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.
Let me briefly touch upon some standout features of this place, noted during my 2 visits.
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.
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.
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.
Also fluffy and loose, it remains moist, tasting of broth and accompanied perfectly by various Chinese greens and cubed smoky Chinese meats.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|egg tarts, chili and mustard, assorted dim sum|
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.
|my dim sum plate|
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.
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.