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Chowdown at Jai Yun [San Francisco, Chinatown]

Jai Yun is not like other restaurants offering a $100 prix fixe lunch. For example, you might be accustomed to the waitstaff naming its purveyors and describing the preparation in loving detail. Here, unless you speak Mandarin, you might only be told, when pointing to a tall stack of thin slices, "meat." And there is no written menu. But in some ways, the mystery fuels the excitement of experiencing Chef Nei Chia Ji's intricate, subtle, and unusually delicious offerings. For hounds, unraveling the secrets of a dish is something of a sport. What else ya gonna talk about for 3 hours?

Without further ado, photos: http://www.jeffersonscher.com/photos/...

Let the discussion begin!

And many thanks to hyperbowler for organizing it.

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  1. Thanks for the pic. #1 looks like a pork terrine, which might also have chicken in it. The greens in #12 should be ma lan tou, or Indian aster.

    1. A truly inspired, wonderful meal, probably the best Chinese meal I've had in the US. No kidding.
      The abalone with egg whites were a perfect textural marriage. The abalone was sliced razor thin but still, somehow, had a slightly chewy (in a good way) mouth-feel. Brilliant.
      The wheat gluten was succulent and a flavor explosion. Best version of this I've ever had.
      Crispy fried mushrooms - OMG! Earthy, crunchy, with sweet and spicy notes. These were candy, pure and simple.
      Taro Balls and Spare Ribs - another home-run. The taro balls melted in your mouth and the pork ribs, beautifully tender, complimented and elevated the texture. Maybe the best dish of the afternoon or me.
      The Chinese celery and with brown tofu highlighted the chef's incredible knife skills. Uniformity with pristine, clean flavors. Just beautiful.
      The Braised Pork Knuckle also may have the best I've ever had. The meat was perfect and the sauce was glistening. Yum.
      The Crispy Fried Eggplant got oohs and aahs from everyone. Eaten while still piping hot, the eggplant was almost a liquid. Sublime. Never had anything like this anywhere.
      The only misses for me were a slightly overcooked crispy fish and an over-fried version of crispy beef.
      A remarkable, memorable meal. Thank you hyperbowler for organizing, Melanie for the terrific wines, and the rest of my fellow hounds for a wonderful afternoon.

      1. This was a remarkable meal, both in terms of the food and the company. Great wine pairings by Melanie to boot! If anyone finds it useful in coming up with a write-up, here's a list of ingredients we discussed or are shown in photos.

        Asparagus
        Gong cai aka "tribute vegetable" (dried or fresh?)
        Gai lan (chinese broccoli)
        Fresh water chestnuts
        Goji berries
        Lotus root
        Ma lan tou (we thought it was shepherd's purse (ji cai))
        Celtuse
        Taro
        Edamame
        Chinese celery
        Loofah

        Cucumbers
        Eggplant
        Corn
        Peas
        Tomato
        Red radishes
        Red chilies
        Scallions
        Red onion
        Ginger
        Garlic
        Red bell pepper
        Green pepper or chili
        Enoki mushrooms
        Shimeji mushrooms
        King oyster mushrooms
        Wood ear mushroom

        Tangerine peel
        Sichuan peppercorns
        White pepper
        Black vinegar
        Star anise
        Sesame oil
        Light soy sauce
        Dark soy sauce
        Rice wine
        Rock sugar

        Egg whites
        Thousand year old eggs

        Corn starch
        Mung bean starch
        Mung bean noodles
        Wheat gluten (kau fu)

        Tofu skin (yuba)
        Fresh (silken) tofu
        Pressed tofu (five spice)

        Fresh shrimp
        Dried shrimp
        Surf clams
        Abalone
        Jellyfish
        White fish cubes
        Whole fish of some kind

        BBQ beef tongue
        Beef tenderloin
        Chicken pieces
        Pork ribs
        Pork shoulder
        Pork sung
        Pork shin (? reminded me of head cheese)
        House cured bacon

        3 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I don't recall the highest price point, but the son of the owner only mentioned price point above the $100 we chose for our group size.

