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Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village

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MarkC Sep 23, 2012 11:10 PM

I went to this place tonight as my maiden voyage into the SGV. And the food was bad. Just plain bad. Ugly bad. We had a duck dish that was inedible. Their famous two tubed squid dish looked like it did in the picture, but was rubbery and cold and didn't taste freshly made, which I'm sure it wasn't. The only things that were kind of okay were the pork buns. At least they were hot. But they were also absolutely nothing special.

Better luck next time.

  1. Porthos Sep 30, 2012 01:50 PM

    Stopped by for lunch/dim sum today. The wait was 5-10 minutes at 11 and about 30 minutes or so by the time we left at 12. It's not the 2 hour madness like Elite or Sea Harbour, but it was by no means half empty.

    Delved more into the dim sum offerings and added a few dinner dishes.

    We had 2 duds on the day:

    Duds:
    -Soup of beancurd slivers, crab meat, and crab roe. Sounds good. Totally flavorless. Would have actually been good if properly seasoned.
    -har gow. Huge amounts of shrimp. About 1.5-1.75x larger in size than Sea Harbour or Elite but the wrapping was soft and thick.

    Good to Very Good:

    -bean curd skin rolls. Topped with chinese herbs aka "worm grass" (they charge an arm and leg for this at Sea Harbour). Steamed in soup. Very light and delicious. Much lighter than the standard versions in oyster sauce. A hint of coconut. Catches you off guard but good.
    -sticky rice with abalone in lotus leaves. It's not going to threaten Elite's version for #1 but just as good as Sea Harbour's and anyone else's in LA
    -XLB. Not as excellent as I remember. Thicker skin, nice filling, lots of juice. Definitely Very Good. J&J probably remains my #1. This would be my solid #2.

    Excellent and highly recommended:

    -Stewed pork. Better than I remember with bean curd knots and egg. A bit on the sweeter side but delicious and very authentic.
    -Lion's head soup. I can't emphasize what a big difference the hand chopped meat makes. Course chunks or meat, lots of fat, plenty of pure pork flavor. Would also nominate this along with the SJB as best in class.
    -Shenjian bao (SJB). Got 4 orders or 12 buns for 5 people. All gone. Filled with soup. Crunchy bottom. Delicious. Every table had at least 1 order
    -Clay pot rice with bacon and vegetables. Very nice oily and smoky flavor. Good with a little of the stewed pork juices drizzled on top.
    -Chinese greens in soup topped with salted duck egg yolk and thousand year old eggs. The eggs didn't ruin the fresh green taste of the vegetables. A huge platter's worth of greens. Completely gone by the end of the meal.

    Looked good but didn't have room to get and kinda regret it: Giant live spot prawns. Huge. Looked great simply boiled on plates going by me as I waited.

    Solid solid place. A couple of misses. Literally 8/10 good-excellent dishes. As solid as anything in town and a no brainer for me for dim sum since the waits at Elite and Sea Harbour are slightly off putting to say the least.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Porthos
      MonsieurKnowItAll Sep 30, 2012 11:31 PM

      Yeah, I also think their food is good, but with some inconsistent. I prefer their old-school xiao long bao (thicker skin and juicier) over DTF, especially when it’s fresh out of the kitchen.

      Looking forward to trying the lion's head meatballs...have yet to find a joint that excels in this classic Shanghai dish.

    2. o
      odub Sep 27, 2012 10:02 PM

      MarkC: Here was the run down from my last meal there, in case you wanted other dish recommendations. Like I wrote elsewhere, if you disliked the meal so much, you may not want to give it a second shot. C'est la vie.

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8252...

      7 Replies
      1. re: odub
        m
        MarkC Sep 27, 2012 10:10 PM

        Thanks. With so many restaurants to try in the SGV, and it being a bit of an expedition from my house, I doubt I'll be back there soon, but I'll keep your suggestions in mind.

        1. re: MarkC
          o
          odub Sep 27, 2012 10:20 PM

          I hear you. Like I said, my first experience there was just "ok" but I only live 10-15 minutes away so going back again didn't seem onerous and I was pleasantly surprised at how much better I liked it the second time.

          My equivalent (I'm guessing) to your situation would be me driving to Santa Monica and having a crappy meal somewhere there. I'd be HIGHLY unlikely to want to roll back there and give it another shot.

          You ever try Green Island in Temple City? My parents and relatives have been hitting that spot up on the regular of late and though I've only been there once, I dug it. Fairly extensive menu, the price point is decent.

