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Restaurants & Bars 5

Shanghai Gate - Lion's Head, off-menu specials

ju | Mar 13, 200501:50 AM

Four adults and two toddlers for dinner tonight. We had:

Lion's head casserole (P2) - baseball-sized meatballs of well-seasoned ground pork, with crunchy bits of water chestnut mixed in. Served individually in Chinese soup bowls, they sat in a star-anise-flavored soy-sauce gravy with some baby bok choy. Tender and moist, these meatballs reminded me of the ones my mum used to make. Thumbs up. (haven't eaten King Fung's version, so cannot make comparison).

Ma3 Lan2 cai4 - from the specials menu, this cold appetizer comprised 2 vegetables, blanched and finely chopped, seasoned with salt and a touch of sesame oil. The waitperson rattled off the vegetable names in Mandarin but it was lost on me. I think one was a mustard green (dark green color), the other ?dried lily buds (kim chiam in Hokkien). A little bland, but a nice foil to the other dishes.

Kaofu (A4) - chunks of cold sweet and salty soy-sauce-braised spongy tofu with subtle star-anise flavour, tossed with wood ear fungus and peanuts. Tofu had a pleasing firmness but wasn't too chewy, and was sweet enough for me. Very appetizing.

WestLake Chicken (A1) - tender, slightly pink steamed boneless thighs in a salty chilled wine broth. Very more-ish (to quote Jamie Oliver). However, would've liked less broth and more aspic - this version had chicken pieces swimming in a large bowl of broth with no jelly.

Ginger Scallion Tilapia (SD4) - this was a substitute for the fish tail in brown sauce dish which they'd run out of. A whole fish braised with scallions in a thickish brown sauce; ginger was so subtle as to be non-evident. Very fresh fish, albeit a little 'muddy' tasting (like catfish). Thumbs up nevertheless.

Pork in tofu wrapper (P4) - Menu describes this as "slowly stewed and served with bean sprouts". What came was actually a soup, comprising 5 spring rolls made from bean curd skin rolled around some minced pork, and large bean sprouts, in a consomme. The consomme was very tasty, but there was too little pork stuffing in the rolls.

Yu Xiang Pork (P6) - this is Szechuan, not Shanghainese. I do not like this dish in general, but it was requested by one of my dining companions. Served with steamed buns (I liked these!), it was rather oily, but not overwhelmed by the seasonings as it tends to be at many other places. I liked that they used a fatty cut of pork (pork fat - it's a good thing).

Stir-fried dou miao (peapod shoots) - expertly stir-fried so that it was bright green, crunchy, and not oily.

All in all, a very satisfying and satisfactory meal.

One caveat: I'd called a day before to make a reservation. This afternoon, I called again to pre-order a couple of dishes and re-confirm my reservation. When I got there, they said they didn't take reservations. When I asked why they didn't tell me that when I called (twice) but instead said "Ok, how many people, your name?", they summoned the older lady manager (?owner) from the kitchen. She said, "We don't take reservations after 5.30pm". My reservation was for 5.30pm. When I pointed that out, she said they didn't take reservations any time or day of the week. I'm confused. Has anyone else encountered this?
Also, when we first walked in, the lady manning the counter was grouchy and a little snippy, quite unlike the reception I got last time I was there. The older lady manager said they'd been going non-stop since they opened their doors that morning. But that's no excuse. Fortunately, the other waitstaff were polite, efficient and helpful, despite being run off their feet.

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