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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 open...is 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.

              1. Ate here a few weekends ago, and I would put this on the level of an 888 or Sam Woo Seafood (back when it was open at Focus). Nothing too special about it, but good enough for me to return if I didn't feel like waiting in line at Elite or Sea Harbour. Maybe not as good as King Hua. Definitely better than Monterey Palace on Garvey.

                1. Still have yet to try the dimsum, may try in a week or two but it has officially received the Gold touch:

                  http://la.eater.com/archives/2012/02/...

                  Hopefully it doesn't start getting packed since I hate waits.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Johnny L

                    Gold's review kind of shocked me...I have been to Shanghai many times and have had scores of meals there. I ate dinner at Shanghai #1 with two native Chinese and a Singaporean. We were all impressed with the looks of the place and, especially, the look of the menu. But the food was close to vile. Perhaps they have improved...clearly someone spent a lot of dough on the place and presumably the personnel as well. I guess will go back but I will let things settle in first, and hopefully read more postitive reviews here before I do.

                    1. re: Ciao Bob

                      Same here but the thing is he is right this is the sign that Chinese capital is starting to flow into the SGV, considering many have long wanted to invest in America I wonder what comes next.

                      1. re: Johnny L

                        Chinese capital has been flowing for quite a while now. Probably close to a decade.

                        And I'm not so sure that Gold is all that relevant anymore.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          Bold words...but I couldn't agree more.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Heh you're right. I suppose specifically the restaurant scene. I think the rich Chinese have run out of places to spend their money so restaurants is the last hurdle.

                            1. re: Johnny L

                              They've been investing in the restaurant biz for years now. Both from the mainland, as well as from Taiwan and obviously HK.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Personally I myself haven't really see it in the form of ridiculous spending though nothing that has really caught my attention until now.

                        2. re: Ciao Bob

                          I had an excellent meal at this restaurant that was downright phenomenal for the price. The seafood quality was outstanding.

                      2. I went for lunch with a large party. We skipped the dim sum because it was a celebratory meal. I arrived too late to look at the big menu and order, but enjoyed some of the dishes. Unfortunately the crab and rice cake dish was a big fail. Not much crab for a 60 dollar dish. I dont know how this dish is suppose to be, but it didnt fly with the guests.
                        I had tried to steer the host of the dinner away from this place for non-dim sum. Unfortunately, there is alot of hype surrounding this place in the sgv. Still I wouldnt mind going back for lunch and trying some shanghai snack type dishes like shengjian bao.

                        1. This place is totally geared for the Chinese mainland ex-pats.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Money attracts money? I do agree since I remember restaurants in China being over the top in terms of decor.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              > This place is totally geared for the Chinese mainland ex-pats.

                              Are they trying to attract them by offering top quality, uncompromising food, or cynically exploiting expectations?

                              1. re: Peripatetic

                                No, by being over-the-top ostentatious.

                                They strive to make Nero blush.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  That's how some mainlanders are impressed.

                                  1. re: Johnny L

                                    That's how all rich Mainlainders who are here in the U.S. are impressed.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        You mean: "That's how all rich are impressed"

                                        You're being too hard on the Chinesers, ips. Been to Villa Blanca recently? Or Cecconi's?

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  And rich Westside Jews in love with Mr. Chow. I'm revising my deathwatch to: never.

                                  It's gonna be a hit; they made JGold believe.

                                  1. re: TonyC

                                    JGold is irrelevant. Or should be.

                                    And Mr. Chow does one thing very well -- it makes the rich feel important.

                                    Same business model with Shanghai NO. 1 Seafood. It makes the rich and naive feel important. Table next to us was bringing in truckloads of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and for all the restaurant could care they could've used the entire restaurant as an orgy exhibition and it wouldn't have mattered.

                                    One would like to think that making good food and making money can co-exist in the restaurant business.

                                    But if they are mutually exclusive, it is certainly not unwise to choose the latter over the former.

                                    Long live Mr. Chow!

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      And now Ruth Reichl's in love with Shanghai No. 1: https://twitter.com/#!/ruthreichl/sta...
                                      Which also really shows JGold is still highly relevant.

                                      You wanna revise you over-under?

                                      1. re: TonyC

                                        I was in the area on Feb. 1. Other restaurants seemed quiet, but...there was a line of cars backed up on Valley turning into the plaza lot. The median strip was full of cars waiting to turn left, to the point it was backing up a westbound lane.

                                        Though, maybe they were heading to Cajun Symphony, the night club or Tasty Dessert. Uh huh.

                                        1. re: TonyC

                                          I understand why ipse might have said that. After all, with the post-Chowhound "foodie revolution", every twit can tweet about their latest "find".

                                          The restaurant review landscape is no longer what it was 20 years ago, when places like JTYH, for example, had no chance of being reviewed by a major English language media outlet.

                                          But for what it's worth, JGold is still quite good at what he does. Yelp (and even Chowhound, to a lesser extent) are not substitutes for a well informed, well spoken writer with a body of work, a focused perspective and breadth of experience. Even if I disagree with his review of a place, or dislike the fact that he reviews more and more places these days that I'll likely never go to, I still enjoy his writing style and appreciate the intelligent, thoughtful ways that he puts forth his arguments.

                                          For example, one thing that strikes me about his writing style is that he avoids using personal pronouns. The reviews are never about him-- it's about the experience, the food, and the restaurant. I've tried writing about a personal experience without using "I". It's damned difficult, yet he consistently pulls it off (usually punctuated with at least one rhetorical-yet-self-answered-question) beautifully.

                                          Mr Taster

                                          1. re: TonyC

                                            And now Ruth Reichl's in love with Shanghai No. 1: https://twitter.com/#!/ruthreichl/sta...
                                            Which also really shows JGold is still highly relevant.
                                            _____________________________

                                            It just means both are irrelevant.

                                            Back to first-year logic for you.

                                            (And what "over-under" for Shanghai No. 1?)

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              forgive me, i want to make sure i'm getting this right: if anyone disagrees with you on shanghai no. 1, they are irrelevant?

                                    2. Hi, folks. By all means, discuss your experiences at this restaurant, but discussing the clientele doesn't help anyone eat better there, so we'd ask that people let that aspect of the conversation go. Thanks.

                                      1. Went here a few weeks ago. The XLB is the best I've ever had, hands down. Incredible taste explosion with the textures being just right and the soup/juice flooding your palate.

                                        I also ordered the back-alley pork (that really is an unfortunate name) which was also very good. Very sweet, almost like some kind of carnivorous candy treat. There are two sizes and I split the smaller one with the lady and after the first bite immediately regretted not spending a bit extra for more. They put a hard-boiled egg in there which the meat sits on top of that really didn't click for me.