          1. re: odub
            j
            Johnny L Sep 28, 2012 02:05 AM

            Oh god I hate that place because my father likes it so much despite the food being mediocre. It's a typical Chinese cafe, nothing worth the drive. I'd rather drive to something in Alhambra despite living on the Arcadia/Temple City border.

            1. re: Johnny L
              d
              dreamcast18 Sep 28, 2012 07:04 AM

              agreed. Green Island is very mediocre.

              1. re: Johnny L
                TonyC Sep 28, 2012 10:00 AM

                But Green Island is in the vein of Tasty Garden, Garden Cafe, which is to say: they have something for everyone, and people (besides Chinesers) seem to really enjoy them.

                It's cheap, decent, filling food at a non-formica table for a family of 4. The Green Island in Temple City seems to be producing far better products than the MPK branch, and I really don't know why. Green Island MPK is getting its nuts kicked around by Tasty Garden.

                1. re: TonyC
                  c
                  chrishei Sep 28, 2012 05:30 PM

                  Yeah I'm not crazy about Green Island at all. Maybe I should take TonyC's advice and try the Temple City one, but there are too many places for me to try in SGV first.

                2. re: Johnny L
                  o
                  odub Sep 28, 2012 09:50 PM

                  I think I got burned out on Northern cuisine this past year and I'm rebounding by going Southern so Green Island is right up my lane right now.

          2. Ciao Bob Sep 24, 2012 02:18 PM

            My one-and-only meal there was terrible. We had about 10 dishes -- none were notable and most were vile.
            But it was only open a week or so.
            Based on Porthos and Mr. Taster's writings here, I have been considering giving them the benefit of a return. Perhaps I will wait to hear more.

            1. e
              estone888 Sep 24, 2012 02:00 PM

              I've always enjoyed the place for dim sum. In my two dinners there I found the food mediocre - neither bad nor particularly good and the service abysmal. The big surprise at dinner was that the XLB were not even close to as good as they are at lunch. Different chef? I have no idea. But I quite like their XLB at lunch and the buns are almost always excellent - the best I've had outside of Shanghai, and as good as plenty that I've had in Shanghai. I will certainly be going back for dim sum - I've been there perhaps a dozen times so far and have never had a complaint during dim sum service. But I will most likely not be going back for dinner. The decor reminds me of enough places I've eaten in China that it doesn't bother me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: estone888
                o
                odub Sep 27, 2012 09:59 PM

                "The decor reminds me of enough places I've eaten in China that it doesn't bother me."

                Right. It's kind of modest compared to some of the places I've been to in Shanghai. But that's why I like Shanghai No. 1: it's gaudy in an "authentic" way ;)

              2. ipsedixit Sep 24, 2012 01:40 PM

                The problem with SN1 isn't so much the food, which is unremarkable at best. It's that garish interior. Sitting in that room would make me lose my appetite no matter how good the food.

                21 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit
                  Porthos Sep 24, 2012 02:02 PM

                  Have you gone yet ipse?

                  Gotta say, the shenjian bao and XLB are some of the best in town these days. Much better than Dean Sin World and the oft recommended MLV.

                  1. re: Porthos
                    ipsedixit Sep 24, 2012 02:51 PM

                    Yes, 3 times. Unremarkable each time. SJB and XLB included.

                    It's no surprise that it competes with King Hua as being the most half-empty restaurant in SGV.

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      Porthos Sep 24, 2012 03:01 PM

                      "Unremarkable each time. SJB and XLB included."

                      Hard to see you how prefer Dean Sin World's version over these but I guess it IS all a matter of taste :)

                      1. re: ipsedixit
                        o
                        odub Sep 27, 2012 10:08 PM

                        The SJB there is pretty good, it is better than any other restaurant serving the dish in L.A. that i know of...but having just gone to Emperor Noodle today w/ my dad and having ordered the SJB, I think I'm realizing: it's just not that awesome a dish even in its best form.

                        I think I originally liked SJB because it was novel. I was in Shanghai, Yang's was literally around the corner from where my folks lived, and I had never had it before. It was great in that "oh my god, I've never had this before and I like it!" way. But while I'm always kind of excited to find a place in L.A. that tries to serve it up, I realize that even when well-executed, it's just not as satisfying as other great dumplings.

