Monday, January 28, 2008

Shanghai City

D. and I are rarely enraged by a restaurant outing, but Shanghai City pushed us close to it. Just about everything was terrible about it. Inspired by an online discussion about beef noodle soup, we headed to Shanghai City on a recommendation that they had some of the best beef noodle soup in town. The recommendation wasn't wrong. It was very good. In Mandarin, it's called or niu rou mein (ngau yok mein in Cantonese) and it's a classic Northern Chinese dish. So, we'll start with the best and work our way down.

Rich and flavorful broth with chunks of beef shank and noodles. The noodles are not made in-house, which is a shame. They were a bit chewy, but good. The beef was a bit tough, but not terribly so. Here's a shot with the noodles:

When we were seated, they brought us spicy pickled cabbage to munch on. I love pickled cabbage in all forms. They were a bit heavy-handed with the chili, but it was decent.

We ordered potstickers, which were really bland and loosely wrapped. D., a potsticker connoisseur, was annoyed. Apparently, their xiao long bao (soup dumplings) are really good and we made a tactical error by not ordering those.

The last, and worst, dish we ordered were the Shanghai-style pork spareribs. Most likely the predecessor to sweet-and-sour pork, this dish should celebrate Shanghai cuisine's flair for sweeter sauces without screaming Panda Express. Chang's Garden in LA has a sticky sauce that's slightly sweet and there isn't a lot of excess. The pork is lightly fried and very tender.

Shanghai City's version, however, was disgusting. It was coated in a gelatinous brown glop that could have been pure corn syrup. The whole dish was almost one solid mass because of the sauce. The pork was cartilaginous and fatty. It was inedible.

Service was very nice when we walked in and became progressively worse throughout the night. The problem: three large tables of college kids celebrating a birthday. They were spreading out and very loud, blocking all aisles leading to our table. The servers' response was to simply ignore us as long as possible.

That noodle soup and potentially good xiao long bao are the only things that would bring me back. Oy.

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