully someone who knows shanghai food better will know the actual name.

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        Shanghai East Restaurant
        105 W 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

        Little Shanghai
        17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

        1. OK, I've uploaded my photos from the lunch at Little Shanghai. Best dish was the flaky buns filled with daikon, might be a weekend only item.
          http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

          Rice cakes were excellent too, and XLB very good (if not quite as good as Sunny Shanghai but better than Shanghai Dumpling in SF).
          http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

          Kau fu was fine, nothing that stands out about it in my memory. Didn't like the "head cheese" cold plate. And wouldn't order the shrimp with tendon again.

          Here are the rest of the shots,
          http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

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          Little Shanghai
          17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403

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

          1. I tend to prefer Little Shanghai, although either is fine. Besides the food, I think the atmosphere at Little Shanghai is a little warmer / more welcoming.

            My favorite thing there, by far, is the Rice with Salted Pork and Vegetable (this is under the "Shanghai Noodles" part of the menu). When we go to Little Shanghai with a group, we usually have to get more than one order because everyone likes it so much. It's a pretty straightforward claypot rice with small bits of ham-like pork and green vegetable -- but it's salty and yummy, a good complement to pretty much everything.

            Other dishes: XLB (of course), spicy wontons, lion's head meatballs, rice cake with pork and ji cai. I go there fairly often with friends, and those items are the standard orders. Sometimes we get the dan dan noodles. I've had the wine chicken a few times, and the ham and winter melon soup once or twice.

            If it's brunch time on a weekend, I usually order fried doughnut and sweet soy milk.

            It's a favorite neighborhood place, and I don't think I've ever been served anything that was unsatisfactory. Several of the friends I usually go with are originally from China as well, and my Chinese father-in-law also likes to go when he is visiting. My only criticisms would be that (1) the vegetables are usually overcooked and oversauced, and (2) they may use MSG -- my friends and I are unable to come to a consensus on that one. Something to think about if you or your friend are especially sensitive.

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            Little Shanghai
            17 E 25th Ave, San Mateo, CA 94403