Sherman's Food Adventures: Shanghai Cafe

Shanghai Cafe

Having only visited Seattle only a month ago, we made an impromptu return due to the fire hazard we were creating at Goose's house.  You see, we use his place as a mailbox of sorts for our US online purchases.  So we made the trek down and stayed our 48 hours to bring back goodies, including my brand new Canon 6D camera.  Pressed into action without even a single adjustment, the pictures in this post plain suck.  Anyways, with a decent Shanghainese meal the night before in Vancouver, we thought it would be good idea to try it at Shanghai Cafe in Bellevue (what were we thinking?).

Beginning with the Hot & Sour Soup, we instantly knew this was not going to be a typical Shanghainese food experience.  It was pale and not what we expected at all.  The prominent ingredients were enoki mushroom, button mushrooms, egg and tofu, which meant there was little-to-no texture.  Furthermore, the "hot" portion of the soup was mainly from white pepper which created an unusual flavor.  If this was called something else, it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't hot & soup soup as we know it.  Next, we had the Mongolian Beef, which was actually not bad.  The oil-blanched beef was somewhat chewy, yet not overly so.  It was bathed in a sweet, mildly spicy and savory glaze which was appetizing and screaming out for rice.

For my daughter, we had to get the Stir-Fried Pea Shoots and really, we need more veggies in our diet.  Yet, this was the farthest from healthy one could get as the whole thing was doused in grease.  One mouthful and our lips were protected from the cold more than a whole stick of Blistex.  On the positive side, the shoots were tender with some crunch as well as being nicely seasoned.  Onto the Shanghai Rice Cake, we were once again confused at the visuals.  Rather than the rich hue we are used to (with the use of dark soy), the whole dish looked like it hadn't been out in the sun in years.  Furthermore, the slices of rice cake were woefully overcooked being mushy and sticky.  Lastly, and we really didn't mind it, there was lots of seafood (typically, this dish has spinach, Napa cabbage and julienned pork only).

And for the most important dish of all, the Xiao Long Bao, it was crammed into a steamer far too small.  Hence, when we tried to pick up one, all of them came out and soup splattered everywhere.  However, there was very little of it and was predominantly sweet with not a whole lot of other distinguishing flavors.  To be fair, the dumpling skin was decently thin (albeit chewy) and the filling was moist. Okay, now I get it.  If this is the competition in Bellevue, Din Tai Fung has nothing to worry about.

The Good:
- Friendly people
- They tried

The Bad:
- Was that really Shanghainese food?
- A bit pricey for the portion size


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