Shanghai in the Castro [San Francisco]
Passing through the Castro at at 11PM, I couldn't help stop at the newly opened Shanghai. For one, they switch from their full menu to a bunch of late night snacks from 10PM-11:45, adding a much needed Asian late night option to the Castro/Duboce Triangle area. Second, to the best of my knowledge, they're the only Shanghainese place in SF that has a large amount of seating, upscale decor, and a full bar.
I was told that the owner used to run a place at Rincon Center.
They don't have as extensive menu as some of the other Shanghainese places in town, but some things I recognized are red braised lions head meatballs, xiao long bao, shanghai style rice cakes, sweet and sour spareribs (they use balsamic vinegar), and a late-night only red braised pork that's served in a steamed clamshell bun. There are a few noodle dishes listed on the menu, but the only one with the Chinese characters for Shanghai, 上海, was a stir-fried udon noodle dish that's listed only on their late night menu. Shanghai noodles are close to but not identical to udon, so I'd be curious to see if they really use Shanghai noodles or not.
I'd already eaten dinner, so I only had stomach space for the Xiao Long Bao. At night, it's $8 for 6. They're made to order and served on cabbage leaves in a wooden steam basket. The dipping sauce was what it should be--- black vinegar with thin slivers of ginger. Each XLB retained its liquid, even with my clumsy handling of the plastic chopsticks, and the temperature was good enough that I was able to suck up the soup without burning myself. The chicken broth (not pork!) and meat filling were both nicely flavored.
XLB can sometimes be difficult to eat because the meat slips right out of the skin. For better or worse, that wasn't the case with these. The inside of the skin was gluey which, on the upside, caused the meat to cling to the wrapper, but on the downside, um, made it gluey.
2029 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114
Well, that was quick--- they've closed down. Not that surprising given the location. That place must have cost a fortune to set up and upkeep. I'll never forget the night I wandered in looking to read a book at the bar, and instead got seated directly in front of a singer and a piano player. They must have been playing for hours to no audience.
On their late-night menu, you can get 4 XLB for $6. They were nearly inedible the night I had them this week. They told me they were made to order. The XLB are tightly wrapped, and a small amount of pink liquid came out when I pierced it. The wrapper was thick, over-steamed, and extremely gluey, even worse than when I went during their opening week. I dissected rather than ate my last two. The insides were slimy in one. In another, the pleats actually make a permanent impression into the meat (not sure if that's a good or a bad sign).
The meat in the ($6) ribs was more tender and better cooked than the equivalent I've had at Shanghai House. However, I prefer more sourness to this dish.
They now have Dim Sum on the weekends. Perhaps they do better when the kitchen is busy and there's a crowd, but on the two nights I've been there as the sole diner in the place, the food had been lackluster.
One thing I learned from the opening press release is that the owner Francis Tsai used to operate Wu Kong in Rincon, a spot that some of us miss. The chef is Leo Gan, who opened the now closed Shanghai 1930. It says that the dining room seats 60 and the bar, 14.
Here's the website, and the online menu includes the late night offering.
re: Melanie Wong
Walked by last night thinking to go in after seeing Vertigo at the Castro... but had sticker shock when we looked at the menu (it's posted on the website). If there really are special Shanghai dishes on the menu authentically prepared, I am happy to pay for it, and that might be the case. However, the menu looks suspiciously tamed down (sweetened with honey, vegetarianized, flambéd, no "challenging" ingredients, ...) for neighborhood tastes. Some dishes do seem tempting... and the inside of the place looks tastefully modern and upscale...
Waiting for a Shanghai cuisine expert to comment on the menu, or give it a try.
re: Thomas Nash
In general, the Castro is not the place for authentic ethnic cuisine. I live nearby and go elsewhere. I go to Dumpling Kitchen for casual, excellent Shanghai style dumplings, soy milk soup, and flash fried green beans. (29th and Taraval). Note, it is different from "King of Dumpling" which is also on Taraval.