gracecheung604 | write on time: Shanghai Elan - another ChineseBites Dinner!

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Shanghai Elan - another ChineseBites Dinner!

In a slight variation on our usual Chinese Bites Signature Dishes dinners, we went to a Shanghainese restaurant, Shanghai Elan, for the 9th Chinese Bites dinner. Located outside of Crystal Mall on Kingsway, this restaurant replaced Pittsburg. Despite appearances, this restaurant is much more spacious on the inside that the entry would suggest. spicy chicken Normally, at these dinners, the restaurant chooses our dishes for us, showcasing their signature dishes. However, Shanghai Elan graciously offered us a chance to order from their menu. Our first dish was the Chicken with Spicy Sauce 口水雞, served cold and had quite a punch of heat, albeit a bit too heavy handed with the peanuts for me.   xlb Next item was the Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Buns 南翔小籠. These were indeed juicy and had very good soupiness. The skin wasn't too thick, but the dish was lacking flavour, I would have like some ginger or more seasoning to make this a truly great dish.
pork More Shanghai Jelly Pork 水晶肴肉, similar to the one we had at Nong. The gelatin on this was really thick and the presentation was quite pretty. I liked the ginger slivers here (we could have used some in the XLBs). The pieces were cut on the small side which is what I prefer anyways. The salty flavour here was further enhanced by the vinegar accompanying the dish.  
 jelly fish Another classic starter, Cucumber & Jelly Fish with Sesame Oil 海蜇頭. The pieces here were cut really thick, and given the tougher texture of jellyfish, this made the dish harder to enjoy. The sesame oil dressing was good, but the chunkiness of the main ingredient detracted from the dish itself.  shrimp We also got a dish of Stir Fried Shrimps 水晶蝦仁 and although the prawns were cooked to the right degree of doneness, there was an overall lack of seasoning. As you can see, there was nothing in terms of ginger, garlic or pepper here.   mo shu pork We also got Pan Fried Pork with Bean Sprouts in Crepes 京醬肉絲, a dish of shredded pork with steamed wrappers. The pork's flavour came mostly from a Shanghainese Sauce called 豆瓣酱 (Doubanjian) made with broad beans and soy. There is a spicy and a non-spicy variety.
mo shu pork 2 For most dishes with steamed pancakes, I find that the addition of sliced green onions really help to add texture to the meat filling. And this was the case here as well, lots of green onions to add to your own little Asian tortilla. vegetables 2 This next dish was Braised Potato with Eggplant & Sweet Pepper 地三鮮. Yes, it's weird and I've never had anything like it before. The vegetables were a bit oily for my liking and seemed to defeat the purpose of being healthy. The vegetables were thickly sliced and the peppers still had a good crunch but the eggplant was just too mushy to be enjoyed. You don't find potato as a key ingredient very often in Asian cuisine and it felt weird here too. beef roll And here we have another lunchtime offering, the Marinated Beef Wrapped with Pancake 撈餅牛肉捲. This had a good flaky crust but it was almost too crunchy and fell apart when you bit into it. The beef was a bit different too, rarer than normal. However the hoisin sauce and sliced cucumbers helped to make the dish by even better.  fried fish This was the hands down best dish of the night for me, the Sweet & Sour Rock Cod 松鼠石斑魚. This was a whole fish, lightly battered and then deep fried to a golden crunch. The sweet and sour sauce the poured on top was the perfect balance of sweet and sour, with just enough tang. I was beside myself.
DSC_0358 As with previous Chinese Bites dinner, most of the other diners didn't really care for the head, so I got to devour this all by myself, similar to the one in the soup from Cindys Palace a few weeks back. Thanks to Sean of Sean's Adventures in Flavor Town for the action shot! 
rice cake The arrival of carbs indicated that we were nearing the end of our meal. First up was the Shanghai Fried Rice Cake with Shredded Pork 上海炒年糕, a comforting dish of rice cakes with shredded pork. The rice cakes are the star here, just a bit chewier than you'd expect, they do a great job of soaking up the sauce and give the veggies something hearty to hold on to.  noodles 2 This is a variation of the above dish and it is called Shanghai Fried Thick Noodle with Shredded Pork & Soy Sauce 上海粗炒麵. Essentially the same dish, the only difference is in the noodles and the addition of some cabbage. These ones are like a fatter spaghetti but with the same al dente texture you would expect. There is a bit more sauce on this dish, probably due to the shape of the noodle itself. Both were solid but I added some hot sauce to mine for additional kick.  soup For our final savoury dish, we had the Ham & Duck Soup with Fried Wonton 響鈴火腿老鴨扁尖湯. This was really good and had bit of taro in it too. I didn't really see the need for the fried wonton as the rest of the ingredients were already really good. The duck still have a good gamey flavour and the salted ham was still slightly chewy but very tasty. I like the soft taro as well as the crunchy bamboo shoots. On, and the lemony flavours of the soup was really great too. I was also impressed that the soup wasn't as greasy as I expected. This was definitely a great way to end the dinner.  dessert 2 And for dessert, it was another soup offering but not the dreaded Red Bean Soup, thank goodness! No, this was Rice Balls with Sesame Seed Paste Soup 芝麻湯圓 with lots of egg white, mochi and the start of the dish, a Glutinous Rice Ball filled with sesame paste. This had a slightly boozy flavour due to the use of rice wine in the preparation of the soup, but it's not too harsh. And the bouncy texture of the mochi and the sesame doughballs were perfect too.

Take note:

  • With the exception of the Sweet and Sour Cod, I'd stick to meat versus seafood here.
  • Mu Shu Pork is a fun alternative to Peking Duck if you like playing with your food
  • Get the rice cakes if you haven't tried them before, you'll fall in love with the chew factor

**Shanghai Elan hosted Chinese Bites for this tasting but my opinions are my own.**

More reviews available here for Signature Dishes Tour Dinners. 

Shanghai Elan Restaurant 上海粗菜館 on Urbanspoon

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