Sunday, November 14, 2010

Shanghai Uncle

Who would have thought a restaurant called Shanghai Uncle, with a logo depicting a jolly ol' Chinese guy with glasses, would be considered one of the best restaurants in the city?  One of the two locations happened to be attached to my hotel, the Westin (which was really great, by the way), and late the evening I arrived, I was starving and confused about what time my internal clock was running on, so why not indulge in a little late night noshing?

Admittedly, my eyes were much hungrier than my stomach could ever be.  3 dishes?  Really?  I knew I wanted the Soup Dumplings.  They are, after all, a Shanghai specialty, and to not enjoy in them as part of my trip would be sacrilegious.  Then I thought, I should get some vegetables to go with that.  No harm with that.  But then my impulse got the better of me.  Because the menus have pictures that accompany the food items, I saw a picture of some fried rice, which is such a comfort food for me, and before I could stop myself, I found myself pointing to the picture and saying, "Hai yao yang chao tsao fan..."  Ack!  The server was writing it down, smiled, and then left me there, thinking about the implications of having ordered 3 dishes at a restaurant, in China, on my first night there, with a severe deficit in my Chinese Food tank, and knowing I had to put together some kind of strategy because I would, absolutely, unequivocally, eat it all if I didn't have a strategy.  Anyone know what I'm talking about here?  Come on, don't leave a girl on her own!

When it all came, though, I was immensely grateful that I hadn't missed out on any one of the simply spectacular dishes.

Pea Shoots are my favorite vegetable dish.  If they have it, I get it.  This was served with an "XO sauce."  I've seen that label quite a few times, and I've always thought ti was a sauce made from Cognac.  How silly, because when I asked someone what made something an "XO sauce," he said, "Oh, it just means something premium."  Really.  You mean like Premium Cognac? 
Ah, the Soup Dumplings.  So delicate, so delectable, so many!  See my other Shanghai posting on how one should eat these little purses of savory delight.  Okay, so it's my method, but I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it was the best...
And finally, the dish that threw me over the edge and into a realm of doubt and self-loathing.  But boy, was this good!! 
Shanghai Uncle in the Bund Center on the west side of the river...

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