            If you can speak Mandarin, you might have luck ordering specific dishes beforehand. Maybe it's a seasonal thing, but I didn't notice any bamboo shoot dishes. Reading some previous reviews, some smaller Shanghai staples in his repertoire include drunken chicken, vegetarian goose, smoked fish, and salty duck. For larger groups, he's done braised duck and eel dishes.

          2. re: hyperbowler

            It'a possible shepherd's purse was used in that dish, but it's a very traditional use of ma lan tou in Shanghainese cuisine. The name of the vegetable is used as the name of the dish, and if you do an image search on "ma lan tou" you'll find many pictures of it chopped and mixed with finely chopped gan doufu.

            http://goo.gl/oPfqql

          3. I have to second ChewChew's enthusiasm. Jai Yun is like the French Laundry or the Chez Panisse of Chinese restaurants. You don't just put a big pile of food on your plate and eat it with rice; it's bite after bite of perfection that you marvel and moan over. It's an unprepossessing space and as relaxed an atmosphere as the typical Chinese place. This isn't an intellectual exercise of a meal, either, like some molecular gastronomy kind of thing--it's just like, "wow that is EXACTLY how broccoli (or radish, or chicken) should always taste," and every piece is cut to the exact right shape and size and cooked the exact right way with the best flavor.

            I have never had fried food as delicate as those mushrooms and that eggplant. Each bite had an incredibly thin shell of flavorsome perfect crunch. Those were two of the best things I have ever tasted in my life.

            If you look at the photo of the soft tofu (dish #13), you can see the blobby pile of white underneath all the colorful garnishes. Somehow that humble substance was SO delicious, salty, savory, such an apotheosis of comfort in a soft mouthful that it actually conjured strong emotion in me. This guy's food is so vivid it's transcendent, poetic, really truly. Something about him being alone back in the kitchen, slicing everything himself, only one wok on the flame and one dish at a time coming from his hands alone upped the ante--he cooks from the bottom of his heart and you can taste it. I have never experienced anything like that before in a restaurant.

            I don't even know what to say; "the radishes were really good too" doesn't do this meal justice. The food is subtle yet immediate, not challenging. It calls you to awaken to it. This is what a tasting menu is supposed to be like.

            Many thanks to hyperbowler and my delightful tablemates for a uniquely fulfilling lunch.

            1. This was a remarkable meal, both in terms of the food and the company. It was great to hear about people's previous experiences at Jai Yun, as well as thoughts on the food as it progressed. The server doesn't speak much English, so it was useful to have read previous reviews on Chowhound and at http://www.cookingforengineers.com/ar... . This was my first time there, and if the glowing that follows doesn't make this obvious, I loved it. Highlights include:

              Deep fried taro ball with spare ribs: the taro balls had a crisp outside, and an almost candy-like and fluffy center of taro. This is a masterpiece and there's nothing like it available around here. It's so good, it distracted from the other thing on the plate, what might be the best version of sweet and sour pork ribs I've eaten. This could reflect the Chef's regional style more than his personal touch, but the balance of sugar to black vinegar was ideal. No magma-like corn syrup sauce or overcooked pieces. For better or worse, no black cardamom or smokiness as in the version at Little Shanghai, or sesame seed topping.

              Crispy eggplant : fresh from the kitchen, the eggplant pieces melted inside the crisp and tangy outsides. There's a light cornstarch coating, but it doesn't feel like the shell of another ingredient as much as eggplant itself. Fantastic.

              Wheat gluten with vegetables : Jai Yun's wheat gluten is fresh and the preparation light-- the taste and texture of the gluten are emphasized. The wheat gluten at Chinese vegetarian restaurants doesn't come close to Jai Yun's. Wheat gluten at Shanghainese restaurants in the Bay Area is never made to order and either uses gluten more as a sponge for a delicious sauce (e.g., Little Shanghai) or uses canned gluten (e.g., Rice Valley).

