There Can Be More Than One - Shanghailander Moves Westward with 2nd Branch - Shanghailander (Arcadia) [Thoughts + Pics]


#1

The original Shanghailander - while having some mediocre dishes interspersed throughout the menu - was home to some of the best Shanghai dishes we’ve had in L.A. as well. Their Lion’s Head Meatballs, wonderful Braised Pork Belly, Handmade Wontons and more were reason enough for a visit. However, since they were located in another “country” (as @CiaoBob put it) :wink: (Rowland Heights), visits to Shanghailander by some of the Westside FTC’ers were few and far between (if at all).

So imagine my surprise when we heard they expanded to a 2nd branch in Arcadia (closer to us Westsiders), and we couldn’t wait to give it a try.

Dragon Well (Lung Ching) Tea:

shanghai_027

One nice aspect of Shanghailander (both locations) is their Loose Leaf Tea offerings (instead of the generic Black Teas many local restaurants might serve) (they offer 8 different types of Teas). Their Dragon Well Tea is fragrant, full-bodied and a nice compliment to the dishes on this visit.

Shanghailander Pan Fried Buns:

The original Shanghailander’s Pan Fried Buns (Sheng Jian Bao) were quite good so we were hopeful the trend would continue at their new location. The Pan Fried Buns arrived surprisingly quick (they usually take a while to prepare), and while the Sesame Seeded bottoms were nutty and aromatic, the actual rest of the Bun was just average (too bready and doughy).

Meatball with Duck Egg Yolk (Lion’s Head):

These were a bit overcooked, and too dense. :frowning: A far cry from the original location’s Lion’s Head Meatballs that were excellent last year.

Still this was Grand Opening week, so we were hoping it was just opening jitters.

Special Herbs Chicken Soup:

Interestingly, while this dish was labeled as “Chicken Soup” on the menu (and it was a Chicken Stock base), there were also bits of Pork Spare Ribs as well. This was quite light, earthy, herbal, but always enjoyable to sip. It was delicious. :slight_smile:

Snow Pea Leaves with Wine Sauce:

Perfectly sauteed. Bright, green, tender, but with a nice bite on the stem, and bathed in a savory, fragrant Rice Wine Sauce.

Sauteed Lamb with Pancake:

This was quite zesty and big on flavors, with punches of Cumin and Chilies and a general Soy Sauce savoriness. Wrapping them up in the thin Chinese Pancakes reminded us of eating Moo Shu Pork, but with a gamier Lamb. It was fine, but we weren’t sure if this was really a Shanghainese dish or not.

Long-Jin Flavored Shrimp:

These were just-cooked through Shrimp wok-fried with Dragon Well Tea Leaves. The result are tender, delicious briny morsels of Shrimp with just a hint of Dragon Well Tea in every bite. :slight_smile:

Shanghailander Style Braised Pork in Brown Sauce:

The original Shanghailander’s Braised Pork Belly was one of the Best Bites we had last year. So stunning in its tenderness and perfect flavors coming through, it was worth the drive alone just for that dish. The new Shanghailander’s Braised Pork arrives, and it looks lighter than the original dish we had enjoyed.

Taking a bite, it is tender, long-stewed with generous striations of lean and fatty Pork in each bite. However, the flavors are different: This is much sweeter than the original Shanghai Braised Pork that we had last year. :frowning: Mentally, we were so prepared for a repeat of the deep savory flavors (with only a hint of sweetness), that when these flavors hit, it was a shock to the palate. Again this was during Grand Opening week, so perhaps the new staff were just getting used to the recipes?

Striped Radish Crispy Pastries:

One of our friends (who spoke Chinese) told us that this dish was recommended by our server, and that it was made to order(!), taking up to 30-40 minutes to prepare. This sounded enticing.

Thankfully the Striped Radish Crispy Pastries were phenomenal! Arriving piping hot, these were flaky, crisped on the outside, yielding just cooked through Shredded Chinese Radish. The Toasted Sesame Seeds on top just added a pleasing aromatic aspect to it.

Highlight of this meal! :heart: Must order.

This first visit during the 2nd Shanghailander’s Grand Opening week proved to be a mixed experience, with some disappointing dishes and some good ones, and a far cry from the original Shanghailander. So we decided to round up more friends and stopped by a couple weeks later.

