May 5, 2012

Early Mother's Day dinner

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For the first time in memory, the family decided not to wait till the last minute to figure out what to do for Mother's Day.  Mom decided that we should avoid the crowd and celebrate a week early, and tasked me to figure out the venue.  In the past we had always left it up to Last Minute Uncle… who would always decide at the last minute…

I was browsing through blogs for inspiration when I was suddenly reminded of Shanghai Restaurant (豫園上海湯包館) in the Capital Hotel (首都大飯店).  I had been there once for our company annual gathering, and I thought both the food and the setting were pretty decent.  It seemed like a good place to take the family, as we desperately need some new places to go for our gatherings…

I left the ordering to dad and Last Minute Uncle, and sat back and enjoyed the food.

Crispy fried anchovy with soy sauce (香酥鳳尾魚) - these long tailed anchovies have been my favorite since childhood, but tonight they had been deep-fried some time ago and left to gather moisture, so they weren't really that crispy when served.  Not the best way to kick off dinner.

Stir-fried sweet peas and lily buds (豌豆炒百合) - the peas were decent, but the lily buds could be a little crunchier.

Wok-fried shrimps with sweet sticky rice (酒釀油爆蝦) - a bit of a mistake to order this in Taipei, since most places don't use those small river shrimps (河蝦) found in traditional Shanghainese restaurants.  We were curious about the use of fermented rice lees (酒釀), as perhaps a substitute for the sugar that is normally used.  I guess in the end the taste was OK, but there was a little more sauce here compared to what I'm used to.

Lotus root stuffed with sweet sticky rice (桂花糖藕) - not too bad.  The osmanthus syrup was very good.

Stir-fried pea shoots (清炒豆苗) - the pea shoots were not young enough.  Not good.

Wok-fried scallop with asparagus (蘆筍鮮干貝) - not great.  Don't know why the scallops were chopped into little pieces.  The presentation would have been so much nicer had they sliced the scallops…  And I was expecting simpler flavors.

Steamed star garoupa (清蒸七星斑) - this was actually very fresh and good.

Braised sea cucumber with shrimp roe (蝦子燒烏參) - not bad at all.  The sea cucumbers were tender, and the shrimp roe sauce was delicious, if a little heavy-handed.  Would have been more perfect with a little less corn starch.  Mom was suitably impressed, and advised dad to scoop up some sauce over rice.

Classic braised pork belly (本幫紅燒肉) - another dish that was a little heavy-handed, but pretty good overall.  Not sure why they added pig intestines in here, but I did like the pork belly and the bamboo shoots.  Not as sweet as the versions one finds in Shanghai these days, and I probably should have taken this with a little rice.

Steamed pork and vegetable dumplings (上海湯包) - pretty good.  The skin was thin but held the contents securely inside without breaking.  The ground pork inside seemed a little coarse, but flavors were good.

I skipped a couple of dishes, and saved room for dessert.  The smashed sweet bean paste pancake (豆沙鍋餅) was refreshingly different and delicious.  Instead of the usual greasy exteriors, these were coated in plenty of sesame seeds and were relatively dry.  There was also less sweet bean paste inside.  This was very well received by everyone, except for grandma who prefers things to be very sweet.

Sweet cream buns (奶皇流沙包) - these buns are bigger than usual, with proportionately more of the spongy exterior and less filling.  The filling was also flavored with coconut.

This was a pretty good meal overall, and the food made the grade in front of a group of harsh critics who have grown up on Shanghainese food.  The only major complaint is that - like so many Chinese restaurants - the dishes simply arrived too quickly in succession.  When dishes aren't properly spaced out, one is forced to eat quickly without pause, or wind up with cold food on the table.  We complained to the staff, and hope that they will learn from this.


Michelle Chin said...

maybe they used frozen lily bulbs, thus less crunchy?

Happy walker said...

haha.. i also celebrating mother day tonight~ =D

Regards, (A Growing Teenager Diary) ..


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