Since my parents are town, I took them to two Shanghai restaurants this past week.
1. 369 in San Jose (near Brokaw) My first visit to this place wasn't impressive, especially considering the piece of metal from the pan scrub wool found in one of the dishes. This time also it didn't impress. The XLB was a big disappointment. The skin was tough, and the filling hard. This is probably the worst one compared to the Shanghai Ding Sheng, Jui-Fong Yuan, and China First. (all in Milpitas) 369 probably did ok in the old days as one of the few places that served Shanghai food, before the current wave of Shanghai specialty restaurants have opened, but now is quickly fading into the past.
2. China First. This place is very good. It's better than both Jui-Fong Yuan and Ding Sheng in all the dishes that we've tried so far. The XLB had plenty of soup and very good skin. However, the filling's pork is a little too coarsly grounded. Still it ranks as one of the best that I've tried in south bay.
The Ching1 Tsao3 Shia1 Ren2 (clear stir-fried shrimp) was excellent. Very fresh shrimp stir fried with minimal ingredients yet seasoned perfectly. It's so fresh the texture literally "snaps" as you bite into it.
The Zui4 Ji1 (drunken chicken) was marinated very well and the meat tender yet firm.
The Xuen Yu (smoked fish) was good but I didn't like it as much since there was fish bone to pick.
The Nien1 Gao1 also was excellent. Not overly soy sauced like most I've tried in other places, yet still more flavor-infused than most other places. Though a simple dish, it is very difficult to master because the Nien Gao itself has no flavor and doesn't soak up any flavor easily. This is the best version I've had in the bay area.
Yu2 Shiang1 Yao1 Hua1 (Yu Shan pork kidney) was good but seems over sauced and not enough Yao Hua. However, Yao Hua was very well prepared and did not have any bad smell.
We will go back and try the Ti2 Pang2 (Pork Shank) some other time. We're also planning to try Jui-Fong Yuan again and get a good head to head comparison.