2nd Visit:

shanghai_052

Chrysanthemum Flower Tea:

Floral, delicate, light. :slight_smile:

Pork with Yellow Chives and Bean Curd:

This arrived nicely wok-sauteed, we appreciated the ingredients being thinly sliced compared to some renditions that are more rustic and thickly cut.

Dry Fried String Beans:

Good flavors, cooked down to a very soft consistency.

Fish Fillet with Seaweed:

Crispy, crunchy battered morsels of Grey Sole (tender, flaky on the inside), this was piping hot and delicious right out of the fryer. :blush:

Shanghai Trotter in Rock Candy:

The famous dish that was misnamed “Pork Pump” at a Chinese restaurant on our old board (was it Mei Long Village?), this is just a massive hunk of Pork Leg, stewed for hours to a fork-tender consistency. You’ll find slivers of lean and fatty Pork within, and it’s just delicious! :heart:

This tasted about the same as the original Shanghailander, so that was a relief that things might be shaping up 2 weeks after its opening. (On a side note, this had about the same amount of meat as the original “Bossam” at Majordomo (which was cooked in a Chinese / Shanghai style like this dish), except Shanghailander’s tasted better and was $20.95 instead of $125 at Majordomo). :expressionless: :stuck_out_tongue: :angry:

Shanghailander Pan Fried Buns:

During this 2nd visit at the new location, the Pan Fried Buns were improved from the Grand Opening visit - with a more cohesive and cooked through outer Steamed Bun - but still not quite the excellent rendition we had at the original location last year.

Shanghailander Style Braised Pork in Brown Sauce:

This 2nd preparation was similar to the Grand Opening: Tender, long-stewed chunks of Pork Belly, with lean and fatty portions. It was delicious, but like before, it was a touch too sweet compared to the original location’s amazing version we had previously. :frowning: If we didn’t have that as reference, this version would be very good as is and worth ordering if you haven’t tried it before. :wink: But it’s just that it’s a different tasting dish.

Bean Curd Sheet with Green Soy Bean and Preserved Vegetables:

Slippery, soft slivers of Bean Curd Sheets cooked with Green Soy Beans and given sufficient salinity by the Preserved Vegetables to bring this dish all together. Tasty. :slight_smile:

Braised Meat Ball with Crab Roe (Lion’s Head):

This was their 2nd preparation of Lion’s Head Meatballs, in a Soup format, with Crab Roe instead of Duck Egg Yolks. The Soup itself is savory, tasting of a Pork Bone base, with copious amounts of Napa Cabbage, Mushrooms and Vermicelli. Strangely, there are only 2 Pork Meatballs (Lion’s Head) in the entire giant clay pot.

The flavors were OK. Light, a bit underseasoned perhaps, but we also couldn’t really taste any Crab Roe in the Meatballs themselves.

We were so perplexed by the complete change of flavor in our favorite dish at Shanghailander (the Braised Pork Belly), that we decided to stop by the original Shanghailander to see how different they might be and revisit our favorite.

Original Shanghailander (Rowland Heights) (Revisit)

Walking in, the Queso Fundido was still in full effect with the strange, colorful butterflies on the ceiling:

But as we sat down, while we were never really close or familiar with any of the Shanghailander staff, we knew that we recognized none of the staff at the original Shanghailander! @A5KOBE was right: Everyone was changed out. There were many new, younger-looking college-aged kids bussing tables and taking orders.

We brought along a couple of friends who lived in the SGV (and could speak Chinese) and they confirmed with the waitstaff that the Chef had changed, and they mentioned some of the servers and managers were helping at the new Arcadia location. :frowning:

But we pressed on, curious to see what the kitchen was like these days.

Tie Guanyin (Iron Goddess) Tea:

Meatball with Duck Egg Yolk (Lion’s Head):

These arrived within minutes of ordering(!). Taking a bite, they were dense, a bit mealy, and just nowhere near as good as before. :cry:

Water Spinach Sauteed with Garlic:

Excellently wok-fried. Tender, fragrant, redolent of Garlic.

