My sister-in-law hipped me to this place, which seems to be flying under Chowhound's radar (and mine). It's Shanghai Family Restaurant, with the Chinese name of "Shanghai Xintiandi" (go figure). She and her husband had picked up some food to go there the other day and especially liked the twice-cooked pork leg.
I'm planning to take the Gang of Four there for a full-blown dinner as soon as my wife's flu abates, but in the meantime I found myself with the mid-day to myself today and decided to undertake a reconnaissance (pardon the war metaphors, I'm suffering from CNN overload).
I ordered three favorite lunchtime indulgences, xian doujiang (aka Savory Soybean Milk), congyou bing (green onion pancake) and, of course, xiaolong bao. The doujiang was a reasonable but somewhat timid rendition, which might have been improved with a dab of chili paste, but the tables were not furnished with any condiments. I think it was $1.50 (it's not listed on the takeout menu I brouught home). The congyou bing was excellent, thick enough to be nicely browned but tender on the inside and loaded with green onion, and avoided the sins of being too chewy and/or greasy. If there is any fault to be found, it would be with the stinginess of the portions, $2.50 for a single 4-5" diameter round.
The xiaolong bao ($3.95 for six) were as good as I've had in San Francisco in a long time and may be the best in town at this point in time. They had the wrappers just about right, and each bao pulled off the dramatic delivery of intense, savory broth which I call the "Shanghai Surprise". The one "off" thing seemed to be that the fillings were overly chewy.
The restaurant is small, with 12-20 tables (depending on how many four-tops are pushed together) and a small semi-private alcove for a large family or small party. The decor is unusually attractive and orderly for a hole-in-the wall sized place, and they even found room for a small fish tank at the back. The menu is not overly ambitious in scope, but is resolutely Shanghainese.
I'm really looking forward to a larger-scale tryout of the place.
Shanghai Family Restaurant
2110 Clement St. (at 22nd), SF