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report and questions (long)

Al@Fairfax | Apr 13, 200407:33 PM

I have been a lurker on SF C'hounds for several months and thought I would never have anything to say--love the dining tips and the back & forth though, for which I thank you all. Then I joined a group of 10 for a meal at Old Shanghai on Geary & 16th, and this raised a few questions which I am betting some of you can answer. We started with a cold platter of some familiar items like thin slices of well-cooked and spiced beef, 5-spice chicken, small shrimp, and then some I have always thought of as European: a shredded cabbage with creamy sauce, and cubes of pork in gelatin. Question One: are they really Chinese, and if so, what could have been in the very tasty, western-seeming cole slaw sauce?

We proceeded to a platter of really well-cooked shrimp, shelled with a typical cornstarch/sesame oil coating; then slivered eel in a rich brown sauce, braised sea cucumber (which I loved) in another version of brown sauce, crispy skin duck, dungeness crab with yet another brown sauce, whole fish with crispy skin and moist flesh in a sweeter version of brown sauce, and my favorite dish: a fabulous red-cooked pork knucle (elbow, my host called it) with a deliciously unctuous fat layer and very well done, strongly flavored meat--and this also was in a kind of brown sauce.

Question two: what is with this brown sauce? Is this an authentic Shanghaiese touch, a sign of unimaginative kitchen, or could my host simply have been hooked on the stuff when he ordered?

Final question: I have found only a couple of brief mentions of Old Shanhai in searching Chowhounds. How does it rate versus other Bay area Shanghai restaurants?

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