(AKA the day Lara made peace with Chinese food)
In a group, I’d always been “that girl”. Nose scrunched and lips puckered. Quick to squelch Chinese food from the cuisine line-up for delivery. Good experiences had admittedly been limited to the likes of PF Chang, the admission of which I know is shameful.
Earlier this summer though, this was rectified. I’d heard several friends rave about Shanghai Cafe in Chinatown, touring it to be superior to options in Flushing. If you’re looking for a place with very courteous and attentive service, consider yourself warned. This might not be the spot for you. However if you’re looking for fabulous food, game on. Bring your friends and bring your cash, cause they don’t take cards here.
The outside is not pretentious, but worry not. They do not take reservations. Not to worry though – they have a nice sized dining room and can usually easily accommodate larger groups. Once you’re seated, I recommend you start off with their fried tiny buns, which we referred to as soup dumplings. These are definitely a highlight. You can choose to get them fried or steamed. I like them both, though my preference is fried. The fried ones have a slightly crispy exterior, which is a nice contrast to the soupy interior. I also found the steamed ones to be less manageable with the awkward plastic chopsticks we were using. A chopstick may have been lost during my initial attempt. The steamed ones though do have a bit more of the soup on the interior, which is why bite slowly – or else you risk a deluge of hot soup headed straight to your lap. $4.95 gets you four buns, either style. A steal for splitting.
One of the surprises was their eggplant prepared with a garlic sauce and meat. So good! It is intended to be served somewhat spicy, but we asked them to make it extra spicy – which meant it came out normal spicy. Note: if you want things spicy here, even if it’s noted with the red evil chili pepper and should be hot, you must ask them. Ask, and they’ll oblige.
This dish is a good solid option if you’re looking for a good meat & vegetable mix. Portion sizes in general at Shanghai Cafe are on the generous size. More than enough for two after having enjoyed those delicious soup dumplings.
I was expecting rice to be served with the orange chicken dish and I was hopeful it would be spicy. No rice and only mildly spicy. See note above. Ask. Ask away. Nice flavor though and paired well with the steamed broccoli.
On my last visit, we all tried their bubble tea. I don’t think I’ll be having more of that. We were all surprised to find them pre-packaged and it wasn’t the milky version we were expecting. Additionally, I requested a lychee one and it instead came out as a hibiscus one. As someone who prefers all things floral in vases or gardens, I was disappointed. Overall though, this is still a great spot. This past weekend, it even made the short list as a part of the food itinerary for out-of-town foodies.
Shanghai Cafe Deluxe – 100 Mott St (B/w Canal & Hester St) – 212.966.3988 or 212.966.8698
No Reservations/Cash Only