My sweetie and I stopped by the much-recommended Fantasy Eatery in San Gabriel tonight, which apparently was a bad move because it has closed. In its place is one "Shanghai Restaurant", which was packed to the gills so I figured we couldn't go far wrong by trying it.
In a stunning display of Chowmanship, I scanned the dishes on everybody else's tables while on the way to mine, then quickly located them on the menu. Everybody's got some of the fried pork dumplings, so we'll need some of those. And this "House Special Spicy Beef", which looks like nothing so much as meatballs buried in a mound of grated Parmesan cheese, seems very popular. The clay vats of soup look delicious, but that's way too much food for the two of us. And the crab noodles are a little spendy. Hmm.
The third time the waiter asked if we were ready to order (about five minutes after we sat down), I gave in and ordered the dumplings and the beef. Needing a third dish, I asked him for the restaurant's specialty. "Sweet and sour pork". Of course. Sigh. I should have seen that one coming. If I ever have the opportinity to serve you dinner, you're getting Kraft macaroni and cheese.
So we settled on the shrimp dish that I saw on a few other tables. Perhaps not the best choice, but I was rushed.
The shrimp were fresh and shrimpy, glazed in a mild clear sauce. As hard as I try to describe the flavor of the sauce, I can't, because there really was none. But they were shrimp and they weren't overcooked, so we ate them. The "snow" covering the beef turned out to be Panko bread crumbs with a flake of red pepper or a mashed black bean here and there. The dish was sort of interesting at first, but the novelty of trying to eat dry Panko with chopsticks soon wore off. The flavor was okay, kind of...beefy. My sweetie pointed out that hunting for the beef in the Panko reminded her of cleaning out the cat-box. Now you see why I like her.
Our third course of apathy arrived in the form of the fried dumplings. They were round chewy things, browned on the bottom, sesame seeds on top, pork in the middle. Um...they tasted like pork and dough and oil. They failed to distinguish themselves.
I won't mention the slow service, close to two hours from start to finish. Oops, I just did. What I meant to say was that this would be a perfect place to take old friends whom you had not seen in a long, long, long time.
I don't want to give the impression that the food at Shanghai Restaurant was bad, because it wasn't. And it was actually really exciting to look at. Perhaps my stunning display of Chowmanship was less than stunning, and I failed to order the correct dishes. (Perhaps I should have taken the waiter's advice and ordered the sweet and sour pork.) But as I sit and write this, I yearn to return to New Chong Quing that we visited last weekend; the only thing I yearn for from tonight is to get my forty dollars back.