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Is Shanghai #1 Seafood Village the SGV's Next Great Chinese Restaurant?

Thanks to ciaochow and the other early posters for their glowing reviews of Shanghai #1 Seafood Village. Everything they say is true, leading to the question of whether this restaurant is going to join the upper echelon of Chinese food in the San Gabriel Valley. Now, I understand why it took them so long to open up, turning the large Green Village dining room into separate refined partitioned dining areas. The five dim sum items I sampled were all excellent--baked chicken bao, baked bbq pork bao, giant scallop cheung fun (with egg tofu mixed in), taro (listed as sweet potato) filled bun, and something called deep fried carrot pastry, which was excellent despite the lack of anything visibly carrotty. As previously mentioned in the original thread, the dinner menu looked like a coffee table book with each item on the menu lovingly photographed. The mixture of Shanghai dinner food and Cantonese dim sum (with additions of XLB, pan fried buns) seems counterintuitive., at least in this town. But since dim sum cookery is its own discipline, who says the dinner menu has to be Cantonese? Obviously the quality of the dinner fare will help determine Shanghai #1's place in the Chinese food pecking order, so I eagerly await reports on these.

As a side note, among the three dozen congratulatory grand opening potted plants out front, besides those from food service purveyors was one from Lunasia Restaurant. Now why would a dim sum restaurant congratulate a new competitor? Perhaps there is a tie in? Or is this affiliated with a restaurant in China?

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  1. Maybe they're having some birth pains, still. I went for dim sum the other day and had a splendid time of it. (My report is in the topic (first impressions.) I was quite excited to go back tonight and try it for dinner. Unfortunately I was only with one other person, so we couldn't order much - especially as she is a somewhat more squeamish eater than I am. It was, sadly, something of a disaster. They seated us soon enough and gave us the enormous, colorful menus. (If anything the menu is a bit too big and unwieldy - but not because there is a gigantic selection, just that all the entries include large glossy photos that are laid out in a food magazine like design on the page. It is a lovely menu, but in reality there probably isn't even as much to order from as at, say, Mei Long Village. But, what there is does look great and interesting and plenty varied enough.

    After getting our menu and tea, we were ignored for quite some time - maybe 15 minutes or so. Finally I managed to attract a waiter. The waiter seemed very good, knowledgeable and both his English and his patience with my tortured Cantonese - he actually spoke enough Cantonese to follow me - were commendable. We ordered.

    In 10 minutes or so we got a small bowl of crab and hand cut noodles soup. It was good but not fantastic. Not served quite hot enough. It was, perhaps, a bit too corn starchy.

    Another 15 or so minutes passed and we got our roast duck. It was very good, not spectacular, but nicely cooked, moist, tender, good skin and a slightly sweet / slightly bitter sauce that went well with it.

    Another 15 or so minutes passed and we got our order of XLB. They were great, as good as I recall from dim sum the other day. Possibly my new favorites in town.

    Then we waited some more, and some more and some more being completely ignored in spite of my attempts to politely attract our, or any, waiter. Finally we got someone after about 25 minutes and pointed out that we still had an order of dao miu (pea shoots) and an order of simple saute shrimp that we were waiting for.

    Ten minutes later we had our dao miu and it was excellent, perfectly cooked, a superb dose of garlic and some broth with it. I had asked them to bring out the shrimp with the vegetable and they said yes. But they didn't, and still didn't. Finally after another 15 minutes or so a plate of the shrimp we ordered came to our table, was within about six inches of being set down on the table, when another waiter came running up and started arguing with our waiter and pointing to another table - that had arrived after we had. The two of them fought it out verbally with the shrimp hovering just out of reach, until the other waiter won the battle and the shrimp was taken away to the other table.

    At that point we were annoyed and had had quite enough. We also had to be somewhere that we were close to being late for. We'd been there over an hour and a half and had just had one of our dishes snatched practically out of our gaping jaws. We got up and took the bill - they had the bill on the table to cross things off as they came to the table - went up to the cashier and cashed out.

    Our waiter and the cashier were both very apologetic - blaming everything on the kitchen and opening pains. I am hoping that they were right as the dim sum was so good and I like the place enough that I am rooting for it to get its act together and be really good. I am willing to go back in another few weeks to give it another shot. And I'll probably be back for dim sum before that. My fingers are crossed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: estone888

      Sorry to read about the nightmare experience and hope that won't happen again to anyone.

