Friday, July 13, 2012

Shanghai Flavor Shop--Sunnyvale, CA

Two Fridays ago we ate at Shanghai Flavor Shop. Though the name of the restaurant implies it's a Shanghainese restaurant, it's limited menu didn't have a lot of the staples particular to Shanghai, such as xiao lung bao, lion's head and fresh ham. The restaurant was only about half full at 7:00 on a Saturday night. It was no wonder, though, as the pickings were pretty thin. Also, the food we did get was by and large mediocre.

Yes, the reviews out there on the internet have it correct that they prepare the shen jian bao (fried buns) well. It was hot, crisp and the best dish of the night. A close second was the sticky rice with pork. The restaurant didn't skimp on the meat and that little wrap was big on flavor. However, after those two dishes, there was a steep drop-off in quality.

The mushrooms with bok choy featured undercooked bok choy.

While satisfying to our pasta-loving twins, the noodles with pickled vegetables was salty.

Dylan and Tyler also loved the wonton noodle soup, although the wontons had very little meat.

Drowning in a thick sauce were the crystal shrimp. The abundance of peas was unnecessary, as this dish should really feature only shrimp.

The year cake wasn't bad, but China Stix can do better. Finally, the bok choy dish was much undercooked.

Even though the service was pretty attentive, dinner was a disappointment. Shanghai Flavor Shop was clearly the one-trick pony of Shanghainese restaurants. Almost all the dishes you'd associate with Shanghainese cuisine are missing from the menu, and what few dishes they did serve, excepting the shen jian bao and the sticky rice, almost made you wish those weren't on the menu either.

They have a coveted address, though:

Shanghai Flavor Shop
888 Old San Francisco Rd.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 738-3003

Friday, July 6, 2012

Scott's Seafood Restaurant--Oakland, CA

To celebrate my birthday my dad took my family to Scott's Seafood in Oakland. I was initially concerned that because Scott's is a chain, their buffet would be trite and formulaic--something to appeal to the masses. I gave it a chance, though, because I wanted to go to the Oakland Museum of California just a mile away after brunch. As it turned out, the buffet was the best I've had in years and is perhaps the best value out there, even at $40/adult.
The waiter got us started by serving pancakes at our table complete with jam, butter and syrup. What a nice touch!
As appetizing as those soft pancakes were, the best dish of all was their gumbo, which was loaded with seafood like mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp and fish. The broth would have been terrific even on its own, the flavor being a delicious combination of all the seafood ingredients.
Just like the gumbo, the jambalaya was given to us by a server behind chafing dishes. It was pleasantly spicy, but the gumbo was simply too great an act to follow.
Reminding me of Wicked Spoon a little, a number of items were served in individual cups. These included bay shrimp in a heavy sauce topped by a pastry, salmon Florentine with mashed potato (one of my sons loved it) and quiche, which was ordinary.
Scott's even featured three variations of eggs Benedict. There was the traditional kind with Holandaise sauce but also two others that were fantastic. One featured, instead of ham, a slice of roast beef and tomato. What an interesting spin! Jenny correctly pointed out that the tomato cut the heaviness of the egg and beef. The third variation was a poached egg on a crabcake. I could have eaten those all day long. The crabcake alone would have been a great appetizer on any menu.
The prime rib was tender and filling. I seemed to like it more than my family, who found the meat a little tougher than I did.
The desserts were good, but I wouldn't go to this buffet just for those. The best of the bunch was probably the creme brulee and the ice cream sundae, both of which are served from behind a counter. The boys loved the chocolate-covered strawberries.
The jazz band started at about 11:00. We all enjoyed the performance. The singer's silky voice was fantastic.
Mimosas, juice and champagne were all included in the $40, which was a welcome change from Astaria two weeks prior. The $20 charge for each of the seven-year olds, though, was a little stiff. Service was outstanding and there wasn't a mandatory add-on, which I appreciated. (Again, that was a nice change from Astaria.) There are many buffets that we've yet to try and Oakland isn't close to where we live. However, Scott's has me hooked and I'll be looking for any excuse (Anniversary? Next birthday?) to go back. 
Scott's Seafood Restaurant
2 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 444-3456