On a trek to the Mysterious East Bay to replenish my Longjing tea supply at Teance (no dice, the 2005 stock is all gone, the 2006 a month away) I spotted a place called "Clay Pot Seafood House" on dreary San Pablo. It was unremarkable looking, but a big banner sign promising "Shanghainese Cuisine" caught my eye. It was time for a light lunch, so I popped in to try some benchmarks items, xiaolong bao (try and stop me!), "small won ton" soup and congyou bing (scallion pakcakes).
The won ton soup arrived first and was okay, though the broth, while sharp and clear as should be, was rather sweeter and less salty than I am accustomed to. The congyou bing were disappointing; although nicely browned in appearance, they were thin, oily and chewy, and had very little scallion in them. The xiaolong bao were house made (or so they assured me). I'd give them a "B" or maybe a "B-". Both the filling and the dough were a little too chewy, but the amount of "soup" in them was appropriate and flavorful. There was something peculiar about the dipping vinegar, though, as if it were a substandard black rice vinegar or had been watered down (it tasted "vinegary," if that makes any sense ;-)
The dinner menu at Clay Pot Seafood House is full of Shanghai classic dinner entrees (and cold apps) and is probably worth a try if you are in the neighborhood. Some of the dishes on the menu are listed as Taiwanese specialties, though the chef and assistant chef are both Shanghainese-speaking, while the servers (mother and daughter?) spoke a very crisp, almost Beijing-accented Mandarin. The tables were set with silverware as a default, and when I asked for chopsticks using the same colloquial Shanghainese pronunciation I would with my wife, the young server girl corrected my request to proper Mandarin, drawing a guffaw from the assistant chef who was having his break at the time.
Has anyone tried this place and found anything good on the Shanghainese side?
Clay Pot Seafood House
809 San Pablo Avenue, Albany