Thursday, April 14, 2011

Top Shanghai Cuisine

What do I know about Shanghai cuisine?  Jack and Squat.  But I figued I can at least tell you if I liked it or not.  And yes, Top Shanghai Cuisine has food I like.  The service on the other hand, is craptacular like so many other Chinese restaurants of this calibre (Po King for example....except Po King is so bad, it's actually entertaining to witness, lol!). 
The seating arrangements are uncomfortable.  Downright terrible actually and right on par with Po King.  The place is ridiculously overcrowded and sometimes I wonder if they meet fire codes.  We were seated right in front of the entrance, a tiny little table for two that was cramped right at the entrance, and any customers waiting got to watch us eat.
Bloody hell, my camera died half-way through dinner and I had to resort to my crappy cell phone to take some of these pictures.  The Hot and Sour soup was pretty good actually.  Some places either load up on chili oil and burn you a new cornhole, but this one worked for me.  Loads of stuff in it too, so it could have been a meal on it's own.
Crispy Rice with Shrimp (I should have gotten the one with sweet and sour sauce) is a page out of nostalgia for me.  This was my late grandfather's favourite dish and I remember when I was little, he used to always make it a point to order this.  He's been gone for more than ten years and I've never encoutered this dish again until now.  I ordered the wrong one however because the one he gets was the shrimp in sweet and sour sauce. 
 I got the plain one and it was just plain.  Also, the crispy rice wasn't freshly made.  I remember when I was little, the server would pour the sauce onto the crispy rice and it would actually crackle and pop.  When I poured the sauce on the crispy rice (yes, self serve at this place), it made no noise, it didn't steam or do anything interesting.  Oh well, times have changed.  The best part, the most flavourful part of this dish was believe it or not, the crispy rice.  The sauce, and all the rest of the ingredients were completely bland, absolultely flavourless and it was quite disappointing.  The bamboo shoots and the mushrooms were straight out of a can....not even fresh cut mushrooms?!  I'd imagine the sweet and sour sauce would be much better.   I'll try that the next time I go. 
This is what we came for - xiao long bao.  Now, I actually heard of this place through a Japanese friend of mine - Yungu (I know, doesn't sound Japanese, but we call her Yungu because she's the youngest of the bunch) who told me this was one of the best xiao long bao she's had in the lower mainland. 
These suckers were full of juice/soup/steamed pork fat/whateveryouwantocallit.  Now, I'm no expert on these, but there are only a few places I'd actually return to to order xiao long bao.  Add this place to the list, despite a couple of shortcomings in other areas.  It was nice that they were placed on a thin slice of radish as well, made taking them out of the steamer a helluva lot easier.  No spillages or broken skins.  The skins, by the way, were perfect...not too thick, not too thin, each one made in plain view of the dining area (the chefs work in a little window near the back of the restaurant....seems like a trend nowadays).

Green Onion pancake, I've had better..  Slightly raw in the middle, tasted baked (probably was baked) rather than pan-fried.  Enough seasoning though so it still tasted good.

The menu at this place is packed with a huge variety of food.  Loads of shiny pictures all over the place too so for those of you who can't read Chinese (like me, haha) or don't know what a dish is called, you can always point and ask.  The service is not there....whethere it's just a matter of understaffing, or the employees don particularly care because they know they're not getting more than 10% tips, I don't know which.  Maybe a combination of both.  Regardless of the substandard service though, the prices and the food would probably bring me back. 

Top Shanghai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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