      We were there yesterday about 10:15 am for dim sum and enjoyed it very much. Best service we experienced in a Chinese restaurant. Our plates were changed 3 times and tea was constantly refilled (and poured) without asking. Let's hope that won't change in time.

      What I liked best (aside from the tasty food) was the room set up - several dining rooms that were either small or medium in size instead of dining in a huge massive room. It wasn't noisy like your typical dim sum restaurant. The place is nicely decorated, beautify shade of red on the wall. The servers even swept under and around the table when diners left. It was rather odd to hear an American radio station playing top 40's. Some nice Chinese instrumental music would have been a nice touch.

      I found the check off menu challenging to read. The English words were not in alpha order so if you were looking for a particular item, it was difficult. Also, the translation not exact. Ha Gau not listed but it was listed as shrimp dumpling. One of the servers was kind enough to help me with the selection. Everything was tasty and delicious. The only disappointment was the skin on the Ha Gau, Fun gaw, shrimp with chives. They all fell apart when you pick them up from the containers. Not firmed, rather mushy and probably over cooked. Kind of mushy. The fillings were very good though. I agree about XLB in the tiny tin. Would have been better eaten with a soup spoon. Still, they were tasty.

      Yes, it was more expensive than other dim sum places but I don't mind paying a little more for better dining experience. Worst thing is paying more and they are rude. No one was rude here. We hope to go back soon with more friends to try other items. But I have heard from a good foodie friend that the $8.99 dishes were not worth the price for such a small portion and just average in taste.

      I could not find the hours listed anywhere. M-F opens at 10 am, weekend opens at 9 am. Close at midnight. They don't have a phone recording. I don't know if any Chinese restaurants do come to think of that!

    2. How are the crowds so far? I'd like to get in before they start getting known.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Johnny L

        Not crowded at all at 10:15 am and still no waiting at about 12:30 p.m. when we left. Free parking in the parking structure below (nice wide spaces too). Street level parking too inside the plaza but limited in the front. We always go early to avoid any crowd and bad traffic in that area.

      2. Not sure I comprehend the logic behind the question-cum-proclamation.

        Shanghai #1 is great because it's a Shanghainese restauarant serving good Cantonese dimsum? And because Lunasia sent them a well-wish tree?

        From the other posts here, it seems Shanghai Seafood Village is only #1 when it comes to the amount of $ invested in interior decoration and menu photos? Give this place 2 years before the Chinese bankers pull up their stakes. Then again, Face Cafe is somehow still there...

        25 Replies
        1. re: TonyC

          I looked up their bill of lading for their interior decorations. Mucho mucho $$$.

          Lots of stuff directly from Hong Kong, even pedestrian things like tables. Go figure.

          This place sort of reminds me of Kitchen, folded several years ago in the location where Gourmet Island currently resides on Valley Blvd.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Good sleuthing ips. Didn't even think of looking at that. I only see 1 exporter in Shanghai? 2 containers consigned to the restaurant, but addressed to a furniture importer in S. El Monte, as early as July, presumably for storage until the restaurant opened.

            Just like Shaanxi Gourmet, Shanghai No 1 also imported the worker's uniforms from Shanghai...

            Speaking of the "best" -- what's everyone fave new Chinese restaurant opening in 2011?

            Shaanxi Gourmet came to town with guns [read: wallet] drawn, ready to kick ass, and is probably the most significant. But personally, I prefer the flavors at Be Be 2 over any of the inconsequential noodle shuffling that happened this year. With the success of China's Little Fat Sheep, LA's Chinese scene officially went "Third Wave", if you will. When Shaanxi ramps up their full menu, watch out SGV.

            1. re: TonyC

              Tell me wise-one, what you like at Be Be 2? Maybe I'll check it this weekend.
              TIA, Bob

              1. re: Ciao Bob

                Hehe. wise-one... cute.

                You can do a stinky tofu flight at Be Be 2. Stir fried with basil (was on the wall special), steamed, or fried. They wall specials are a helter-skelter look at what "Chinese" fusion can do, when executed thoughtfully. They're applying Taiwanese ingredients/sauces/flavors to prosaic Chinese proteins and veggies. It's fun, at least for me.

