I had seen a few other Hounds mention Shanghai Social Club, so the wife and I decided to check it out on Saturday for an early dinner. Allston is a trek from our usual dining map of Camberville, but we were really intrigued by the menu.
The inside looks like I'd imagine places like Red Lantern and Empire look (I've never been to said places, just seen pictures). I can't imagine this was cheap to do... We got there at around 4:45, so it was an odd hour for sure. That said, we were the only people in the place for the majority of our meal, until an older guy came in and ordered a Bud Heavy.
Drinks were kind of what you'd expect on the cocktail front. Lots of sweet, tropical inspired stuff in some pretty cool tiki glasses. They were all $9. I got the one with Makers Mark (forget the name). It was fine. Draft beer list had the usual suspects, but the bottle list swayed slightly crafty with the likes of Stone, Founders and Green Flash.
For food we ordered the pork lo mein, beef and broccoli, lettuce cups and pork dumplings (well we actually ordered the beef & shitake steamed buns, but they brought the dumplings instead and we didn't say anything because we were hungry). The pork lo mein was really interesting. Had a lot of yellow peppers in it. Noodles were really fresh. Not greasy at all. The beef and broccoli came in a really nice sweet/salty sauce. Steak was tender and flavorful. I'm not really sure what was in the lettuce cups because they never told us, but they were good. Not the prettiest plate in the world, but tasty nonetheless. The dumplings were really nice. Had a nice sear on one side. Filling was flavorful, and the dumpling had the amount of chew I like. The biggest miss was the sauce that came with the dumplings. I'm guessing the goal was a nice balance of spicy, sweet & salty. Instead what they got was an offensively salty cup of sticky liquid.
It sounds like they've struggled to gain business. There was a "silent opening" (their words) that didn't help apparently. Also sounds like they've lost some early staff because it's so slow. I like the place a lot. If it were closer, we'd probably go quite a bit. I do wonder how a place at that price point will survive in Allston. The clientele in that neighborhood does not seem like the type to drop $8 on a bottle of beer, especially when you can go down the block to The Avenue and get $1 draft beers.