                        I think the size has a lot to do with it. The beauty with XLB is that perfect bite-size. A proper SJB is just too big to finish in a bite; you try and you'll likely scald your mouth or choke on the damn thing. And therefore, eating one always involves this careful negotiation of making sure the juices don't run out, but still getting the proper skin/meat ratio in each bite, and then trying to dip it in some vinegar while not letting things fall out, blah blah blah.

                        It's a lot of work for insufficient reward. Emperor Noodle totally brought that home insofar as they make a good, solid SJB (not as tasty as Shanghai No. 1) but well-executed nonetheless. And as my dad and I were noshing on them, I kept thinking, "man, we should have ordered the XLB instead. This is a pain."

                        Now, this said though...if I'm at Shanghai No. 1 again, I'm definitely ordering it. Because I like it enough and I know they do it up well. However, I'm never going to be sitting at home thinking, "damn, I wish I had a plate of SJB right now."

                        1. re: odub
                          Porthos Sep 27, 2012 10:25 PM

                          I'm never going to be sitting at home thinking, "damn, I wish I had a plate of SJB right now."
                          ======================
                          Really? Not even when they look like this?

                          I crave these all the time.

                           
                          1. re: Porthos
                            ipsedixit Sep 27, 2012 10:33 PM

                            Nope. Not me.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              Porthos Sep 27, 2012 10:41 PM

                              Guess you're more of a dumpling kinda guy ;)

                              1. re: Porthos
                                o
                                odub Sep 27, 2012 10:51 PM

                                That's the thing: every time I see a plate of SJB, I think - Pavlovian-like -"mmmm, that looks good."

                                Then I order it and try it and think, "man, I got suckered."

                                (JTYH, I'm looking at you)

                                All I'm saying is that - for me - even at their very best, SJB isn't a dish scratches at the corners of my consciousness, constantly reminding me that it's out thre. It's a dish I order when I'm somewhere that happens to have it and I hope they do a decent job with it.

                                1. re: odub
                                  Ciao Bob Sep 28, 2012 09:37 AM

                                  I was thinking about JTYH's version as I read your posts, as well as all the SJB I've had in Shanghai. It is decent for a bite or two but no matter how big a group I am eating with it get's left unfinished on the table. Too many other more interesting things to eat.

                            2. re: Porthos
                              TonyC Sep 28, 2012 10:07 AM

                              Quick question (because I'm simply not giving SN1 any $): this "b"est SJB in SGV at SN1, how good is it versus the < $6 jobbers at Kang Kang ( http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/H36Pfm... ). Really?

                              odub, wait 5 minutes for the baos to cool and all the problems are solved? Too eager, man. XLB is also impossible to eat if you just eat a whole 1 "in a bite". Guaranteed burns.

                              1. re: TonyC
                                Porthos Sep 28, 2012 10:27 AM

                                Never been to Kang Kang. But the key is that these ones at SN1 have juice/soup in them. Like you would find in a XLB with juice/soup. Which is the most similar to the ones at Yang's in Shanghai which is why most consider these the best outside of Shanghai (for those that have tried that ones in at Yang's Shanghai). Up until now, the SJB in LA are just pan fried buns, without the liquid juice/soup inside.

                                1. re: Porthos
                                  Mr Taster Sep 28, 2012 11:54 AM

                                  They're supposed to have soup inside, and I've been consistently disappointed with the lack of soup in LA buns. It's a big reason why I was impressed with Shanghai No 1.

                                  Mr Taster

                                  1. re: Mr Taster
                                    ipsedixit Sep 28, 2012 08:00 PM

                                    Soup or not, the SJB just don't taste very good.

                                2. re: TonyC
                                  o
                                  odub Sep 28, 2012 09:48 PM

                                  Tony: SN1 > Kang Kang. I'd put KK at around a 6 and SN1 around a 9.

                                  Kang Kang has the flavor down better than many but two problems: filling is too sweet and the skin is a tad too thick. But it's not a bad plate. Just not great.

                                  1. re: odub
                                    Mr Taster Sep 29, 2012 09:27 AM

                                    Agree on all points. The odd sweetness at Kang Kang always turned me off too. Thick skins and no soup sealed the deal. SNo1SV nailed all of these problems. Savory filling, ample soup, thin, delicate skins perfectly pan fried, crispy on the bottom and billowy soft on top. Wonderful stuff.