              Abalone with egg whites : Matched the texture and color of egg whites to abalone, and each added their own flavor. Egg whites with other seafood (e.g., scallops or crab) are available at Cantonese places, but I like this prep better.

              Pork shank (?) : struck me as very European, kind of like head cheese, and just as good.

              Sliced beef tongue: comparable to Chinese BBQ pork.

              Ma lan tou with five spice tofu : much fresher tasting than the versions at Little Shanghai or House of Pancakes, and not water logged. (someone at the table thought this was Ji Cai, but I think that's typically prepared saltier than ma lan tou).

              Braised pork shoulder : the custardy fat layer bests any version I've had in the Bay Area, including China Village. Unlike other places, there were no dried out or unpalatable pieces of flesh from freezing. He gives a restrained a portion of sauce, which was excellent and star anise flavored, but didn't seem as dark and intense as the version at Jesse in Shanghai.

              Tangerine peel beef: dried out, not very good.

              Whole crispy fish : slightly overcooked, I liked the sauce more than than fish.

              Pickled ginger salad: The bright flavors of ginger made it seem like this was just ginger, but
              cookingforengineers.com/article/247/Jai-Yun-San-Francisco lists this as pickled cabbage. Excellent.

              Chinese broccoli (gai lan) : light garlic flavor and cooling, but not bitter, appetizer. Excellent.

              Gong cai : none of us had eaten "tribute vegetable" before. Fun texture-- there's an initial cucumber-like crunch, followed by a tougher crunch from a more compact section. The latter crunch was reminiscent of some forms of preserved vegetables, so I suspect the gong cai had been rehydrated or preserved in some way.

              Crispy fried mushrooms : incredibly light and not remotely oily. Some of the best fried mushrooms I've ever eaten.

              Green soybeans and tofu skin : Celtuse FTW. Tofu skin acts takes on the role of a leafy vegetable as it inherits a vegetal flavor from the salted cubes of celtuse and the fresh taste of soybeans.

              Without corkage, the meal came to $132 including tax and tip. Was it worth it? Absolutely.

              For the price, you get 28 dishes and a large enough serving to appreciate each dish. As a traveller in Shanghai last year, it would have taken me several meals to cover as much ground. The only time I get that variety here is at a Chowdown, which can cost as low as $20, but there's never an opportunity to appreciate each dish. That's either because of portion size or palate fatigue, neither of which happened at Jai Yun. The meal centers around fresh vegetables and protein rather than the simple carbs and fat that make food inexpensive and filling.

              The ingredients are high quality and in some cases fresh versions of things more commonly puchased frozen, canned, or not made in-house. Still, you're mostly paying for labor and technique. The chef shops in Chinatown, and the most expensive ingredients are probably the pork shoulder, which he can only do for a big group, and the abalone, the only "exotic" raw ingredient. There aren't exotic Asian ingredients that are expensive because of their lack of sustainability. Compared to high end Cal or modernist cuisine, there aren't any foraged mushrooms, foods that shouldn't be edible (e.g., hay), or ingredients with named pedigrees. One legit criticism is that, despite tons of seasonal Chinese produce available in markets, you don't see a lot of it at Jai Yun. Celtuse was the only truly seasonal vegetable and asparagus is pretty good right now, but both were used once and only sparingly. Looking at the calendar, I wouldn't describe any of the other ingredients as being at their seasonal peek. But, as heidipie said, "the radishes were really good too." If he can make such a pedestrian vegetable memorable, that holds a lot more value than something's growing season or whether its organic.

              14/28 dishes were seemingly vegetarian. Even the simpler vegetable dishes aren't something easy to reproduce at home. A mandolin could give you width, but not the shapes his skills allow. The cold dishes were all lightly seasoned and most, as good as any California cuisine place, showcased the natural flavors and textures of the ingredients. When the serving plates were empty, they were clean. It's rare for a cold dish / salad in a Bay Area Chinese restaurant not to leave a big puddle of sauce/dressing. On a related note, Chinese food, especially the sugary and oily foods favored in Shanghai, are often called "greasy." That criticism is partially because, to paraphrase a blog post of Fuschia Dunlop, Chinese food wears its oil on the outside (e.g. stir frying) and Western food wears its food on the inside (e.g., butter laden mashed potatoes). But even in the deep fried dishes, Jai Yun's dishes didn't "wear" any oil and felt light.

