One of the most odd, quirky and funny-sounding restaurant names talked about on this board - Shanghailander Palace - (is it a tribute to… Highlander the movie? ) has been championed by @Porthos for a while now. We had bookmarked this place, but our schedules just didn’t mesh well. Then recently @CiaoBob had been asking about the place, and we decided it was time to finally check this place out.
Walking into the restaurant, it’s not as generic as many SGV Chinese eateries, and thankfully not as gaudy as Shanghai No. 1 Seafood, but it has that special cheese oozing from this place. You’re greeted by a full-size rickshaw when you enter, as well as a landscape, backlit picture of Shanghai. There’s a picture of President Obama shaking hands with the owner of Shanghailander (the waitress said that it was at some cultural / food event).
One of the nice features of this Shanghai style restaurant is the Tea selection (which you normally find at Dim Sum places, but not as often at other regional restaurants). We started with…
Lung Ching (Dragon Well) Tea:
Sauteed “Winter Vegetable” with Young Bamboo Shoots (Seasonal):
Our friend who’s fluent in Chinese joined us on this visit, and said that this was one of their Daily Vegetables for a limited time (nearing the end of the season). It tasted like a heartier Bok Choy, and was pretty good, but the Young Bamboo Shoots were even better (soft, pliant).
Deep Fried Crispy Fish Fillet with Seaweed:
A popular dish at many Shanghai restaurants, they wrap Grey Sole with Seaweed and Batter and fry it to a light, crispy finish. And it is wonderful! So light and airy, not overly oily, definitely one of the better versions of this dish we’ve tried in recent memory (but we don’t get out to the San Gabriel Valley that often). We’d definitely order this again.
Shanghailander Style Braised Pork in Brown Sauce:
Oh. My. Gosh! This was just ABSURDLY DELICIOUS!
This is the dish @Porthos would freak out about. Now we know why:
Imagine succulent, long-stewed, tender chunks of Braised Pork Belly lacquered in this gorgeous Soy Sauce-based Sauce (that is so much more than just “Brown Sauce” LOL ). It’s nuanced, extremely crave-worthy and satisfying and SO GOOD! @PorkyBelly @J_L forget the quest for Buta no Kakuni (for now), this is a wonderful replacement.
At this point our friend asked the waitress where the chef came from: She said one of the chefs used to work at Giang Nan (De Yue Lou) in Monterey Park, but she wasn’t sure of the others. I remember reading on our old board about Giang Nan (we never got a chance to try it).
On another visit, we started with…
Iron Goddess Tea:
Shaoxin Wine Chicken:
This was not so good. The actual Shaoxin Wine was very fragrant and distinct, but the Chicken tasted old. It’s a chilled dish, so this was probably a large batch that was refrigerated (and not sold the previous day or two). If it was fresher, this would’ve been pretty good.
Vegetable in Sesame Oil:
We saw this dish go out to another table and decided to order it (it looked really interesting). It turned out to be fancy-looking (for a Shanghai restaurant), but was simply raw “A Vegetable” wrapped in Cucumber slices, with a Sesame Paste Dipping Sauce.
It was refreshing, but really, it was like you were eating bites of wound-up Salad Leaves with a dab of a “Thai Peanut Sauce” (that’s what the Sesame Paste tasted like).
Steamed Juicy Meat Buns (Xiao Long Bao (XLB)):
These were no bueno. Dense Marinated Ground Pork, medium-thick XLB skins. It seems most larger menu Shanghai restaurants around here can’t seem to make Xiao Long Bao very well (Shanghai No. 1 Seafood, “Shanghai Restaurant” in Focus Plaza, and a couple other places we tried in the past).
At this point, I started to understand why @ipsedixit said that there weren’t any great Shanghai restaurants locally. (3 dishes in a row that were just not very good.)
Yellow Chives Eel:
But thankfully the last dish on this visit redeemed the meal: The Sauteed Yellow Chives with Eel was tender and had a nice foundation of a touch of sweetness, White Pepper, and a good savoriness. This was really tasty.
On another visit, as we sat down, we were in awe of the cheese that was their ceiling decorations: Glowing Butterflies against Green, Blue and Purple spotlights. @ipsedixit and other experts: What do Butterflies have to do with Shanghai?
Bean Curd Sheet with Green Soy Bean and Preserved Vegetable:
The Bean Curd Sheets (Chinese version of Yuba) were soft, silky and well-marinated. The Green Soy Beans and Preserved Vegetables added a slight nuttiness and a salt component that meshed totally well with the Tofu. This was really, really good! We’d order this again.
Shanghai Style Braised Crab with Rice Cake:
Note: They have 2 “Crab and Rice Cake” dishes. This is the “better” one (according to the waiter), listed as “Shanghai Style Braised Crab with Rice Cake” (the other one is listed as “Crab with Rice Cake” LOL).
Shanghailander Palace uses Live Crab and sautes it with Rice Cakes (“Nian Gao” from what our Chinese friend said). This was fantastic! The Live Crab was beautifully lightly sweet, briny (as fresh Crab can be), so bright, and it went well with the Rice Cakes, which were thankfully sauteed to a tender, pliant consistency (not too thick and dense like some places). If you like fresh Crab, consider ordering this.