                On the standard menu, the potages are solid, the oyster pancake was tasty, and the stuffed rice sausge interjected with sweet Chinese sausage was interesting, though if not authentically prepared. Enjoy, and ask for recs. They're mostly nice.

              2. re: TonyC

                I was duly impressed with Shannxi Gourmet during my one visit there.

                We'll see. Time will tell, I suppose.

                1. re: TonyC

                  My two fave new restaurants openings for '11, you mentioned...

                  Shaanxi Gourmet and Be Be. How can one not love a place that stuffs a slice of Taiwanese sausage in pieces of stinky tofu?

                  1. re: JThur01

                    Did I just hear an echo in here? ;)

                    1. re: TonyC

                      Apparently ;) Believe me, it gets worse...though I DO have independent thought, what do you think? :-)

                      Back OT, I'll give honorable mention to Taste of Chong Qing.

                      Overall, it wasn't a very exciting year in the SGV. Some ok places, nothing too exciting or interesting past the two above mentioned restaurants.

                      1. re: JThur01

                        Chinese investment is SoCal will only keep rising as more rich folk will want to solidify their apparent "face" in America so I think we will keep seeing interesting new places pop up.

              3. re: TonyC

                No, it's really a question which requires community input. Both the dim sum and the decor stand out. Obviously that's not enough for an annointation, but I wanted to alert everybody to the possibility that this might be something special.

                1. re: Chandavkl

                  Chandavkl,

                  Since you've tried so many of the Chinese restaurants in SGV, I'd love to see your list of the upper echelon, your top or favorite 10 Chinese restaurants in LA.

                  1. re: hobbess

                    I agree with everybody else that Sea Harbour and Elite are the top tier of Chinese restaurants. Slightly below them would come King Hua, Lunasia, Happy Harbor (Rowland Heights) and perhaps Mission 261, though I'm not sure about the latter in its re-opened state after their remodel was rebuffed. You may notice those are all dim sum and seafood palaces. After that group it all depends on your specific preference for regional cuisines and specific dishes. My favorites would include Seafood Village, 101 Noodle Express, Qingdao Bread Food and Eight Cafe, but if you asked a dozen other people you'd probably get 48 other restaurants.

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      Thank you so much, Chandavkl. I've heard about or tried about half of the restaurants on your list, and probably might have missed the other half if you hadn't just listed them for me. I'm now going to bookmark this thread so I won't lose your top Chinese restaurants in LA.

                      If you ever venture to Orange County, I'm curious what your top Chinese restaurants in OC would be as well.

                      1. re: hobbess

                        It's hard to classify a "top 10 Chinese restaurants" -- favorite might be easier.

                        It's much too hard to classify a top 10 in Chinese restaurants because there are so many subgroups.

                        For example, best dim sum might be either Sea Harbour or Elite, and best dumpling might be Dean Sin World (or Tastio), but how does one compare Sea Harbour to Dean Sin World? It's almost impossible to do. One is a Cantonese dim sum / seafood joint, and the other is a Beijing dumpling type of place. Who's to say one is better than the other? Impossible to compare. Both are exemplary in their own little niche.

                        Top 10 Favorites might be easier, but Top 10? Impossible.

                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                              Dean Sin World still has signage from its previous name, Tastio Bakery.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              Or top 10 "memorable". I can't eve think of 10 this year. Maybe 5.

                            3. re: hobbess

                              While's lots of good Chinese food, especially in Ir vine, I can't say I have any particular favorites, though I like the Irvine 101 Noodle Express because it seems to have a bigger menu.

                              1. re: Chandavkl

                                In Irvine I've recently grown quite fond of Chong Qing Mei Wei. Good offal dishes, esp. the pig intestines and a very underrated salt cured fish head.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I've been going to A&J for a long time, although I haven't been there for awhile. And, all this time, Chong Qing Mei Wei was nearby and I've never tried it.

                                  Is Chong Qing Mei Wei's salt cured fish head another name for their boiled fish dish?

                                  1. re: hobbess

                                    Is Chong Qing Mei Wei's salt cured fish head another name for their boiled fish dish?
                                    ______________________

                                    No. Ask for it by name, it's a boiled hot pot dish.

                      2. re: TonyC

                        Face Cafe which was once OK Cafe, Nice Cafe, Dj Cafe and maybe one more? Not sure how many times hands have changed there.

