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New Shanghai report (S.D.) long

e.d. | Feb 11, 200208:51 AM

I was in town needing a place to go out to eat with two non-'hounds, and I decided to try the New Shanghai as KirkK's posts about the place have been very interesting and I figured I could have unusual food while my friends would find some non-challenging Chinese. It is definitely a place that I will go back to.
As we sat down the waitress brought menus and would have taken the Chinese ones away, but I told her I wanted them too (even though I read not one word of Chinese), but that earned us the kim-chee like spicey cabbage appetizer (which was good and even my friends liked and devoured). My friends opted for garlic chicken and Mongolian beef (did I mention that they are not adventurous eaters?) while I ordered smoked duck for the table and then enquired about any specials--in particular any eel dishes. The waitress's face lit up and she suggested the eels with yellow leeks. I said, sure!
First, let me say how exceptionally good was the service. Our waitress was solicitous, caring, and friendly, very unlike the waitstaff standard in many Asian restaurants. The smoked duck followed the other courses to the table and she must have come and apologized for its lateness at least twice. I also had the feeling that she would have answered any of my questions about the food.
Following a free pancake appetizer (OK, but nothing to write home about) the eel arrived. The plate was swarming with little eels cooked with strips of baby yellow leek. To my amazement, my friends started tucking into the eel like they hadn't eaten in weeks. They liked it! And it was good, very rich and tasty. Now I wonder if I should have seasoned it some with the black vinegar on the table or with chilies, as it seemed to cloy a bit after most of the serving was eaten.
The beef and chicken followed and they were adequate. The duck, which contrary to what KirkK wrote is NOT Tea smoked (the waitress twice emphasized that--which makes me wonder if they sometimes have tea-smoked duck, but didn't that night. But tea-smoked duck is not on the menu). I thought the duck was pretty good, but my friends (both terminally skinny) thought it was too fatty. And I will say I have had smoked duck with crispier skin elsewhere in the past.
Anyway, overall, I thought the meal was interesting, but not outstanding. The four dishes were way more than we could eat, so my friends had enough left over chicken and beef for the next's night's dinner. And it all cost about $32, so clearly the prices were very fair.
Then, as we were leaving, I noticed that they have printed paper take out menus, which I asked for. It was like finding the philosopher's stone. It contained most of the special Shanghai dishes in both Chinese and English. Though just knowing that "Stewed Four Flavors with Sponged Tofu" exists, still doesn't tell me much. The same goes for "Braised Water Oat" or "Ji vegetable with Bamboo." Nonetheless, the menu lists three eel dishes (obviously a house specialty) and enough other things I've never eaten or even heard of to make me want to return. I would suggest that 'hounds just ask for the to-go menu when they come in and use that to help order.
KirkK, is the smelly Tofu you like regular style or Shanghai style? Both are listed on the menu. There was also a shabu-shabu like dish, not listed on the to go menu, that a couple nearby was eating. I may post a query about what it was on the general topics menu later this week when I have time.
Anyway, I now know that the New Shanghai can prepare exotic Shanghai cuisine. I still need to find out for sure that they can prepare it superbly.

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