The Shanghai Kitchen

*Restaurant is now closed*

Wow, the softball season is already coming to an end. I guess it has something to do with the crappy weather we've had up until recently. Most of our games in May and June were either rained out or there was a Canucks game. Therefore, we never actually played much ball up until July. And now where we have just played our last 2 games! Oh no! No more eating out on Monday nights! Anyways, we ended up winning both of our games to finish the season 12 - 2 and good enough for the top seed in our group leading into the year-end tourney. For our final Monday meal, we decided to try out The Shanghai Kitchen. Okay, another Shanghainese restaurant in the GVRD, what's so special about that? Well, how about it being located in Kerrisdale, right next to the Avenue Grill? You see, these types of restaurants usually reside in Richmond or East Van. It is rare to find on the West side of Vancouver, let alone deep in the heart of Kerrisdale. The only other Shanghainese restaurant on the Westside (other than Downtown) is Lin. There are several reasons why there is a lack of these type of restaurants on the Westside. Much like my argument with Connie's Cook House, operating costs is probably the biggest thing. One could bring up the notion of demographics; but I personally believe it is not as important as it was before since Vancouverites are exposed to so much Asian cuisine anyways.

After the double-header, everyone was pretty much famished and didn't care what we ordered, so they gave me carte blanche to do whatever I wanted. Sweet! So the first item to arrive was the Pang Pang Shredded Chicken with rice noodles, cucumber and peanut dressing. The first thing that I noticed about this dish was the particularly dry chicken. Upon further inspection, the chicken was the same one found in the fried chicken dish. Hence, the chicken had an oily feel and taste to it (normally, the chicken found in this type of dish is either poached or steamed). The peanut dressing was alright flavourwise; but it was far too thick. The best part was the perfectly al dente rice noodles underneath. Up next was the Marinated Tofu which was pretty good. The texture was chewy and bouncy while still being soft and moist. It was a little lacking in the flavour department; but it was a decent dish nonetheless.

Okay, here we go. The hallmark of any
Shanghainese restaurant is the Xiao Long Bao. Unfortunately, these were not what I was hoping for. One would expect a restaurant such as The Shanghai Kitchen to produce freshly-made XLBs that would be at the very least decent compared to the other usual suspects in town. Not only were they not comparable, I would not hesitate to say that these were unappealing. First of all, the wrapper was thick and gummy. Even by looking at the picture, that is quite obvious. Secondly, there was very little soup inside. Third, the soup and the meat filling were very bland with not much distinguishable flavours. Fourth, the meat was on the grittier side. In conclusion, these XLB were not very good. Continuing on the dumpling theme, we had the Shrimp and Pork Sui Mai (which resemble the ones from Din Tai Fung, but are actually Sui Mai rather than XLB with shrimp on top). Unlike the XLBs, I actually liked the sui mai. The meat had a good bounce-like texture and the addition of greens really helped lighten up the dumpling as well as providing different textures. Furthermore, unlike the XLB again, there was a meaty flavour with a touch of sweetness.

As for another dumpling - the Potstickers - they were also quite decent. They were large and there was a good amount of soup inside (for a potsticker that is). The wrapper was not too thick and it was browned nicely on the bottom. I felt there was a balanced mix of veggies and meat which kept the filling non-heavy. However, it still suffered somewhat the same problem as the XLB being slightly bland. On the topic of bland, the Handmade Noodles in soup were very much so. The broth was very mild where we couldn't really figure out what type of broth it was. However, it didn't bother me that much since I don't really like overly salty soups anyways. Yet, the biggest issue was with the noodles, they were far from al dente.

Now, on the other hand, the Fried Rice Cake with Pork was perfectly al dente. In fact, the texture was what we all look for in this dish. The slices of rice cake were chewy while still soft at the same time. Unlike some of the other dishes, this one was somewhat closer to being seasoned properly. Although the caramelization of the dark soy wasn't intense, it was still apparent and that was enough to bring the dish together. I liked how the veggies were still crisp as well. When the Green Onion Pancake arrived, I was slightly dismayed that it was the deep-fried type rather than pan-fried version. Although I don't mind it being deep-fried, I prefer the chewier, slightly crispy one more. With that said, this one wasn't bad. It certainly was very crispy and it was slightly dense inside. Otherwise, it was alright.

As for the savoury items, the last one we had was the Pan-Fried Pork & Eggs with Crepes (or by its better known cousin - Moo Shu Pork). This was actually pretty good with a large amount of filling which was cooked perfectly. It wasn't soggy and had a good amount of wok hay (caramelization). The crepes were probably the best part since they were soft, chewy and not dried out (even down to the last one). Now normally, our meal would end right here. But with Bear at the table, it meant only one thing - dessert! He would make Mijune proud... For our first dessert, Boss Woman wanted Coconut Pudding. Okay, lemme first state that this is not a Shanghainese specialty so I will give cut them some slack. Apart from using Mickey Mouse molds, the pudding was too sweet and lacking in the coconut flavour department. It had okay texture though and again, I wouldn't expect great coconut pudding here anyways.

Now for our next dessert, we got the Black Sesame Glutinous Rice Dumpling in sweet soup. Well, the soup was definitely sweet with copious amounts of rock sugar. The egg was a nice touch though, brings back memories of my childhood. As for the dumpling itself, I'm not sure if these were made in-house or frozen; but they were good. The glutinous rice exterior was soft while still holding together (except for some leaks). So this was a very sweet (literally) end to a wildly inconsistent meal. If I had to assess the food as a whole, it really would have a hard time comparing to the best Shanghainese food we have in town. To us, it definitely reminded us of "home-cooking" rather than restaurant quality. With that in mind, I still can't get over the XLB and how unappealing they were. Personally, I'd drive over to Lin or even to Richmond for my Shanghainese food fix. Despite the reasonable prices considering the location, the food doesn't stand up to what we can get here in the GVRD.

The Good:
- Reasonably priced for its location and decor
- We got good service (an achievement in any Chinese restaurant)
- Clean and modern decor

The Bad:
- Xiao Long Bao are disappointing
- Food on average is highly hit and miss

The Shanghai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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