This is a quick look at a dinner I had awhile back with my niece at a dive-like Chinese restaurant in the South Bay.
We had just finished going to an event during the day in San Jose, so when we were thinking of dinner, I checked my list of places to try. Shanghai Flavor Shop was on it because I’d seen people Instagram its popular shenjian bao, which is the Shanghai steamed buns with soup inside, similar to xiao lung baos, or soup dumplings.
Shanghai Flavor Shop is that typical Chinese restaurant, in a stripmall with no-fuss decor and tired furnishings. (And always a fish tank for some reason.) So fair warning, don’t expect a lot of attention in service. It’s the type of Chinese restaurant where they expect you to order once you sit down, and then bring dishes like rapid fire.
The menu, thankfully, is pretty short, focusing on classic Shanghai dishes, and a few dim sum plates. You can order with your server or you can mark what you want on an accompanying checklist. (However, the checklist is all in Chinese, so unless you can read it, just order through your waiter.)
Of course, we had the shenjian bao, listed as “pan-fried pork buns” ($7). You get six buns, and they’re called pan-fried because a signature look is the golden brown bottom of the buns, similar to how they serve potstickers. These particular buns weren’t all that beautiful to look at, but they were full of filling and soup inside. In fact, I squirted myself a few times trying to bite into them.
The bottom was perfectly crispy, holding up to the soup. Not sure if these were the best I’ve had (I had some good ones in Honolulu), but they’re pretty good for what I’ve tried in the Bay Area. My niece says she could make an entire lunch out of a plate of pan-fried buns.
We also ordered a starter of jelly fish and cucumber ($5.25, pictured at top) that was rustic looking (meaning it looked like someone made it at home) and the jelly fish was a bit soft (I like mine slightly crunchy in texture), along with an order of Shanghai-style sweet and sour spare ribs ($7.25) that actually was disappointing with its cloying sauce and lots of bone pieces in the rib parts.
But an order of spicy pork noodle soup ($8) was comforting and eye-opening for its lovely red hue and al dente noodles. I really enjoyed the noodles, although the pork pieces were again, rather rustic. Still, it was a really authentic dish. We complimented the noodles with a side order of baby greens in oyster sauce ($5.25) that was fresh from the market.
The last bite
Shanghai Flavor Shop is a rustic hole-in-a-wall that is perfect for family dining. Don’t stray too far from their specialties, which to me is the pan-fried pork buns and any of their noodle dishes. It looks like a place that will please new and old diners of Shanghai cooking.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Shanghai Flavor Shop, 888 Old San Francisco Road, Sunnyvale, Calif. PH: 408.738.3003. Open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m. Closed Monday. Visit its Facebook page.
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