Shanghailander Style Braised Pork in Brown Sauce:

Visually, they looked brighter and redder than the version we fell in love with last year. Taking a bite…

All of our suspicions came true: Indeed the fundamental recipe of Shanghailander’s Braised Pork Belly has completely changed! Even at their original location, the flavors are just like the 2nd location now: A much sweeter, less savory version of Braised Pork Belly that is a far cry from the version the original Shanghailander had last year. :sob:

This is a tragedy. :frowning:

Shanghailander Pan Fried Buns:

The Pan Fried Buns at the original location are better than the 2nd location, but not as good as before. They aren’t “bad,” and are quite juicy (seen in the pic above) compared to the new location, but it’s just a touch less well executed and cohesive a bite as it was before.

New Shanghailander - 3rd Visit:

A few months later, our friend from Taipei wanted to try out this place, so we rounded up a bunch of friends (some returning from previous visits with us) for a 3rd visit. :wink:

Kalimeris Herb with Tofu Curd:

This was quite herbal and aromatic with a nuttiness from the Sesame Oil. A nice starter, but perhaps a touch less accomplished than Shanghai Restaurant’s version.

Ching Chiang Cured Pork:

Like a Shanghai version of something off of a Charcuterie plate, the Cured Pork was meaty, balanced, not too salty and the dab into the Chinese Black Vinegar was perfect to finish off the bite.

Shanghai Pickled Radish:

Shaoxin Wined Chicken:

This was OK. There needed to be more of a Shaoxin Wine infusion into the Chicken itself, but otherwise a nice appetizer.

Shanghailander Style Braised Pork in Brown Sauce:

At this point, our 3rd time trying this dish, it is as consistently sweet as before. But we had set our palate and expectations by this time, and so, by this 3rd try at the new location, the flavors were more acceptable. Make no mistake, it is still as consistently tender, long-stewed, succulent, luscious and delicious in and of itself. It is not a bad dish at all - it is quite tasty in some ways - but it’s just that when you’ve had the original recipe at the original location (which has also changed now), which was much more savory and more on the long Soy Sauce-base braised side - this change is just not as good. Otherwise it’s a great dish. :slight_smile:

Three Flavors with Shredded Dry Bean Curd:

This was different: Shredded Bean Curd (tender, silky), stewed with Shrimp, Mushrooms and Vegetables.

Tasty Sauteed Eels:

A nice burst of White Pepper, Grated Ginger and Green Onions, wok-fried until it was a super soft consistency. It was a touch too oily, but otherwise a tasty dish. :slight_smile:

House Special Wontons:

Thankfully their Handmade House Special Wontons were as excellent as before, so some things didn’t change. Medium-thick Wonton wrappers, a delicious savory balanced Marinated Ground Pork filling, and the Wonton Soup that accompanied these Wontons was seasoned just right (not overly salty, nice bursts of Seaweed and some Green Onions). (@TheCookie) :blush:

Bulbus Lily with Shrimp:

This was an interesting dish: Plump Shrimp are sauteed with Lily Bulbs and served with some Black Vinegar (on the side). These were quite tasty and probably as compelling as the Long-Jin Shrimp in some ways.

Shanghai Trotter in Rock Candy:

(Forgot to take the picture before it was already partially eaten, sorry.)

As delicious as before. Tender (with some of the edges being overcooked, but most of it was moist and tender within). More savory and pleasing in some ways than the Pork Belly. :slight_smile:

Luffa with Dry Shrimp:

The Silk Squash (or Luffa) was silky and very tender, with little briny bursts from the Dried Shrimp. Very good.

Crab with Rice Cake:

@bulavinaka and other fans of this dish at the original Shanghailander will be happy to know that the new branch’s Live Crab with Rice Cake is as delicious as before. Live Crab is sauteed with Rice Cakes so that the beautiful inherently sweet brininess from the Live Crab is infused in each bite and in the Rice Cake morsels (which are quite tender). :blush:

(Thinking about it, it makes sense: This dish doesn’t need to rely as much on previous chef’s recipes, where the focal point is the quality of the ingredients (Live Crab) with some good wok skills and Rice Cakes.) :wink:

Chicken in Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce in Clay Pot:

A generous serving of chunks of tender Chicken on the bone, cooked down with Sesame Oil and Soy Sauce (essentially their version of Three Cup Chicken).

Snow Pea Leaves in Wine Sauce:

As good as before. Perfectly cooked down. :slight_smile:

Live Red-Spotted Grouper Fish - Steamed:

While more of a Hong Kong / Cantonese style preparation (which I adore!), we had some friends who were in the mood for Steamed Fish, so we decided to give this a try here (knowing it might be risky).

