After our quick meal at Happiness Restaurant, the Missus calculated that we could still make it to San Gabriel and check out Shanghai No.1 Seafood Village before it got too crowded. Shanghai No.1 had been creating some buzz around the SGV, though I think it's more for the amount spent on decor (I've heard over a million) then the food. The restaurant is located in the same strip mall as Beijing Restaurant and where Green Village was before it shut down. The restaurant really doesn't look like much from the outside.
But the interior is something to behold, looking like an old Shanghai nightclub/restaurant.
The menu really looked like those we saw in China, an over-sized volume of glossy photos, with each dish described in detail. I had read several accounts saying that the dim sum was expensive, but of course those folks hadn't eaten dim sum in San Diego recently. Here the small is $1.98, medium $2.98, large $3.98, and "specials" $4.98.
Since we had already eaten, our ordering habits had to follow a strategy we have when eating multiple meals in the SGV.....folks always look at me strangely when I tell them we actually have a strategy for eating, like I'm crazy or something. Only folks like my good friends and fellow bloggers like Kirbie and "CC" understand that I'm not totally insane.....partially perhaps, but not around the bend.
We started with the Lily and Corn Porridge ($4.98):
I took one sip of this and went...whoa....the base of the porridge was dried scallop, which just brought it up several notches. Also, notice the smoothness...it basically looks like milled broken rice! Most places serve you rice porridge that looks like rice and water....heck, that's what mine looks like even though there's abalone in it! This was the best I've had in a while, not too starchy or gummy, smooth, nice savory flavor that enhanced, but didn't overwhelm the added ingredients....quite nice.
Next up was the Abalone sticky rice in Lotus Leaf ($3.98):
Loved the way this was executed, the rice wasn't over-cooked and mushy. The rice had absorbed the maximum amount of smoky flavor from the lotus leaf. There was a slice of abalone, but it was pretty rubbery and instead of a whole egg yolk, there was a smear of yellow. Overall, this was good, but a bit on the rich side.
Next up was the Shanghai Vegetable Bun ($1.98). Now I enjoy the version at Chin's, but this was in another league.
These weren't very big, but the flavors were. The version at Chin's tends to be too bready and sweet. This one had a mild yeastiness and the filling had that balanced salty-bitter-sweet flavor I enjoy.
So far so good.....but from here our meal kinda took a turn in the wrong direction. If you've read our little blog long enough, you know that we just couldn't have a Hu Cai (滬菜) meal without trying the Xun Yu. Here's it's called Old Shanghai Smoked Fish and this one is priced fairly high at $12.99. Supposedly this is not made in the traditional way, but cooked to order, which, if you've ever made this - marinated-deep fried-marinated, seems a bit odd. The dish, which was on the small side was presented well.
The Missus took a bite and told me I wouldn't be able to eat it. But of course I had to try.....man, this was some of the muddiest fish I've had in a while. It tasted like I stuck a handful of dirt in my mouth. The textures were interesting, the exterior light and crisp, the interior almost like silken tofu, which I found odd considering this is fish. I just couldn't bring myself to eat another bite.
The Xiao Long Bao was also terrible ($4.98) - if anything was over-priced on the dim sum menu it was this.
First the folds were hard and gummy, not made well. The flavor of the soup was on the mild side and the filling was hard....much too hard for Xiao Long Bao. This would probably do in San Diego, but not in a Shanghai style restaurant in the SGV.
The one item I really wanted to try were the Shenjian Bao ($2.98):
Not to incur the wrath of my friend YZ from Shanghai, who will automatically tell me how wrong it is for SJB to have folds on the top. This was fluffy, the dough on the sweet side, but had a nice amount of salty-sweet "soup".....much too sweet for the Missus, but I liked it. The meat wasn't anything special and this was fairly good overall....it looked better than it was.
The service really didn't live up to the standard of the design and decor.....this was basically lipstick on a pig. When we asked for boxes they were basically thrown at us...the whole objective seemed to be around turning over tables....I guess someone has to pay for the furniture, right?
I thought the execution of the dishes were better than the actual flavors, the SJB is a good case in point. The Missus and I had an interesting conversation about the food on the drive back home. The Missus came to the conclusion that I'm pretty unbiased when it comes to Chinese regional cuisine....I wasn't raised on the stuff, but became immersed during our years in the SGV, so I was basically a blank slate. She was raised on a combination of Lu Cai - Shandong cuisine, of the Jiaodong style and spicy Hunan/Sichuan cuisine. So the flavors of "South of the Yangtze" really don't appeal to Her.....interesting theory.
As for the dim sum at Shanghai No.1...well let's just say it won't make me forget about Sea Harbour or Elite.
Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Restaurant
250 West Valley Blvd Suite M
San Gabriel, CA 91776