                                    Mr Taster

                                    1. re: Mr Taster
                                      Porthos Sep 29, 2012 10:32 AM

                                      Exactly. Quite remarkable if you consider how great the Chinese food is in LA and how many Shanghainese places we have. This is the only one in all these years to get the SJB right.

                                      1. re: Porthos
                                        o
                                        odub Sep 29, 2012 11:18 PM

                                        I find it interesting that many of the Shanghainese restaurants don't even attempt it. I could be wrong, but I never saw these on the menu at places that are ostensibly Shanghainese like Mei Long Village and Giang Nan. Kang Kang was the first place I saw that carried them and then gradually, I saw more places attempt them...but usually poorly.

                              2. re: odub
                                J.L. Sep 29, 2012 11:45 PM

                                For everyone else's edification, here is my picture of the SJB at Yang's in Shanghai (Nov., 2011)...

                                I have to disagree with odub on this one.

                                SJB, in its best form, is glorious.

                                At Yang's, I experience an absolutely superb filling, with lots of steaming hot delicious soup inside, great "bite" to the skin, pan-fried perfectly brown on the outside, yet soft on the inside.

                                Glorious.

                                 
                                1. re: J.L.
                                  Tripeler Sep 30, 2012 12:29 AM

                                  Dang, JL, those look REALLY good. I will keep an eye out for them. Seem like they would be good with beer instead of just tea.

                                  1. re: J.L.
                                    Porthos Sep 30, 2012 02:01 AM

                                    My photo was also from Yang's JL. I agree a perfectly done plate of SJB is as glorious as anything!

                                    Sorry to see your plate only had 4 ;)

                                    Guess we are now even for Ibu Oka...

                            3. re: ipsedixit
                              o
                              odub Sep 27, 2012 09:55 PM

                              Personally, I like the decor if only because it's so clearly trying too hard but I don't find it remotely a distraction from a good meal. That said, it is way over-the-top and when you get the final bill, you do feel like you're subsidizing that.

                              Anways, if Mark C had a bad meal there, I'm willing to believe...he had a bad meal there. Sh-- happens. I've been to Shanghai No. 1 twice. First time was underwhelming, second time was much more enjoyable but it's not necessarily a restaurant I'd urge people to absolutely try unless they know what they're getting themselves into.

                              Mark C: If you ever do go back (and perhaps you won't), I'd say try the house pork dishes skip the house chicken. Also get the grouper; that was my favorite dish last time I was there. I agree that the squid was less than stellar. Looked awesome in the menu though.

                            4. Porthos Sep 24, 2012 12:10 AM

                              Sounds oddly similar to your negative Sotto review where you disliked everything.

                              Respectfully disagree on both counts.

                              Not sure what kind of pork buns you had but if it's the panfried ones, it is the best rendition I've had outside Shanghai.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: Porthos
                                m
                                MarkC Sep 24, 2012 07:04 AM

                                If you had eaten with me last night you would not disagree. This was an unambigously bad meal. Don't know what happened in the kitchen. Maybe they were busy, maybe they just didn't care about our business.

                                I would also point out that both Sotto and Shanghai Village have received plenty of negative reviews from others on this site. With respect to Sotto, I'd say the positive versus the negative was at least fifty fifty.

                                It may sound as though I write nothing but negative reviews, but the truth is, when I enjoy a meal I don't go racing to chowhound to report it. Maybe I should. On the other hand, when I have a bad meal at a place that has gotten glowing reviews and where I have high expectations, it's the first thing I do when I get back.

                                I had fantastic tacos at Metro Balderas the other day. Probably the best I've ever had. Also had a great Thai meal at Lum Ka Naad in Northridge, This was a real surprise, as the tiny storefront gives out into a rather spacious and elegant restaurant.

                                1. re: MarkC
                                  westsidegal Sep 24, 2012 04:28 PM

                                  MarkC
                                  please be kind enough to let the rest of us hounds know when you've had a good meal, i beg of you.
                                  don't bogart the good restaurants!

                                  1. re: MarkC
                                    TonyC Sep 25, 2012 03:07 PM

                                    Glad to see Lum Ka Naad mentioned. It's been years since I visited, and they used to serve some Issan specialties. But now, it looks like they're carrying a heavy Northern menu, AND there are some Southern dishes. Fantastic place, really.

