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Restaurants & Bars

A quick take on Shanghai House

Gary Soup | Dec 15, 200601:27 AM     5

When my SIL invited me to attend her husband's swearing-in as a US Citizen today and asked me for suggestions for lunch afterward, it gave me an early opportunity to check out the newly opened Shanghai House restaurant on Balboa with a couple of representatives from my Shanghai contingent in tow.

There was no doubt about Shanghai House's truly Shanghainese identity, with the server, the other parties there at early lunchtime, and two-thirds of my own party speaking Shanghainese (and me with my usual Yangjingbang). The menu, too, was rock-ribbed Shanghainese cuisine in its offerings, even if some of the "rice" dishes turned out to be somewhat eccentric home-style renditions. Unfortunately, some of the Shanghai "dim sum" items are only offered on weekends (which isn't made clear in the menu).

We ordered xiaolong bao; one cold dish (salted duck); a couple of "rice" dishes, Shanghai classic "meicai kourou" (steamed pork belly with pickled vegetables) and a tofu and seafood clay pot; and one soup, also a Shanghai classic, fried tofu with bean thread noodles.

I was able to approach the xiaolong bao with freshly calibrated taste receptors, having returned from Shanghai just two days ago, and am happy to report that they were very good. Only an artlessness in the wrapping (they looked slightly misshapen) and a slight lack of flavor depth in the broth kept them from being the equal of Shanghai Dumpling King's and Oakland's Shanghai Xiao Chi's versions, but at $4.95 for 10 I'm willing to cut them a little slack. I made do with worse at several venues in Shanghai. They also made me vow to return on the weekend to try some of the other Shanghinese brunch items.

The other dishes were a mixed bag. The salty duck was tasty and lean, but had the appearance of being either too old or suffering from refrigerator burn, showing some discoloration and dryness. The pork belly/mei cai was marred by a too-sweet red sauce, but otherwise good. The tofu and seafood hot pot had fried tofu instead of the expected fresh tofu, and also suffered from a confusion of too many ingredients in it. It was almost as if all the ingredients one might toss into seafood hot-pot in the course of a leisurely hot pot dinner were crammed into a modest clay pot. This is not to say that there was anything leftover-ish about the contents; most of the ingredients appeared to be fresh and cooked just the right amount. If you are a seafood nut, this is the Chinese Cioppino for you.

The xifen/you doufu soup was the most peculiar of all. It came with an opaque brown broth, though neither I nor the two Shanghainese have ever seen this soup before with anything but a clear broth. It was savory enough, but a bit jarring visually.

An earlier discussion of Shanghai House is in this thread:

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/34107

Shanghai House
3641 Balboa Street
San Francisco, CA 94121

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