              In high end restaurants, it's unsatisfying when chefs compose a beautiful arrangement of ingredients, but leave it to the diner to figure out how much sauce, foam, etc. to get on their fork. This is especially annoying at small plates places, or even some Chinese chowdowns I've attended, where someone inevitably gets a spoonful of ginger with only a shred of meat. Chef Nei Chia Ji cuts and plates the dishes so that you can get the same experience no matter when or how much you take from the shared serving plate. His composition has function, and if someone hogs too much gluten in their serving, color will guide the next person to getting a balanced spoonful for their serving.

              1. Thanks, Jefferson, for posting the photos and getting the discussion started. To pile on the wonderful reviews, I have to say this was the best Shanghai meal I've had in the U.S.

                To echo Heidipie: "every piece is cut to the exact right shape and size and cooked the exact right way with the best flavor." Chef Nei Chia Ji had wonderful knife skills - each ingredient was cut to a size that enabled you to taste the flavor of each ingredient completely, while also holding true to the subtle spicing that characterizes Shanghai preparations. No need to compose bites or take care splitting portions, each diner received the perfect mix in every bite.

                My personal standout favorites, where I went back for seconds...
                #4 Cucumber salad, beautiful, crisp, perfectly seasoned
                #6 Gong Cai - snappy, crisp texture, great flavor
                #12 Mustard Greens with tofu
                #13 Soft tofu with thousand year-old egg
                #14 Abalone with egg whites - thinly sliced, delicate
                #15 wheat gluten with vegetables - terrific sauce!
                #17 crispy fried mushrooms
                #19 Deep fried taro ball and spare ribs - these taro balls crunched, then melted in the mouth. After tasting one, I was hoping to have a second, but they were GONE. I could eat a small bowl of these for dessert, and I'm not a big taro fan.
                #20 Loofah squash with dried shrimp - great texture and sauce
                #28 Crispy fried eggplant - this was superb. Tip: if provided, eat this FIRST while it's hot. Some crispness was lost as the dish cooled.

                If you love Shanghai food, and are in for the experience of textures and flavors combined with an expert hand even if you don't know exactly what you are eating, make a reservation for a splendid meal at Jai Yun. You'll be glad you did.

                1. My first Jai Yun experience far exceeded my expectations. It was an exceptional meal, delectable in every way, made even more enjoyable by the warm and buoyant energy of a very convivial group.

                  The knife work was extraordinary—the thinness of the ingredients enhanced almost every dish. There was a precision to the chef's efforts, with ultra-thin slices, vegetables cut into extremely small bits, and the thinnest fried coatings I've ever seen.

                  I really enjoyed the texture and saltiness of the jellyfish. The radish was soft, or maybe it was just the thinness of the slices, but that texture combined with a slight sweetness from some unknown ingredient made this dish a revelation. The only dish that was very spicy was the pickled ginger salad, also a winner.

                  I'm a fan of tofu and preserved egg and sometimes make it at home with pork sung which can be unpleasantly fibrous unless shredded very small. I don't know if the pork in this dish was pork sung but the minutely small bits were fried, adding a more complex flavor. A really fine version.

                  The abalone with egg whites was sublime. The very thin slices may be the chef's secret to getting the abalone cooked perfectly, with great texture and flavor. The egg whites were the perfect complement with nice delicate flavor and variable texture. I normally find stringiness in egg dishes off-putting but here the slightly stringy bits in the midst of soft, melt-in-your mouth goodness added just the right textural touch. The best version of this dish I have ever had, by far.

                  Though the stimulating conversation was a great part of my pleasure at this meal, many of the dishes were worthy of undivided attention. While eating the abalone I briefly closed my eyes to concentrate fully on the exquisite taste and texture. Perhaps we should have had periodic moments of silence so we could focus more fully on the manna being delivered to our table.

