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Shanghai Eats & XLB Update: 5. Shanghai Sichuan, Mountain View

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Shanghai Eats & XLB Update: 5. Shanghai Sichuan, Mountain View

Melanie Wong | Sep 24, 2005 07:20 PM

Shortly after reading about Shanghai Sichuan in Mountain View in the post below, my brother joined me for dinner there to sample from both the Shanghai and Sichuan side of the menu. It's nestled between Walgreens and Hobee's. On a Thursday night, there was only one other party in the place.

The dan dan noodles came out before our appetizer of xiao long bao (xlb), so we went ahead and started with them. The style here is brothy, no make that soupy, as the liquid rises above the surface of the noodles. The stock itself, at least the part you could taste under the peanut butter and pickley hot sauce, was a good soup base with meaty flavor and depth. It was sort of wasted in this application as the peanut butter and unbalanced hotness made it too spicy and unctuous to drink much of. The thin noodles started out firm but quickly turned soft and mushy in the hot broth. The ground pork became waterlogged. This did have some interesting flavors, but the spicing was simplistic. It's not Sichuan dan dan mian and I wouldn't order this again.

The xlb came out next. The first one I tried was a waste, as the fire in my mouth from the spicy noodle dish had numbed my ability to taste it. And, that was a shame because it was one of two in the set of six that had any soup in them. All the others leaked. They looked different from any we'd seen before, larger and nearly spherical. It's too bad my photo is so blurred, not showing the rough and random folds well. The wrappers were soft and brittle, breaking easily. Each sat on a round slice of carrot to protect it from the bottom of the steamer. The fatty pork filling had a nice loose texture but was dominated by ginger and had a sugary sweetness. They tasted good, just not like xiao long bao. We did like them and would order them again to see if the rupturing problem can be fixed.

We had also ordered water boiled fish slices, a Sichuan dish, and Shanghainese lions head meatballs in clay pot. The amount of fish was generous and the slices were delicate and moist, not overcooked at all. Yet, the fish didn't have the glossy texture that it should and the spicing was all wrong. I had asked if this dish was ma-la, and our waitress nodded emphatically. We didn't detect any Sichuan peppercorns at all or any of the complex seasonings that would usually go into this dish. I would not order any Sichuan dishes here again as the two standards were tried were failures.

The lions head meatballs, on the other hand, were quite nice. There's also a version in the typical rich gravy, but we opted for the one in clay pot with broth, cellophane noodles and Napa cabbage. The big meatballs had a light, almost fluffy texture. Like the xiao long bao, the pork was very gingery and slightly sugary sweet. I wouldn't mind having this dish again here and would be willing to try more of the Shanghai style dishes.

Our waitress, perhaps the wife of the cook, was helpful and very sweet. However, after the other customers left, she and the chef got into a loud argument. She went outside and started to drive away. He ran after her and got her to come back in. Then they stared at each other from opposite corners of the room. It also felt like they were looking at us and wishing we'd leave faster so that they could continue their fight. She did compose herself enough to box up our leftovers for us and told us that there was no charge this time for the rice. She said that the restaurant business was very hard and she hoped we'd tell our friends about this place. So, there you are.

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