Sometimes, I wonder, how many people (beside Zim) read my posts. For months I've been asking about regional Italian with little success (here's one - Cocco Pazzo, for Tuscan). My other running queary concerns regional Chinese, specifically places that serve Peking style or Northern Chinese and places that serve Shanghai style Chinese.
Well in the course of about a month, I have found both of my missing Chinese (styles). Ed's Pot Sticker House, which held us over on the chowathon until the rib tips is authentically northern, and for Shanghai, there's Moon Palace.
Granted, a couple of people had mentioned Moon Palace in conjunction with soup dumplings, but no one hinted at the full range of Shanghai goodies beyond. Moon Palace apppears to exist in two dimmensions, a standard szchuan/mandrian Americanized version and a secret Shanghai version. Secret in the sense that one must read Chinese.
Actually, there are tantalizing hints of the Shanghainess of Moon Palce on the English menu, lots of dumplings and breads and for the detectives like me, a few dishes labeled Shanghai style (as in fish fillet Shanghai style). Yet, they told us that the Chinese menu did not exactly match the English menu, many missing specialities. It took a few questions from Zim to coax out the full range.
They were perfectly happy to find us food on the Shanghai menu. What they just did, was count the number of heads at our table: eight, and suggest the family style dinner for so many heads. Given that four of our eight were kids and one of our adults was a vegetarian, it seemed like a lot of food, but we went fourth.
Our very friendly waiter patiently, explicitedly and temptantingly described our meal. Assorted cold appetizers--"very Shanghai", he said. Then the famous crab meat dumnplings a/k/a soup dumplings, followed by a soup and then the entrees:sea cucumber, pork stew, shrimps, fish tail, be careful of the bones, he warned; braised tofu, and an eel dish, also very Shanghai he told us. When we explained our vegetarian issue, he said we could simply replace any entree. Who needed sea cucumber anyway when you can get a nice pea shoots in garlic. We also ordered some additional dumplings to pacify those at the table that were not Zim and myself.
Well, I've taken up a lot of space so far, I'll skip the details of each dish. I'll say my least favorite dish was the fish tail. Yes it was bony, but mostly the fish had a not particuliarly fresh taste. My big favorites included the cold appetizers, especially the extremely bony smoked fish and the gluten that tasted almost Italian. I do not know how the soup dumplings compared to Joe's in New York, but boy were they good (and better than Ed's). The little bowl of slivered ginger, doctored the way Zim likes, gilded the lily on the buns. Finally, the pork stew. At one point, one of the waitresses came over and told us that the shrimps in the mild clear sauce were for the kids, we should horde the pork stew to ourselves.
Now, Zim's son, bless his little tummy, ate some of the tummy (pig), but my kids would not touch the stuff, even after I reminded them that it was bacon. We in America are mostly trained to eat our bacon sliced this way, instead of that way, in chunks with the rind and big slabs of unctous pork fat. Our loss. Hidden also in this rich and sweet stew were ample bits of chitterlings, my new favorite offal.
Three final points. First, the eel dish looked surprisingly like the brains masala at Shan up to and including the ginger slices and sprigs of cilantro. Tasted almost the same too! Second, we did not avoid sea cucumbers entirely as they were sprinked throughout the braised tofu. Ms. VI, Zim and I all agreed that for sea cucumbers, they were not half bad. Last, do not eat Shanghai expecting "typical" Chinese flavors. The comparision to Pakistani is not that off, believe me. Thick gravies on some stuff, plenty of oil, greasy breadstuffs. Still, it is all extremely tasty, served in a warm setting, where they have no problem taking care of you.
216 W Cermak Rd
Chicago, IL 60616-1914
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