                  With so many flawless dishes it was a surprise to finally taste a dish with some clear flaws—my pieces of the crispy fish were overcooked and the fish flavor wasn't pleasing, though the sauce and bits of veggies were tasty.

                  I've never tasted fried dishes with coatings as thin (yet crispy) as this chef can produce. The eggplant was my favorite dish—the outside was crispy and thin with a wonderful sweet coating and the interior was soft and delicious. Another favorite was the crispy fried mushrooms, with great contrast between a thin, crispy coating with a bit of char and the soft mushroom inside. It was a bit spicy.

                  I'll second the kudos for both the pork knuckle and the taro balls and spareribs.

                  Before the meal I thought $100 pp (before tax, tip and wine) was a lot to pay so it better be wonderful. Not only was it beyond wonderful, but with 28 dishes it amounted to just $3.57 per dish, which seems unbelievably cheap considering the amount of labor involved. It was a great value.

                  Thanks to hyperbowler for organizing, and to the entire congenial group for the amicable and stimulating company.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: charliemyboy

                    These posts are making me very nostalgic for my three lunches at Jai Yun, before chef imposed the 10-person minimum and increased the prices. We got about 9 dishes for $18 twice, then splurged for the abalone and egg upgrade to $25, though we had a Groupon-type discount for that one so it was also $18. Those were such memorable meals we still feel they were the best Chinese food we've ever eaten.

                    What I'm wondering is how the heck y'all ate 28 dishes each? We were pretty stuffed after 9.

                    1. re: grayelf

                      Looking at the photos, I think 13 were cold appetizers, which I think of as one course. Six of the others were vegetables.

                    2. I've been intrigued by the polarized nature of the reviews on Jai Yun for years, and honestly expected myself to fall on the meh, I don't get it, or at least the I regret paying over $100 side, but I thoroughly enjoyed this meal, and don't regret paying for it. Would I do it again soon? Probably not, as the variety of dishes doesn't seem to change that much, but I would definitely feel good about bringing a group here for a special occasion.

                      I had qualms, as even the positive reviews revolved around a concept of precision Shanghai cuisine which is at best subtle and at worst too sweet, neither of which are as appealing to me as bold, balanced flavors. Another theme that comes up frequently in positive reviews is 'amazing knife skills', which can be a parlor trick, or a way to perfect the items for preparation. I was delighted to see it was the latter, as exemplified by the eggplant dish, one of my (and everyone's) favorites of the meal. All pieces where the same size and shape for even frying and the skin was mostly removed, in vertical stripes, which both reduced the amount of bitter skin and increased the amount of surface area for crispy frying and sauce adhesion.

                      I was thrilled to learn about gong cai/tribute vegetable/mountain jelly vegetable (mountain jelly vegetable is the best to google to see the plant in its non-dried form). I loved the texture and I've seen the dried version before and will now grab it the next chance I get.

                      I also loved the soft tofu + 1000 year old egg + pork dish. I've had a tofu/preserved egg + pork sung or bonita flakes dish at Taiwanese restaurants in the US. This was miles beyond--the texture of the tofu, the flavoring broth surrounding the small tofu pieces, the fresh-fried carnitas-like tiny pork pieces on top, and the 100 year-old egg all combined to a dish that was much better than the sum of its parts.

                      The deep fried shimeji mushrooms were another of my favorites. It pushed the flavor profile more towards the bold direction I prefer--it was like salt and pepper fried mushrooms with an additional sweet element which, if asked, I would have refused, but appreciated the dish as presented correcting my general anti-sugar bias.

                      I enjoyed the pork cold appetizer for both novelty and taste sake. It was definitely a cured, headcheese-like pork dish, which was tasty and perhaps familiar in a non-Chinese way. (I've attached a close-up.)