House Special Wonton:
I remembered @TheCookie searching for good Dumplings and I wanted to try these to see if it was worth recommending.
These are Handmade Wontons, made in-house, and they had a wonderful light chew, medium-thickness Wonton Skin, but tender enough. The Marinated Ground Pork and Shepherd’s Purse Vegetable filling was really balanced: Meaty, lightly herbal and fragrant, and so much better than their XLB! The Broth was also quite nice.
Shanghai Trotter in Rock Candy:
I was looking for it, and our friend pointed out that the infamous “Pork Pump” dish was at Shanghailander as well, but sadly named as “Shanghai Trotter in Rock Candy.”
This is a monstrous portion (as are all the “Pork Pump” dishes we’ve ordered in the past), enough to feed 4 - 6 people (with other dishes). But Shanghailander’s version was pretty good: Long-stewed Pork Leg (not Trotter) features a Sauce that is more simple and on the savory side than the Braised Pork (Belly) we had earlier.
You get tender morsels of Stewed Pork Leg, but there are some outer edges that are a bit dried out. Otherwise, this was pretty delicious.
Sesame Rice Ball in Wine Soup:
This was thankfully not too sweet, but it was also underseasoned and diluted. There was barely any sweetness (and I don’t like sweets that much). The Black Sesame Rice Balls were barely there (definitely skip these @paranoidgarliclover).
On our 4th visit, we started with:
Beautiful fragrance, light, delicate.
Pork with Yellow Chives and Bean Curd:
Delicious! A nice, light saute, the balance of thinly-sliced Pork, thinly-sliced firm Bean Curd and Yellow Chives brought out the right balance of aromatic onion-y notes and meatiness.
Three Flavor Vegetable in Pot:
Part of their Clay Pot section of the menu, this was a bit underseasoned (but only just a touch). The Silk Squash was perfectly cooked, tender, but still having a little body to it, the Soy Beans were a nice textural contrast, but the last “Vegetable” turned out to be Fried Gluten Balls, made of Wheat Gluten. These were bulbous, lightly chewy and strangely almost slimy inside. I’ve had Fried Gluten Balls before in some other Chinese Vegetarian dishes, but they weren’t like this.
Shanghailander Pan Fried Buns:
Fantastic! They had a nice sear on the bottom of these Pan Fried Buns (“Sheng Jian Bao” according to my friend), and the filling was juicy, porky and spot-on! One of the better Pan Fried Buns we’ve had recently as well.
Meatball with Duck Egg Yolk (Lion’s Head):
We hadn’t had a good Lion’s Head dish in a long time. Our friend pointed out this was called “Meatball” on the English menu, but this was the famous “Lion’s Head” dish we were looking for. Shanghailander offers 2 types, we ordered the Lion’s Head with Duck Egg Yolk(!). The other choice was Lion’s Head with Crab Roe. Did we make the right choice?
After taking the first bite, we regret nothing.
Delicate, soft Marinated Ground Pork encapsulates a Duck Egg Yolk and it’s glorious! Salted Duck Egg Yolk just has so much more flavor than a regular Chicken Egg Yolk, and it provides a real deliciousness to each bite. So good!
Seafood and Tofu Pot:
We decided to try another Clay Pot, this time Seafood and Tofu Pot. Sadly this was way too salty (like someone forgot the lid on the Salt). We had to send it back and the waiter apologized. It was redone and was much better. Grey Sole Fillet cooked with tender cubes of Fried Tofu.
Sweet Rice and Pork Shao Mai:
The first time we encountered Shao Mai (Siu Mai) outside of Dim Sum restaurants was at Din Tai Fung. Sadly, Din Tai Fung’s version of “Shao Mai” have always been rather bland, too dry and chewy affairs.
I’m glad we tried Shanghailander’s version: These were far better, with their Sticky Rice (a more sticky / glutinous(?) version of regular Rice) being sufficiently cooked through and softened, and deeply saturated with a Mushroom and Pork mixture.
Shanghailander Braised Pork in Brown Sauce (2nd Time):
This was too good. We had to order it again to make sure it was consistent.
Tender, mouth-watering Stewed Pork Belly morsels in that Shanghai Mother Sauce of Liquid Crack , this was SO GOOD!
Definitely the highlight of the menu.
Service is typical San Gabriel Valley Chinese restaurant service: You have to flag down the servers as they rush around the room to get more tea refills, napkins, or whatever else you need, but it’s expected.
Shanghailander Palace offers one of the more enjoyable tours of Shanghai food we’ve had in recent memory. While it had quite a few misses (avoid the Xiao Long Bao (XLB), Shaoxin Wine Chicken, and a few other items), there are some excellent dishes as well, from their Deep Fried Crispy Fish Fillet with Seaweed, to their Bean Curd Sheets with Green Soy Beans and Preserved Vegetables, the wonderfully fresh Shanghai Style Braised Crab with Rice Cake, to the must order, mouth-watering Shanghailander Braised Pork in Brown Sauce!
1695 S Azusa Ave.
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
Tel: (626) 839-7777