I am a neophyte when it comes to Shanghai cuisine, but thanks to some very knowledgeable hounds my first experience a few months ago was amazing. Dinner last night at China 46 was not amazing, but was very good.
I was with three less adventurous eaters. I had to convince one not to order from the standard stuff on the back of the menu called Rich Tradition In America (I LOVE places with a sense of humor) so we did not try duck tongue in spicy sauce or any of the turtle dishes, for example. I have to make some new friends.
What we did have:
scallion pancake very thin and crispy. Slightly greasy, but the grease tasted very fresh.
steamed vegetable dumpling delicious. The wrappers had resistance but were not dense or chewy. The filling was fresh tasting and nicely textured.
steamed juicy pork buns mini soup dumplings. The broth was so thick and rich it was almost gelatinous, the minced pork filling was seasoned to perfection: enough to stand up to the broth without being overpowering.
black mushroom with Shanghai bok choy a large serving of very flavorful, slightly chewy fungus offset with baby bok choy steamed so perfectly that retained their bright color but were almost melt-in-your-mouth soft, all in a rich red/brown sauce.
A dish the menu calls Shanghai Treasure contains sheet tofu cut into ribbons and sauteed with bright green fresh soy beans and preserved vegetables. This was our least favorite dish on first pass, but we all went back for more and it seemed to grow on us. More subtle than everything else we tried, this dish works as a mix of textures as much as of flavors.
Northern Chinese style roast chicken, a special, is fantastic. The chicken is roasted whole (you can order a whole or half bird) so that the skin is crispy and everything has a slightly smoky, subtly tumeric flavor. The meat is then hacked from the bone and served in a slightly vinegar sauce with a hint of rice wine. Wow.
The only other time Ive had lions head the large meatballs were served in soup. Here (another special) they are stacked on a plate and coated in another great sauce, this one was also reddish/brown but was not the same sauce as served with the mushrooms (perhaps the same base, but something had been added here). The meatballs were a delicate but very flavorful mix of ground pork and small crunchy bits of what seemed like mung bean sprout.
We also had a noodle dish, but for the life of me I dont remember what it was but it seemed very good at the time. In any event, I cant wait to get back and explore more of the large menu.
One more note: at 9:30 on a rainy Saturday night we were the only customers. This place, like so many others, is suffering because of fear of SARS.
88 Route 46 W (actually in the middle of an interchange of Rt. 46 and routes 95S and 80W)
Ridgefield, NJ 07657