Shanghai Morning

Whenever we play at a field remotely close to Richmond, we end up there for food. And believe it or not, it is usually at my suggestion. Why oh why do I put up with the frustration of driving there? Well, the easy answer is because there is good Chinese food to be found. Duh. That is pretty darn obvious. To be more specific, the best Shanghainese food can generally be had in Richmond. Yah, there are some decent Shanghainese joints scattered throughout the GVRD, but Richmond has the most in one area. Therefore, after our softball game, I suggested we try out Shanghai House on #3 Road. Not everyone was convinced, so the alternate plan was to visit Amigo on Alexandra. We all hopped in our cars and braved the traffic vortex otherwise known as Richmond.

Once we arrived in the plaza where Amigo is located, our attention was captured by another Shanghainese restaurant. Change of plans. We were gonna do some Xiao Long Bao after all! On that note, we discovered that they only had 3 orders left for the night. Suffice to say, we snapped them all up. We actually wanted to get some Sang Jeen Bao as well, but they were sold out. With great anticipation, we waited for the XLBs to come out as we were still deciding on what other dishes to order. They arrived quickly and we immediately dug in. Not only were we hungry, it is best to eat XLBs right away. The skin on them was relatively thin except for the swirl at the top (which is pretty normal). No one had an epic fail and no soup was lost. Good thing too since there was a good amount of it. It did need more ginger though as it was mostly meat flavoured and sweet. The meat itself was moist
and smooth.

When the rest of our dishes began to show up, the eating, note-taking and picture-snapping became fast and furious. The first of these to arrive was the Marinated Gluten. These were chewy yet soft at the same time. They soaked up the sweet and salty sauce like a sponge. After that, we had the Hot and Sour Soup. I found the broth to be on the watery side as it lacked the silkiness normally found in a starch-thickened soup. There was a good balance of flavours though with equal amounts of sour, sweet, savoury and spicy. Furthermore, there was no shortage of shrimp, tofu, bamboo shoots and carrots.

Arriving next was the Beef Pancake Roll which was a little lacking. As you can clearly see for yourself, the roll had the smallest amount of sliced beef shank. Due to this, we hardly noticed it was in the pancake which meant there was a lack of flavor and texture. There was a predominant taste of hoisin and onion as a result. The pancake itself was chewy and doughy. This dish was a fail. A different pancake of sorts arrived next being the Onion Pancake. There are 2 ways of preparing it - pan fry or deep fry. As you can tell, this one was deep fried and very much so I might add. Hence, it was very crispy and also very greasy. It was over-salted and that was essentially all we could taste. Their Sesame Pancake was equally oily in a somewhat different way. Now to be fair, frying these types of pancakes will never be non-greasy. This pancake was soft and fluffy with a good amount of flavour. Good contrast to the crisp exterior.

Moving along, we had the Dan Dan Noodles which was, of course, more of a Shanghainese version of the dish. The Szechuan version is spicier and has less peanut/sesame paste. As expected, the "sauce" was very nutty and only mildly spicy (despite the appearance of being spicier). There was a good balance of all the flavours (which weren't as strong as we would've liked) while the noodles retained some bite. And typical of the Shanghainese version, it was very soupy. The Smoked Duck with Chinese Tea caught Bear's attention, so we got a half order. Do bears eat duck??? Anyways, the duck was obviously deep-fried which yielded a crispy exterior which was in turn greasy. We really didn't get any tea flavour, but it was slightly smoky. Regardless of that, the meat was really moist and tender.

Onto another noodle dish, we had the Szechuan Beef Noodle. Yes, I know, this is a Shanghainese restaurant... However, there are some items that appear in the menu that we just have to try for some reason or another. The soup looked a little pale in colour, yet it did have flavour and was spicy. With that being said, it was thin and didn't exhibit much depth. The noodles were al dented while the beef was sufficiently tender, but quite fatty. By now, the food was arriving at a brisk rate with the Potstickers next. These were pretty darn greasy, but then again, it is restaurant food... Despite the abundance of grease and the appearance of a good pan fry on the bottom of the dumpling, they were not crispy. Furthermore, the texture of the meat was a little off. It was chewy and salty.

We one each of the Rice Cake with Preserved Vegetable and Shanghai-style Rice Cake for variety's sake. The rice cake was prepared properly where it was soft yet still exhibited a good resistance. There was a good amount of ingredients in each dish which in turn provided enough flavour for the generally plain tasting rice cake. As for the Shanghai version, it was very strange. Usually, there is a minimal amount of sauce which is soy-based. It generally provides enough seasoning for the dish and shouldn't be that apparent. For this one, it was goopy where there was far too much starch used to thicken it up. Hence, it stuck to the slices of rice cake like "hair gel" on Ben Stiller... er... It didn't taste bad per se, it was just not aesthetically-pleasing.

Okay, moving away for that, we had the Spicy Wontons which appeared to be bathed in plenty of hot chili oil. Well, it didn't turn out to be as spicy as it appeared. It was actually quite mild. Now that didn't mean the dish wasn't flavourful though. The wontons were the typical pork-filled variety which had a nice bounce texture (and wasn't gritty). Lastly, we got some really large balls. No joke! The Shanghainese Pork Meatballs (aka Lion's Head) were pretty darn massive. The Shanghai bak choy was nicely cooked being vibrant and crunchy while the rich brown starch-thicken sauce was flavourful in a non-salty way. However, the most important part of the dish was merely passable. The meatballs had a "breakfast sausage" quality to it and while that wasn't offensive, the meat lacked texture because of it. And much like breakfast sausage, there was a good amount of fat in it. At the very least, the meat was extremely tender. The meatballs pretty much summed up the food here. There were good elements while at the same time, there were not-so-good elements in the same dish. Bottom line is that the food isn't bad, there is just better. Therefore, it is okay to eat at Shanghai Morning, but I'd rather eat the balls at Suhang (wait, that sounds disgusting...).

The Good:
- Service we got was pleasant
- Decent XLBs
- Clean

The Bad:
- Food is hit and miss (and even in the same dish)
- It appears they are affiliated with Chen's, if so, Chen's is better

Shanghai Morning Restaurant 小南國上海小吃 on Urbanspoon

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