Restaurants & Bars

Shanghai Restaurant, Oakland -- mini report

Ruth Lafler | Oct 22, 200201:44 AM     6

With all this talk about Shanghainese food on the board recently, when on a cruise through Oakland Chinatown tonight, tired and hungry, I couldn't resist checking out this newish hole in the wall, simply called Shanghai Restaurant (at least in English). Forgive me if it's been reported before, but I don't think so, since they've only been open three months.

Except for the name, all signage is in Chinese, but fortunately the menu is translated into English; to my non-expert eyes it appears to be pure Shanghainese food.

There are actually two menus (in addition to all the hand-written stuff on the walls): a regular menu and a half-sheet insert with Shanghai "dim sum" and Shanghai noodle dishes. The dim sum appears to be served all day, although they may not have everything on the list.

Melanie will be proud to know I managed to point to the "steamed dumplings" item and enquire "xiao long bao"? (I know about ten words of Chinese now, but five of them are "bao" [vbg]) I think the waitress must have been impressed, because for quite a while after that, I heard the staff murmuring "xiao long bao" among themselves.

They were good: on the small side, with wrappers that were sturdy enough that none of them leaked, but not overly tough or chewy. The filling was good but not quite up to the best of the many versions I've had lately. They were served with black vinegar.

On the waitress's recommendation I also ordered the shepherd's purse wontons in soup: silky toothsome wontons stuffed with some kind of chopped green with bits of ground pork (I think). The wontons were delicious; the broth was overly delicate at first sip, but as it sat it became infused with the flavors of cilantro, seaweed (or fungus?) and tiny whole dried shrimp.

Finally, after I ordered I wandered to the back, where they have an array of cold dishes in what would normally be a steam table. I picked out my favorite gluten dish (kaofu) which I had failed to identify on the cold plates section of the menu (according to the waitress it's the dish listed as "honey fried tofu puff" on the menu -- is that the usual translation?). I also spotted the waitress walking by with the braised ham hock dish, which she identified as braised pork joint on the menu (again she seemed pleasantly surprised that I was familiar with the dish and liked it). Finally, although I didn't see it, I smelled what must have been "fired [sic] stinking tofu" (the restaurant was suddenly infused with what smelled like very bad BO).

Prices are cheap (the most expensive dishes on the menu are $11.95 for drunken crab and steam pigeon with sweet rice). Lunch specials (soup, entree with rice, again Shanghainese dishes, not Chinese-American) run $3.99-4.95, plus there's a bunch of stuff in Chinese on the white board in the back from $3-5. Staff is friendly and helpful (the two women in the front of the house were of appropriate ages to be mother and daughter -- Mom speaks some English, the daughter quite a bit more). Although the place is small and bare bones, it's clean and pleasant. When I get back from Spokane, I'll head back and sample some more of the menu.

Shanghai Restaurant
930 Webster St.
510 465 6878
Mon-Fri 11:00 am -10:00 pm
Sat-Sun 9:00 am-10:00 pm

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