I noticed this place with the Open sign still lit while driving by after 11pm last night on my way to crash at my bros place in Palo Alto. Hmm, just might be worth checking out just to have another rare late night place in Silly Valley.
This morning I took my brother there for an early lunch when it opened at 11am. Small with less than 10 tables, the pastel shades of the interior and the all-Chinese signage on the walls felt very authentic to me. The English language menu has no Shanghai specialties at all and is centered on the typical take-out sort of standards. This restaurant has been open for 3 years.
A fluorescent green menu printed on both sides features Shanghai style small plates and many more posted on the walls. Not being literate in Chinese, I picked out the standard dishes that I do know the characters for, which gave us a good sampling of what the kitchen can do. Our waitress understood a good amount of English and she translated my choices into English for me to make sure I was getting what I really wanted. General pricing levels seemed a bit high, but it turns out the serving size here is generous.
We had fried gluten puffs in rice wine (kao3 fu1), bai-yi with salted green vegetable and soy beans, Shanghai steamed pork dumplings (xiao3 long2 bao1), and rice cakes with green vegetable and pork shreds). The kao fu was the best Ive tasted locally. The pieces were sliced into neat cubes and the look reminded me of Tuscan panzarella. They gushed with sweet and dusky marinade as you bite into these soaked sponges and were so richly flavored I could only eat a few pieces. Some strips of bamboo shoots, slivers of carrot, soy beans and wood ears were part of the marinated mix which was served cold.
The bai-yi dish was served hot, right out of the wok, rather than room temp or cold as Ive had elsewhere. This was our favorite dish, and Im happy that it was a big serving so that I can polish off the rest for lunch tomorrow. This had a higher proportion of the bai-yi (tofu sheet strips) which was fine as its my favorite part.
The dumplings were merely decent. The top knot-twisted wrappers were too thick, but at least these were suitably tender. The soup inside was a little skimpy but very flavorful and the pork filling had the correct soft almost creamy texture. This was accompanied by black vinegar with some very fine shreds of fresh ginger.
The rice cakes had all the right stuff but missed the mark. The wok wasnt hot enough to add the smoky seared quality to make this dish. This was really too bad as the rice cakes were nice and chewy and the balance of veggie to meat was spot on.
With tax and 15% tip, these four dishes were $30. We had polished off the dumplings on site but had more than 2/3 of each of the others to take home. This was enough for 4 people.
I grabbed a Chinese menu to have a friend help translate, and Ill be back to try more things here.
Shang Hai Taste Delight
855 W. El Camino Real
(between Shoreline and Castro St.)
Tues-Sun: 11:00am 2:30pm; 4:30pm 1:00am