Shanghai Café – Surprisingly good Shanghainese meal with the off the menu dishes
see full review with pics: www.lauhound.com
I’ve been to Shanghai Café many times and it’s been mixed in terms of quality, some dishes are pretty decent and some are mediocre. However, it is probably the best Shanghainese restaurant in Manhattan. I recently went back to order off the Chinese menu, which luckily I had a print out of as it wasn’t posted on the wall for some reason (scoopG on Chowhound has a great post of it http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7041...). As Shanghai Café is a well known restaurant, I’ll get straight into the food.
- Hundred Leaves Knotted BBQ Meat (Bai Ye Jie Kao Rou /百葉結烤肉): this dish consists of knotted tofu skin and pork belly cooked in a brown sauce that is hong shao (red cooking). Hong shao sauce is made of sugar, garlic, star anise, soy sauce, shaoxing wine and broth. It’s slightly sweet, but still savory. The sauce was good and not goopy or over salted. The meat was very tender and good. I really like the knotted tofu skin as it absorbs the flavor of the sauce really well.
Overall, a very solid dish, definitely the best dish of the night
- Crispy Yellow Croaker (Cui Pi Huang Yu /脆皮黃魚): this is a yellow croaker that has been lightly battered and fried. The sauce is a sweet and sour sauce. It was surprisingly good; I was concerned it would have that fresh water fish flavor that I don’t like. A lot of Chinatown restaurants have that flavor because the fish aren’t great quality. However, there wasn’t any of that flavor in this dish, which was great. The skin was very good, freshly fried and crispy. Everyone liked this quite a bit.
- Fragrant Shredded Peppers and Beef (Xiao Jiao Xiang Gang Niu Rou Si /小椒香干牛肉絲): this is shredded beef, dried tofu and sliced spicy green peppers. Very simple and self-explanatory, but I always liked this dish and the rendition here is good.
- Crab roe soup dumplings (Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao): I decided to try the XLB here again, but unfortunately they were disappointing again (there are no even decent XLB in the city). The skins were too thick and a bit over-steamed. The soup is too heavy and the filling was a bit bland. Stick to the regular dishes.
- Stir Fried String Beans (Gan Shao Si Ji Dou): I love this dish, but unfortunately it was very mediocre. It had none of the wok flavor that it should have and it was a bit on the salty side. Simple dish, but I wouldn’t order it here.
Overall, this was a surprisingly good meal and definitely took Shanghai Café up a notch in my book. The state of Shanghainese food in NY especially Chinatown is pretty bad and in Chinatown this is definitely the best place although the competition is terrible. Definitely recommend trying some of the dishes I ordered. I look forward to trying more of the Chinese menu.
Thank you for your report! I can see I've been missing the boat at this place. I haven't gone in some time, partly because, while their cold dishes (kao fu, spicy cabbage, aromatic beef) are fine, nothing else I've had is really that good. I clearly need to go with scoopG's translation and order off the Chinese menu.
Thanks for letting us know! I haven't been there for a long time and I am glad to hear that it's still good. So many places have inconsistent, or even worse, declining quality, but I am happy to hear that Shanghai Cafe isn't one of them.
p.s. Btw, I like your website. I will have to visit there more to find out what's good to eat!