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Restaurants & Bars 2

"Shanghai Shikumen Fine Cuisine," First Markham Place – Sensational, delectable and Authentic Shanghainese Fare! (LONG REVIEW)

Charles Yu | Jul 30, 2017 12:52 PM

My Shanghainese Mother-in-law, a person with an extremely discriminating and refined palate, is currently on a long overdue visit from overseas. After a few days of home-cook meals and time zone adjustment, the time has finally come for us to take her out to savor some of Toronto's famed Chinese food ( by North American standard ). Citing her preference for Shanghainese food and hearing rave review about the authenticity of the cooking, we decided to give this relatively new Markham restaurant a try.

Wow! What a pleasant surprise! Not only did the food not disappoint. IMHO, the dinner was one of the BEST and most impressive meal I have had in Toronto/North America this year! The delicious, authentic and classic offering by this 'new kid on the block' is easily hands-down the best Shanghainese food in the GTA, if not in Canada!

Of the over a dozen dishes we ordered. Apart from a couple of minor sub-par dishes, the remaining majority of dishes were executed with flare and near perfection by a team of chefs hired specially from China. Appealing appearances, flawlessly seasoned and skillfully prepared, the resulting products were gorgeous and complex tasting with multi-dimensional taste profile engulfing each and every dish.

Now for some yummy detail:

First off, a few words to send the couple of rare negatives out of the way. The 'Pan fried pork buns', though nicely cooked with a crispy underside was a bit oversized, resulting in a thicker than normal dough. Seasoning of the pork filling was void of wine aroma and broth inside the bun was lacking. The Bamboo En Casserole Soup ( Yin Doak Seen ) lacked savory umami complexity. The short-cut result of using normal pork rather than salt preserved ones as the broth foundation?

Next, the good and the delish!
From the astoundingly delicious and sophisticated sauces used for the Shaoxing Cold Free Range Chicken and the Glass Noodles tossed with chili soya marinade to the classic and authentic tasting Shanghai style five spices smoked fried fish and ultra-velvety silken Tofu with crab meat. The array of non-stop tasty dishes never seizes to delight and impress.

However, special accolades have to be given to a few really stand-out dishes.

The first one that comes to mind was the fabulous 'Stirred fry Shanghainese style shredded Eel in sizzling oil'. Wow! What a dish! Soooo good! The addition of strips of finely cut bamboo shoots was a nice touch to augment the texture and taste of the chewy and fresh tasting Eel. Addition of minced garlic and white pepper was spot-on. This dish can easily rub shoulders with some of Hong Kong or Shanghai’s better renditions!

The 'Stirred fry Shanghainese style crystal prawns' was another unanimous success. Though using a different varietal of prawns that was different from the fresh water river shrimp normally used in Shanghai. This Toronto clone managed to recreate the equally pleasant crunchy texture and sweet umami taste profile. A testament of the Kitchen’s skill.

The 'Stirred fry Dungeness Crab in sweet bean paste and chewy rice cake palette' was another resounding winner. Seasoning and taste was spot on. The dish filled with an appealing and pronounced wok hay smoky aroma.

Last of all, the 'House special Red Braised Pork with Marinated eggs'. What can one say about cubes of chopstick tender, melt in the mouth pork belly braised in a yummy dark brown sauce?! I will let the photo do the talking!

With so many authentic and classic dishes listed on the extensive menu yet to be savored. This is for sure a restaurant that I will be returning for multiple visits!

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