Friday, June 1, 2012

Shanghai Garden--Cupertino, CA

With a Shanghainese restaurant near our house receiving a lot of praise on the internet, we had to give it a try when my dad, who's from Shanghai, visited a few weeks ago.
The highlight of the entire meal featured gluten ("Special Fish Gluten with Seafood" on the menu). Picture a soft saggy shell with some fish inside. My dad said the material making up the shell, translated from Chinese, is "flour tendon". The flour is beaten to bring out the protein and the flour becomes glutinous, giving the dumpling a distinctive texture.We had ours with seafood like shrimp, fish balls and squid. The dumplings were soft and slightly chewy. I would best describe it as having a feel similar to that of the egg sheet of an omelet, only a little smoother.
The ribs ("Shanghai Style Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs") were great, too. The sauce at first seemed too strong, but after a while it grew on all of us and we thought it delicious. The ribs were cooked to a state where the bones were soft, so I ate them whole, chewing and swallowing the bone. The ribs were fried first, then simmered with the sauce. Delicious!
The shen jian bao ("Shanghai Pan Fried Juicy Pork Buns")  fried baos were a joy to behold and to eat. They were appealing to the eye and the name didn't lie: the pork was indeed juicy. Take as much care eating one of these as you would a xiao lung bao--the hot soup can come squirting out at first bite. The bun was the best part, especially the hard, crispy bottom.
Instead of the traditional lion's head, we went with the crab lion's head ("Crabmeat Pork Meatballs"). While the crab made this dish deviate from the traditional Shanghainese dish, it was a delightful twist. The visual effect of the crab was to make this a pinkish dish rather than the customary brown, but boy did the pork and crab go together well! The giant meatballs were soft.
There were a few dishes in the "merely adequate category". For example, the Shanghai fried rice was OK. The rice was a little moist and sticky, but the fatty pork mixed in gave the dish a welcome flavor. The xiao lung bao ("Shanghai Steamed Juicy Pork Buns") were overcooked a little and a bit salty. Tyler loved them nevertheless, consuming an entire basket of six dumplings on his own. Both Tyler and Dylan enjoyed the crystal shrimp ("Sauteed Prawns"), but being pink and plump they weren't the authentic Shanghainese crystal shrimp one sees all too rarely in the US.
Because the xiao lung bao  fell short, I can't say our experience tonight was a religious one, but I definitely want to go back. The fresh ham at another table had me at first sight. Beware to the customer who shows up at 7:00 pm on a Saturday night, like we did. We were told we'd need to wait 15 minutes, but it ended up being more than 45 minutes. But, you know what? There were so many great dishes: The lion's head, the fried baos, the glutinous dumplings, that I'd wait 45 minutes again.
Shanghai Garden
20956 Homestead Rd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 517-9812