                                    No comment on ShanghaiNo1

                                  2. re: Porthos
                                    m
                                    MarkC Sep 24, 2012 07:26 AM

                                    Regarding dumplings, I admit, I"m not a huge dumpling fan. They're OK, but it's not a "party in your mouth" kind of experience. These were the ones pan fried on the bottom. They were fist-sized. I found them too large to eat comfortably, and they had an odd uniformity which didn't make me think of homemade dumplings. But I guess they were fine. This was something about which reasonable minds could disagree.

                                    The other two dishes, forget about it. The duck was trash leavings - mostly bone and gristle. It was also cold - or worse - half warm and half cold, like they'd been nuked in the microwave. When we commented on the temperature, the waiter said that it was supposed to be like this, and that it was an appetizer. But it was not in the appetizer part of the menu. It was listed as an entree. What meat there was was completely shot through with tiny bone fragments, which made it very unpleasant to eat. A sloppy job with the cleaver, I guess. If this is how authentic Chinese duck is supposed to be served, somebody please enlighten me, I think they ran out of duck, so figuring we were just passing through and didn't matter, they thew the left overs on the plate and served it to us.

                                    The squid, like I said, was cold, and clearly had not been freshly prepared. The dishes came out very quickly, which heightened this impression.

                                    1. re: MarkC
                                      Porthos Sep 24, 2012 07:45 AM

                                      Your dumplings sound like the panfried buns, which as you know is supposed to be different from dumplings. Did they have juice in them? They are not meant to be eaten in 1 bite but multiple bites. In fact a nibble first and sucking out of the juices is usually required. They have to be housemade because no one else makes them this good.

                                      Regarding the duck some duck dishes are meant to be served room temp or cold. Did it have rice wine in it? There are so many versions and preparations of Chinese duck. For duck you may be better off at Duck House in Monterey park. It's Peking duck. The meat is pre sliced for you to make wraps out of so you don't have to deal with bone or gristle.

                                      Last night you would have been better off with the stewed pork or lions head (meatballs) recommended in previous reviews. Those dishes are also classic shanghainese dishes.

                                      1. re: Porthos
                                        m
                                        MarkC Sep 24, 2012 07:59 AM

                                        Yeah, they were pan fried and had juice in them. They were fine. If the rest of the meal had been good, I wouldn't have run them down, but since they were the only edible thing we had,,,

                                        It was my friend who ordered the duck, it wouldn't have been my choice, having read some reviews. The squid, on the other hand, had been recommended in many places. I was so busy picking bones out of my teeth, I didn't really concentrate on the sauce, but my impression from both the squid and the duck is that it had a kind of sugary, soy glaze one associates with other kinds of restaurants.

                                        What can I say? It was bad. Maybe we didn't order well, but in a good restaurant you shouldn't have a bad meal regardless.

                                      2. re: MarkC
                                        a
                                        AlkieGourmand Sep 24, 2012 12:24 PM

                                        This restaurant is good IMO.

                                        Chinese people like "trash leavings" such as bone and gristle because of the texture.

                                        Squid is naturally rubbery. Chinese people like that.

                                        1. re: AlkieGourmand
                                          m
                                          MarkC Sep 24, 2012 06:47 PM

                                          Somehow, I don't feel enlightened...

                                          1. re: MarkC
                                            a
                                            AlkieGourmand Sep 25, 2012 01:30 PM

                                            Criticizing a Chinese restaurant for gristle in the duck and rubberiness of the squid reflects an ignorance about authentic Chinese cuisine. Moreover, lots of folks criticize authentic Shanghai-style food because they like inauthentic pan-Chinese food, which is fine, but I don't think it's fair that this quality restaurant should be described as "ugly bad."

                                            1. re: AlkieGourmand
                                              m
                                              MarkC Sep 25, 2012 02:22 PM

                                              You weren't there, pal. This was a bad meal.

                                              1. re: AlkieGourmand
                                                j
                                                Johnny L Sep 25, 2012 03:12 PM

                                                Well hard to say but when it comes to Chinese restaurants I've experienced, yes bones are to be expected but some places cheap out so much and use crap cuts of the meat that it's uncomfortably all bones.

                                                1. re: Johnny L
                                                  m
                                                  MarkC Sep 25, 2012 03:21 PM

                                                  Thank you.

                                                  1. re: MarkC
                                                    o
                                                    odub Sep 27, 2012 09:57 PM

                                                    Duck's tough too because depending on the bird, the bone/meat ratio can be way off. I had that bone/gristle experience at Lunasia the other day...it was well-cooked but man, there was barely any meat on that bird. I like duck skin and fat as much as the next guy but....

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