There’s something about my dad that makes me hungry for Shanghainese cuisine whenever he’s in town. So, today with Pop free for lunch, I requested that we go back to a hole in the wall that my wife found a couple of years ago: Shanghai Flavor Shop.
We ordered the House specialty Pan Fried Pork Bun which, remarkably, was ordered by each of the six other tables within view of ours. I say, “remarkably”, because it was a tremendous disappointment. The skin was too thin to be considered authentic; indeed, far too thin to arrive at our table without holes. The most egregious misstep was the dumplings were fried and served upside down. No kidding. The reason for this was because structurally the thickest part of the dumpling is the top, where the wrap converges to a twisted knot. So, with the most mechanically robust part of the dumpling facing downwards, the juice would be contained. Remember that the skin is thin; a right-side-up dumpling would have juice leaking through the bottom. To their credit, though, the restaurant did manage to serve the dumplings hot and juicy.
The Crystal Shrimp came hot with peas, but being a pinkish shade of brown—and not white—the dish clearly wasn’t authentic. The Sliced Fish in Wine Sauce was hot and tender, but really should have been a tad sour, which it wasn’t. Almost as unforgiveable as the upside down dumplings was the Baby Bok Choy with Mushrooms. The vegetables were cooked to perfection—the bok choy was hot and crisp. However, the dish came drowning in oyster sauce. How bad was it? My dad and I needed to gingerly pick up each mushroom or piece of bok choy and rinse the oyster sauce off what remained of the Sliced Fish in Wine Sauce. (Yes, we used the gravy of another dish to flush out the oyster sauce.) The wonton soup was acceptable and featured qi cai, a vegetable particular to the region around Shanghai having a consistency similar to green onion.
We finished the meal with, literally translated, “red bean fluffy biscuit” and “pork fluffy biscuit”. Both featured a flaky pastry that’s perhaps more commonly seen with a turnip filling. With the two bombs (the pork buns and the bok choy) behind us, these came as a relief. The red bean filling was soft, hot and delicious. The pork held its own and didn’t crumble.
I won’t be returning for a long time. Even though I’m the world’s least picky eater (and I’ll take on all comers who challenge this claim), I still have a sense of pride. How can I patronize a restaurant that has the nerve to stick its customers with dumplings fried and served upside down because they can’t get the skin right?