                      As a whole, I'd say my personal perception of the meal as set at a reasonable price point, vs. an offensive one was the execution of the majority of the dishes. The proteins--the shrimp, the fish in the canned corn dish, the chicken in the 'gong bao', the pork pump, and particularly the abalone and egg were cooked to sous-vide level precision(though I'm sure done by other means)--all pieces were cooked to perfect doneness. Many complaints about the price are about portion sizes vs. other Chinese banquet meals--the execution is easily better, and though the portion sizes weren't large, the amount of food I had by the end was more than enough to fill me up, and I have a large appetite. I'll admit, as I started the serving of many of the dishes, being to the right of the photographer, it felt awkward taking the first 1/9th, but that doesn't mean there wasn't enough for a comfortable meal over all twenty-something courses.

                      It was a fun and interesting dining group--special thanks to hyperbowler for organizing and making the extra effort to communicate with the staff to figure out ingredients in some of our favorites, Melanie for the wine, and Jefferson for providing our digital memory in pictures.

                       
                      1. So I suppose I was the Jai Yun veteran on saturday, as this was my 8th visit to Jai Yun over the past 6 or 7 years, and overall I'm a huge, huge fan.

                        This was probably my favorite Jai Yun meal, due to size of the group, table full of people who all appreciate this type of food, and great wine (thanks Melanie!) Though the number and type of dishes was very similar to what I've had as a solo diner (now the minimum table size is 2), at both higher and lower price points, so i'm pretty skeptical whether price point or size of the group makes much of a difference.

                        The dishes I hadn't seen before:

                        Tofu with Thousand Year Old Egg
                        Whole Fish
                        Pork Shoulder thing
                        The fried mushroom i've only seen once, at a lunch.
                        And the ham-like cold starter dish is usually instead vegetarian goose.

                        Maybe the abalone has been missing at a dinner, but i'm not sure, as i've definitely had it several times before, and I almost always went for the lowest or second-lowest price point.

                        In a nutshell, I love the food at jai yun. Let me elaborate:

                        The only chinese dishes in SF that come close to any of the dishes at Jai Yun:

                        Yum's Bistro -- Under the bridge crab
                        Hakkassan -- Crispy duck salad
                        Yank Sing -- Har Gow, Lotus Rice, maybe radish cakes.

                        And apart from these, some of the dishes at made in china show a lot of potential. But Jai Yun is better than any of these.

                        So because I think Jai Yun is clearly better than anything else in the US, i'm going to mostly talk about comparable places in other big cities around the world for the rest of my post:

                        My first Jai Yun visit was ~2007ish, and I'd say that first meal belongs on a list of my most revelatory meals of my life: Jai Yun, Chez Panisse, l'Arpege in paris, Kanda in tokyo, Tsukiji Yamamoto in tokyo, Tien Heung Lau in hong kong, and 7chome kyoboshi in tokyo.

                        I think Jai Yun is the best chinese food in the US, in the same way that Joel Robuchon in las vegas is the best french, and Urasawa in los angeles is the best japanese.

                        Compared to the top places in beijing, shanghai or hong kong, Jai Yun has every bit the precision and attention to detail as those places, but focuses on vegetables or other mainstream ingredients, whereas most top places in china focus on live rare fish, crab, crab roe, live lobster, abalone / other rare seafood, swallow's nest, etc

                        While I love the abalone dish at Jai Yun, I'm not sure the fresh abalone he uses is a particularly expensive ingredient. This doesn't detract from this dish at all -- just this is something you wouldn't see at an expensive place in china.

                        Come to think of it, I'm a little bit surprised the chef doesn't use dried sea cucumber in any dishes. But i guess his focus is pretty firmly on mainstream ingredients.

                        I'd love to hear reports of someone who has tried the top Shanghaiese vegetarian places in hong kong (some have michelin stars i know) -- I suspect they compare well to Jai Yun.

                        I have tried some of the more casual chain-type shanghaiese places in asia. crystal jade and maybe din tai fung have some cold dishes or vegetable dishes that are reminiscent of Jai Yun, but they aren't nearly the same level. Jade Garden is a more upscale chain (michelin starred, branches in macau, shanghai, hkg, etc), and the cold dishes there show the same level of understanding of texture as the cold dishes at jai yun. but you wouldn't get nearly the variety, even if you went in a group of ten.

