Was invited to go to dinner with a friend's parents at Shanghai Gourmet this weekend. I apologize ahead of time for not taking notes... didn't want to offend my friend's parents.
Well, they're from LA and are very finicky eaters. When I got to my friend's house, they offered me a beer and taiwanese style duck wings, duck tongue and duck liver... i passed on the tongue and liver. i guess i'm too americanized or just plain squeemish. the duck wings were excellent -- i've never tasted this in the bay area... yet.
ok Shanghai Gourmet in Richmond R99:
We ordered the set banquet at $168.00 and I *think* we might have ordered some items a la carte.
6 Kinds Cold Plate: baked duck, vege goose, pickles in vinegar, the tofu/xue cai/sesame oil thing, seaweed and sea cucumbers -- the duck was a little dry but otherwise flavorful. the pickles were a little grainy with sugar (way too sweet), the seaweed wasn't too fresh (btw, anyone in town serves seaweed wide like fettucine?), the tofu/xue cai/seamse oil thing was pretty good and satiated my need for a cold app. overall, it was not great.
they didn't have the fish so we subbed the salt&pepper crab: the crab was crusted with whispy s&p batter - a perfect balance. too bad the crab meat was tough and overcooked. still enjoyable but not great.
red-braised sea cucumbers: sweet and caramelly, very rich and light at the same time but lacked depth of flavor though the cucumbers were very resilient to the bite and melted in the mouth.
a fish filetted in another red sauce. fish was tough but the sauce was nice with hint of ginger and scallions. for fresh seafood, this and the crab were definitely sub-par.
shanghai bokchoi and shitaki mushrooms with "bamboo fiber/zhu sun." oh my god, someone dropped the salt bomb on this one! i love zhu sun and was disheartened that it was nearly inedible.
chicken and tofu strings. ah this was great. a light yet rich chicken broth with strips of white meat, smoky virginia ham and tofu strings. a good finisher for a mediocre meal.
we also ordered, shanghai style new year cakes (nian gao)... the cakes were definitely not fresh and it was the palest version of shanghainese nian gao i've ever had. usually, you'd get some napa, shitakes and pork strips in a darkish sauce. the stuff we got was pure white. also, i like my nian gao with char markes. this stuff looked like it was boiled. none-the-less, the salt made up for a lack of depth in flavor. passable but not great. after having this at Shanghai Dumplings (clearly, fresh and hand-cut cakes), no one can compare.
we got some jiu rong tang yuan (sesame dumplings in sweet soup) as dessert. the soup was slightly tart, plenty sweet with a whiff of booziness. but since these were probably store bought, not much to mention here.
overall, it wasn't a very good meal. mostly too sweet or too salty and nearly everything that needed some depth of flavor lacked it. the only balance dish was the chicken/tofu which was a clear, light dish. i've had way better experience at the Walnut Creek location. you'd think that the set menu would be their "na shou" speciality but obviously not. from past experience, i knew not to order the dumplings or xlb steamed or pan-fried so... it doesn't look like i'll go back anytime soon.
$7 wine corkage fee.
to end on a positive note: at least they didn't use msg!