The Live Red-Spotted Grouper was steamed through, perhaps a touch too long, but still quite tender and flaky and moist. It might lack the deft of Sea Harbour’s dinnertime cooking and execution, but it was leagues better than our last 2 visits to Newport Seafood. Quite tasty, and perfect with some Steamed Rice. :wink:

Eel with Yellow Chives:

We liked this version of Sauteed Eel more than the previous dish (“Tasty Sauteed Eels”), as the Yellow Chives added a nice flavor component to the dish, and it was less oily.

Sweet Rice and Pork Shao Mai:

This was as good as the original location: Their Glutinous Rice absorbing the Mushroom and Pork flavors and giving a more hefty, savory variation of the more commonly found Shao Mai at Dim Sum restaurants.

Striped Radish Crispy Pastries:

As awesome as before! Arriving piping hot right out of the oven, these are toasty, flaky, crispy little Pastries that give way to a soft, tender Marinated Shredded Radish mixture within. Outstanding and our favorites of the night! :heart:

The new branch of Shanghailander arrives, closer to the Westside, and with promise. After a rough few weeks, it seems to have hit its stride. The Pan Fried Buns have improved, the cooking and execution in the dishes have settled down as well. However, as @A5KOBE first noted at the original location (and our friend confirmed in speaking with the staff), there is a change in staff. The kitchen recipes have changed (some for the worse). Their Shanghailander Style Braised Pork in Brown Sauce is the biggest loss, while still very tender, is just on the sweeter side. It is not the same legendary dish that @Porthos @A5KOBE and we fell in love with in previous years at the original location. And their Lion’s Head Meatballs are not as good as well. :frowning:

However, all is not lost, as their Sauteed Vegetable dishes are consistently very good (Snow Pea Leaves with Wine Sauce; or Water Spinach Sauteed with Garlic, etc.). Their Shanghai Trotter in Rock Candy is one of the better examples of “Pork Pump” in the San Gabriel Valley right now. The Fish Fillet with Seaweed is delicious, as is their Handmade House Special Wontons.

Add in a Shanghai Style Braised (Live) Crab with Rice Cakes, some Long-Jin Flavored Shrimp and Eels with Yellow Chives, and you’re on your way to a great dinner with friends. :slight_smile: Just don’t forget to order the Striped Radish Crispy Pastries as soon as you sit down, and within 30 - 40 minutes, you’ll be treated to one of the great flaky crispy savory Chinese Pastries available in So Cal.

Shanghailander Palace (Arcadia)
1440 S. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 348-8866


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#2

:sob::sob::sob:

Nice thorough reporting, I was just over in that area today and was eyeing Shanghailander Palace. Thanks for the recs on the other dishes.


#3

Nice seeking @Chowseeker1999! And doubly nice to have a group of friends join in so you can enjoy a variety of dishes. It seems almost essential.

Ummm… do you want to explain the aspic looking gelee on the Ching Chiang Cured Pork? :slight_smile:


#4

Hi @A5KOBE,

Thanks! Yah it’s unfortunate about the Braised Pork Belly (a big loss). Thankfully there were other dishes that were enjoyable.


#5

Hi @TheCookie,

Thank you. :slight_smile: That pork aspic gelee is probably the collagen cooked down in the pig’s head. :wink: Like what you might see with head cheese. It was delicious. :slight_smile:


#6

Oh my wow… okay.


#7

Luo Bou Si Bing!!!

I would never think of ordering that! I think traditionally it is more of a breakfast food. You can also find this at those Taiwanese breakfast joints. But not made to order. I’ll have to give this a try as I do like this dish.


#8

Hi @JeetKuneBao,

Yes! My friends from Taiwan also said the same thing, but the waiter assured us, it was a specialty of theirs, made to order. And it really was spectacular. Better than any version I’ve had before here. :blush: I hope you get a chance to try it.


#9

On the other “hand” … :slight_smile:

Pork trotter (deboned) on gelee.

From China Lounge, in Beijing.


#10

Wonderful photography and reporting as always. Thank you!


#11

Thanks @ebethsdad.


#12

That is the best thread name ever


#13

Chowseeker probably has the most elaborate fancy thread names here on FTC. Although I do like it when I see “Pictoral Essay” in a thread name


#14

So soon do we forget.