Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shanghai Restaurant--Cupertino, CA

Tenancy at 10877 North Wolfe Road in Cupertino has changed hands several times over the past few years. And, although many an owner, chef and menu have come and gone at this location, one commonality has been handed down from one occupant to the next, as if it were a torch: Shanghainese cuisine. One may also view 10877 North Wolfe as that address where one management after another has tried to match the skill and variety of that found at the best restaurant of all at this location: Hu Chiang Dumplings. By that standard, Shanghai Restaurant (its Chinese name, which is less generic, is the same as that of a famous restaurant in Shanghai), where we ate Sunday, falls short. But, we had a good time nevertheless.

We started with what's perhaps the most well-known Shanghainese dish of all: xiao lung bao. Unfortunately, it was also the low point of our lunch. The dumplings were hot and bulging with soup. However, they were salty and had us in need of water long after we left. Also, the crab in the crab xiao lung bao was very difficult to detect. The xiao lung bao without crab were actually slightly sweet. The "Cured Pork Zhen Jiang Style" arrived next after the xiao lung bao. It had the look and texture of spam, which was fine, but not the pickled flavor we were expecting. Things got better from here, however.

The strong flavor of our other appetizer plate, the smoked chicken, made it the best dish of the lunch and left no doubt about its preparation. The same could not be said at all, for example, of the "smoked" (but actually insipid) turkey leg we picked up at Sprouts a week ago. The meat, all of it dark, was delightfully easy to chomp through.

As for the rest of lunch? Our ji cai with yellow fish soup, another highlight, was served hot and loaded with ji cai--a vegetable often found in wontons--in every spoonful. The crystal shrimp was good, but not authentic. The squash with bamboo fungus was a surprisingly good combination, with the fungus moving through the mouth like a smooth, delicate woven fabric. Dessert was a fried red bean pancake, which was crisp, greasy and heavy with paste. Dessert wasn't our last dish, however, with the chive pancakes stumbling to our table nearly a full hour after we ordered it. The pancake (below) was fresh, though, and filled with chives, chopped rice noodles and egg. It was shiny with oil, but my dad, who was born and raised in Shanghai, mentioned the real stuff should be even greasier.

The staff all spoke Shanghainese which gave the restaurant a degree of credibility. Still, it was easy to tell that many of the dishes weren't authentic We'll probably go again, though. I never tire of Shanghainese food, even when it's a home-brewed variant. Besides, I've yet to meet a Shanghainese braised pork I didn't like.

Shanghainese Restaurant
10877 N Wolfe Rd
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 873-4813