y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Shanghai No 1 Seafood Village

Shanghai No 1 Seafood Village

So many great Chinese restaurants come and go in the San Gabriel Valley, sometimes it's hard to stand out. Or even keep track of the action. I don't often repeat places or dishes because it's fun to try something new.

Within the past 6 months, one place I've been to twice and still dream about is Shanghai No 1 Seafood Village, a branch of a chain in Shanghai. It exudes luxury in both its palace-like ambiance and food. Even the artful picture menu, showing the very creative plating, resembles a brightly colored magazine and is just about as long.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_menu b

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_menu a

Food Writer Jonathan Gold called this the most ambitious Chinese restaurant in L.A., maybe ever.

Let me briefly touch upon some standout features of this place, noted during my 2 visits.

Dinner Highlights

First things first. At this place it's ALL about the pan-fried pork buns, the sheng jian bao. Light as a feather, half steamed half pan fried and sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds and chives, they are at once light, chewy, crunchy and juicy.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_shen jian bao pan fried pork buns a

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_fried dumplings b

When the broth escapes from the bun into your mouth, along with the seeds and toasty bun, you won't know what hit you. I could make a meal out of a couple of orders of this alone and be happy.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_clay pot fried rice a

The Stone-Pot Fried Rice is another soul satisfying dish. I don't normally order fried rice, but when Jonathan Gold said it's the best fried rice he's ever eaten, it moves to my short list of dishes to try.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_clay pot fried rice b

Also fluffy and loose, it remains moist, tasting of broth and accompanied perfectly by various Chinese greens and cubed smoky Chinese meats.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_chili and garlic fried crab

Our server recommended the Chili and Garlic Fried Crab among a list of delicious sounding crab dishes. I've never had or seen crab like this, dry pan fried in seasoned bread crumbs. And I'm not talking the tube if Italian seasoned crumbs you buy in the grocery.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_chili and garlic fried crab b

These toasted crumbs are mixed in with sliced red chili, garlic, ginger and salt. You bite into a piece and the crumbs fly around. In a strange way it's as fun as it is tasty.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_spicy eggplant

And when you think there is no improving on that trio, this stunning plate of Spicy Eggplant blew us away. The very large platter holds 3-4 huge Japanese eggplants, scored diagonally and crosswise, then steamed with chili, peppers, garlic slices, ginger and herbs.

I've never had anything but wok fried eggplant at Chinese restaurants in the past, and would not have expected something so healthy to taste as decadent. The dish packs quite a bit of heat in it's watery sauce.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_pork cubes

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_squid

Almost every table orders the pork cubes and squid, two gorgeously presented dishes that look almost lacquered. I find the sauces a bit overpowering on both dishes and the proteins a bit too chewy for my taste.

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_shen jian bao pan fried pork buns b

A more satisfying meal I cannot dream up. In the end we had only some eggplant and 1 bao left. We packed it up along with the remains of the bread crumbs from the crab dish (which I froze and repurposed in a salmon cake I made a few weeks later).

Decor & Ambiance

The opulent interior is modeled after a Shanghai palace, complete with old photographs of Shanghai and gorgeous artifacts. One look and you feel like you are in a special place and it's a big occasion.

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_corridor

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_decorations

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dining room a

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dining room b

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dining room c

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dining room d

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_entrance

Shanghai No 1 Sep12_interior dragon

Dim Sum

My first meal there was during brunch with a large group. We sadly learned that a different team of chefs prepare the mostly Cantonese dim sum menu. At the time, dishes from the regular menu were not available during dim sum. Last time I called they told me they serve both menus in the afternoon, and of course, only the main menu for dinner.

The dim sum serves up fairly standard dim sum fare. I found it as pricey as some of the high end dim sum places such as Seafood Harbour (my favorite) and Lunasia. However while everything was perfectly fine, it didn't wow me, especially for the price.

I couldn't wrap my head around having Cantonese basic dim sum in a Shanghai style restaurant.

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dim sum a
har gow
Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dim sum b
spring rolls
Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dim sum c
egg tarts, chili and mustard, assorted dim sum
Shanghai No 1 Mar12_fried dumplings a

I hear the soup dumplings, xiao long bao, are well flavored albeit not as brothy as those in at the king of soup dumplings, Din Tai Fung.

But with the bao around, I'm not likely to find out. This is the one dish that made me want to come back for more after this first dim sum meal.

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_dim sum d
my dim sum plate

Final Tips 

Two important things to note about the menu. The restaurant's specialties are listed on 1 of the pages, which really helps. Many of the dishes are listed by price per person. For example if you see an abalone dish for under $5, it probably is 1 piece for 1 person and you are meant to order several to comprise a plate to share.

Also they only accept 1 form of credit card regardless of the size of the party, so plan on being prepared to pay cash.

Shanghai No 1 Mar12_outside waiting area

And like most of the great Chinese restaurants in the area, show up before 11:00 a.m., after 1:00 p.m. for lunch or you're in for a long wait. There is a reason more than 10 large crystal studded sofas are placed outside the front door.

Shanghai No. 1 Seafood Village on Urbanspoon

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