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Dec 19, 2011 04:37 PM

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village (first impressions)

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village is now open.

My first impression, walking through the door, was ... wow. They have taken the former Green Village space and turned it into what I imagine the Shanghai opium dens of the 1930s looked like. It is an opulent space, with scarlet walls and ebony woods. There are chairs in silver gilt fit for (minor) royalty.

I was there today for a late lunch. According to the sign, their grand opening was yesterday, December 18th. For lunch, they automatically present you with a dim sum order form, but you can also order regular dishes from the menu. The dim sum includes both the Cantonese and Shanghai varieties. The regular menu has the look and heft of a glossy fashion magazine like W - no mimeographed double-sided paper menus here. This is glossy paper with oversized close-up photos of mouthwatering-looking dishes, but I wasn't able to actually read the menu as it was monopolized by everyone else at the table, so I'm not sure what their prices are like.

We ordered, among others: the xiao long bao; vegetarian dumplings; special soup dumpling; baked pork buns, as well as some pastries. No dim sum carts - you can order from the menu, but there are also servers roaming the dining room with trays filled with dim sum ready-to-eat.

The food we had was great. As with all high-end dim sum establishments, the portions are small. The xiao long bao was so good, served in small tins. The skin was not too thick, just slightly chewy and practically melt-in-your mouth tender, with a gratifying spurt of juice. The XLB normally comes eight to an order, but there is a lunch size of only four dumplings for half the price. None of the dishes we sampled were overly seasoned - not too sweet, not too salty, just delicious.

Dining here is an experience to savor, from the fine china with gold edging to the relaxed and solicitous waiters. Unlike the typical Cantonese dim sum house, with its cavernous dining rooms, banging plates, and surly waiters, Shanghai No. 1 was a more intimate experience, with a relatively small main room. This meant that most of the food on the servers' trays was still hot from the kitchen, always a plus. This is the type of restaurant which uses real tea leaves in its tea (instead of tea bags) and where the servers use pens to notate on the order slip which dishes had already arrived to your table (instead of their fingernails). Despite only opening yesterday, the room was consistently 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Lunch dim sum prices are as follows: small dishes are $1.98; medium dishes are $2.98; large dishes are $3.98; specials are $4.98, with a few dishes even higher.

I really enjoyed my meal here and definitely plan to come back. I hope that everything stays the same and that they don't degenerate into another typical dim sum place.

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village
250 W Valley Blvd. #M, San Gabriel, CA 91776
P: (626) 288-1777
F: (626) 289-3777

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  1. Thanks for the report.

    But 1/2 to 2/3 full on a Sunday lunch period??? With a grand opening to boot? Not an auspicious start.

    1. Thanks for the report. The "Coming Soon" sign was up for so long that I was wondering whether they would ever open.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chandavkl

        Chandavki, one of the waiters said that the reason it took so long to open was because of the renovations.

      2. So you didn't sample any of the Shanghainese entrees? Curious as to how those are.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Johnny L

          Monday isn't exactly the best day to judge, or to it?

          1. re: JThur01

            Grand Opening was Sunday, an auspicious 12-18-11.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Has any new Green Villages popped up?

              I feel like Calvin Trillin could have just as easily written about Green Village as he did about the peripatetic Mr. Chang.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                In that case, no...that's not very good then.

          2. Went for dim sum yesterday and it was great. Everything was fresh and hot. The XLB - I know, I know, not really dim sum but it's a Shanghai place so I had to try them - were superb, possibly the best I've had in town. (My long time favorite has been J&J, to give you an idea of what I'm looking for.) I liked the filling and the soup as much as at J&J and the wrappers were more delicate - but still strong enough to avoid breaking open until you wanted them to. The only thing I didn't like about them is that they came in those little aluminum foil cups. For some reason I prefer them served in the steamer, pick them up with chopsticks and set them in my spoon. Small quibble though.

            The shrimp and chive steamed dumplings were excellent - super fresh, strong chive flavor but not overwhelming of the shrimp.

            The Chiu Chau style fan gwa - pork, peanuts, some other stuff - were the best I've had in town by a longshot.

            I'm kind of bored by cha siu bao, but these were excellent if you like them. My friend who loves them was thrilled.

            Sticky rice wrapped in tofu skin was excellent - but you have to love sticky rice, which I do.

            Cha siu soh was, for me, the only miss. The pastry just wasn't flaky enough. It was even a little chewy. I prefer the cha siu soh at 888.

            On the other hand the pastry with the egg tarts for dessert was perfect. Fantastically flaky and the filling was superb - not at all too sweet, just eggy enough. I lived in Hong Kong for 9 years and went to Macau about once a month the whole time and have eaten countless natas at Lord Stow's Bakery - considered the finest egg tart place in the land - and unless my memory is failing me, these were even better than in Macau.

            It wasn't cheap as dim sum goes. With a lot of pots of Pu Erh tea the bill came to $28 plus tip, but we were stuffed and you probably could have fed three, rather than two, more moderate eaters. The place itself is very attractive, service perhaps a bit overly attentive. I very much want to go back and try it for dinner, perhaps in one of the several good looking private rooms.

            1. All previous discussions of Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village are dim summaries. This post speaks to the Shanghai Night Menu: BLEEEEEEEEEECH! It was really awful in about as many ways a Chinese meal can be.
              Actually let me be clear the MENU is about the most beautiful menu I have ever seen. Wonderful photos of Shanghai history and food. I can tell you (as the menu, in all fairness, does) that NONE of those pictures came from THAT restaurant. It was nothing like the fairly reasonable renditions of Shanghai food we already have at Giang Nan, Mei Long V., etc.

              The red braised pork belly was edible, barely. A noodle dish with yellow croaker was pretty good. The vegetables underneath what was supposed to be crab roe (but was actually 98% cornstarch) were tasty. A dish that was like water boiled fish with bean noodles (I think they called it spicy groupa) was a good dish but more Sichuan than Shanghainese. The other 8 or so dishes we got were terrible.

              Place was packed but I can't imagine it will stay that way unless the food improves. They bragged to us about "importing" 5 chefs from Shanghai. I wonder what they are doing? Or, perhaps, they imported the 5 WORST chefs from Shanghai.