                        Even compared to other cuisine types, I think Jai Yun's handling of vegetables is very strong. In some ways it reminds me of the really good vegetarian south indian places in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, or Mumbai -- vegetables served in 10 different ways in a single meal, all fitting together and complementing one another. These places have gotten international attention (see Shree Thakar Bhojanalay in mumbai on tripadvisor) and I definitely think Jai Yun every bit as interesting as that place. But Jai Yun is at a much high price point, and so is probably penalized in the minds of customers for that.

                        Someone in a previous thread mentioned you can request a specific type of different style of feast at Jai Yun (I can't remember the name of it, though.) I'd love to try this sometime.

                        And I learned he gives cooking classes to groups -- I can't wait to do this, as I think his style of cooking would be absolutely perfect for home cooking.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          dustin, is the two person minimum for lunch or dinner?

                          1. re: grayelf

                            as far as i know, these days there is a minimum of 2 for dinner, and a lot more for lunch (because otherwise he stays home or something.)

                            1. re: Dustin_E

                              He's not regularly open for lunch any more, but will open for a party of ten or more.

                          2. re: Dustin_E

                            Yeah, having him give a menu with some alternative items would be awesome--- I'm glad you weren't too restless your 8th time there!

                            A post from a few years backs reports that it was difficult for a friend of the poster, a Mandarin speaker, to special order dishes. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7852... . It’s difficult to know what that obstacle was without more context.

                            Below are dishes the chef has prepared in the past. These weren’t special requests, just rotating menu items, so who knows what he would whip out for a special occasion.

                            I tried to remove anything obviously redundant with what we ate or where only a minor ingredient made it different. I’ve written AKA in cases where dishes listed from two sources sounded identical. Other markings are things written by others, not me.

                            * = spicy
                            ^ = vegetarian
                            @ = available at other Shanghainese places in the Bay Area

                            = Cold dishes =
                            @Wine chicken
                            @Shanghai smoked fish
                            @Poached Chilled Duck (I believe this is Nanjing salty duck
                            )*@Vegetarian Goose
                            @ Wood ear and white fungus salad
                            @ glutinous rice stuffed lotus roots
                            @^Parsley Peanut with Tofu (”parsley” is probably cilantro; sometimes served with pine nuts)
                            Duck tongue
                            Strange flavor beef w/ Sichuan peppercorns
                            Seaweed and five spice tofu salad
                            Sliced celtuse
                            *China Town Special Cabbage (maybe our ginger cabbage)
                            ^Peanut with Red Vinegar
                            Tripe with enoki
                            Braised Beef Slices
                            Fillet of Fish

                            = Hot, potentially cold, dishes =
                            @ lion's head casserole
                            @ Shanghai rice cakes
                            @ leek with dried pork AKA yellow chives with smoked tofu pork
                            Sour and spicy squid
                            3 mushrooms with greens
                            tofu delight AKA ^Celery with Five Spices Dry Tofu
                            gingko shrimp AKA Shrimp Delight (same as we ate, but with gingko)
                            scallops a la sichuan
                            ^Pickled Greens and Bean AKA pickled greens with pork or tofu
                            *Fried Sliced Beef
                            ^Mushroom Skewer Basil
                            ^Vegetables with Golden Mushroom
                            ^Crispy Eggplant with Scallions
                            Chef's Special Duck (Whole) AKA beer duck
                            Eel with eggplant
                            Poussin with Taro Balls AKA taro with chicken
                            Wintermelon with spicy minced meat AKA Hubei Winter Melon
                            Lobster in Special Sauce
                            *Fish Braised in Bean Sauce AKA golden carp with brown sauce
                            sweet and sour fish aka "Squirrel"/"Frog" Fish

                            =Dessert =
                            Sweet Corn Soup –
                            Fried Banana with Syrup Coating

                            Sources: various Chowhound threads, https://www.flickr.com/photos/squash/... , http://www.foodhoe.com/2007/09/tastin... , https://web.archive.org/web/200704220...