                        1. re: Johnny L

                          Don't forget Sika Cafe--2007 through 2009

                          1. re: Chandavkl

                            Yes that's the one! how could I forget?

                      3. Went for lunch today around 11:30. No wait and plenty of parking underground. They sat our party of 3 at one of quasi-booths with the leather sofas and we asked to be moved to a table with chairs since it wasn't very comfortable.

                        We had the scallop cheung fun, ha gow, fung jow, chiu chow fun gor, XLB, beef tripe, and po tat (my mom says it's called po tat b/c it's the Macau/Portuguese stye). I actually thought the skin on the ha gow and fun gor was nice, maybe they've improved it since dragonanna's visit. Overall, everything was tasty and came out at a good temperature. My favorites were the fun gor (great filling with whole peanuts) and the po tat (super flaky shell and the egginess was right on). The mini pineapple chicken buns (bo lo bao) looked very interesting, will need to have those on my next visit.

                        Having the separate rooms really does cut down on the noise and it was nice to have a conversation at dim sum using our normal speaking voices :)

                        1. My friends and I celebrated a birthday last night at Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village. It was my first time there, so I took a printout of Jonathan Gold's review for reference.

                          The restaurant's decor was hilarious -- I admit I enjoyed sitting in our private room with the silver chairs and giant chandeliers. The waiters were helpful, though only one guy seemed to be able to speak English. I mostly pointed at photos in the giant menu, which they didn't have many of and were stingy about giving out.

                          Favorites for me were the Old Alley pork belly and marinated jellyfish. The jellyfish was super crunchy and very different from what I've had previously at other restaurants. Everyone also enjoyed the double tubes of squid as well as the boiled pea sprouts which I ordered with garlic instead of with the usual porridge water. They were out of XLB, but the Old Shanghai fried dumplings were great. We had so many dishes and so much birthday rowdiness I didn't really get a chance to sit down and process everything I was eating, but those were a few highlights.

                          I took photos of every item on the menu and uploaded the PDF here:
                          http://www.scribd.com/doc/96321243

                          I figure if you haven't been there, you might want to take a look at this massive menu before you arrive. :)

                          16 Replies
                            1. re: madcao

                              That's a probably the best-looking menu I've ever seen from a Chinese restaurant. It's interesting that it's mostly in traditional Chinese characters with a few simplified characters thrown in the mix.

                              1. re: raytamsgv

                                My mom said it reminded her of a Chinese cookbook.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  It too reminds me of Chinese cookbooks that my mom owned when I was little.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I'm going to go this weekend and just pose with the menu. Maybe the chefs will sign it? And I can buy it as souvenir? That's a pretty Chinese tourist thing to do, right?

                                    1. re: TonyC

                                      TonyC, have you tried it? What dishes did you not like there?

                                      1. re: Porthos

                                        Have not attempted. Don't own any Hermes/Gucci/LV, so I'm clearly not their target clientele. Afraid of feeling outta place.

                                        1. re: TonyC

                                          Interesting.

                                          I don't own any of those brands either.

                                          1. re: TonyC

                                            If you dress like Brother Shum , the gangster from Kung Fu Hustle, with a girl in each arm dressed up like Maggie Cheung exactly like her character in "In The Mood For Love" you probably won't need the Hermes/Gucci/LV and might even fit in.

                                  2. re: madcao

                                    Excellent looking photos of the menu. I wasn't going to try this placed based on some of the above comments. Looking through the menu though, there are definitely some soups and crab dishes that I want to try.

                                    Reminds me of the massive menu at Da Dong in Beijing.

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      It sucked big time when I went a few months ago.

                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                        Dinner or dim sum? I don't intend on ordering dim sum. Some of the more interesting dinner items are tempting me though....

                                        1. re: Porthos

                                          Dinner - see my previous review.
                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/824017
                                          FWIW, I have heard it is better since opening.

                                          1. re: Ciao Bob

                                            I'll take one for the team this weekend.

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              I look forward to your impressions.
                                              .

                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                I look forward to your thoughts!

                                                Please note there is an entire section of the menu called "Sanli Soup for Elder People" which I thought was amazing. :) I didn't take photos of every single page on the menu as it was so extensive -- I just quickly shot the pages with the menu items. There are lots of pages that I couldn't read as they were all in Chinese. This is my favorite menu ever, even if it's just for the entertainment value.