On a cold December Sunday, the extended family met for dinner at the new Shanghai Wonderful location, in the Best Western Abercorn Inn on Bridgeport road in Richmond.
The restaurant was previously located in a strip mall onn Lansdowne and Cooney Road, but closed several years ago when the strip mall was sold and redeveloped.
We ordered one of the set menus
It started with a cold appetizer platter, this included sliced braised beef shank, seaweed salad, pressed chicken, soy-cured fish, and pressed sliced tofu. I didn’t really care for this dish. At the best of times, I find the cold appetizer plate in these set menus uninteresting, and this was no exception. The beef shank’s flavors were muted and slightly sweet, with a little hint of spices. The seaweed was mostly salty, with just a hint of sesame. The soy cured fish was the biggest disappointment, I couldn’t really taste the fish, it was dry and the flavors were dominated by the saltiness of the soy. I chicken’s flavor was mild and subtle, and I could still taste the chicken.. and the yellow appears to be preserved duck yolk. I didn’t taste the pressed tofu, so I won’t comment on it.
This was the peking duck served with manadarin pancakes. The duck air-dried and roasted until the skin is crispy and the meat is cooked to a medium. It’s then carved, serving the skin here, with hoisin sauce, thinly sliced cucumber, slivered scallions, fried prawn chips and the soft mandarin pancakes. This was very good. The duck skin was crispy, and fairly meaty as well. The mandarin pancakes were soft and warm, without being sticky or gummy, and the cucumbers and scallions were fresh.
And here’s where the menu started getting odd.
This is won ton soup. It has large portions of chicken and fresh bakchoy as well. While every region of china has its variation of meat filled dumplings in soup, it’s not usually served as part of a dinner, at least not in a formal style restaurant (its it typically appears in more casual eateries like noodle shops). That said, this was actually pretty good. The dumplings were soft and the minced pork inside was very tender and savory (and even a little sweet), and the right doneness. The broth was thin and savory with a good chicken flavor, and the vegetables were a nice al-dente (for lack of a better word).
And the curiousness continues with this chow mein. It’s stir-fried chicken, bakchoy, squid, sliced shitake mushrooms, shrimp, sliced carrots, served over chow mein with a thin sauce. Again, this was actually pretty good. The noodles were freshly made, soft (but with a little al-dente bite), The chicken, shrimp, squid, vegetables were all well prepared, properly seasoned and cooked to the right doneness. But it feels out-of-place, because again, chow mein is not something I would expect to find on a set menu at a fancy restaurant. Especially at a shanghainess restaurant, since this style of chow mein is more cantonese-style.
This was the golden dungeness crab. It’s fresh dungeness crab, segmented, dredges in flour and/or starch, and stir fried with garlic and powered duck yolk. This crab was little disappointing for me. The taste was good, it was savory and well seasoned, but it seemed to be slightly overcooked.
This was duck lettuce wraps. It’s the remainder of the barbecue peking duck (that was previously served as skin with the mandarin pancakes). The duck was cubed and stir fried with onions, celery, carrots, water chestnuts, in a soy and hoisin dressing, served with fresh iceberg lettuce. This was pretty good. It’s meaty and sweet and savory, and fresh from the lettuce cups.
These were the pork and cabbage pot sticker dumplings. They’re pan seared on one side, and served with a small dish of black vinegar and ginger. These were actually pretty good. The dumpling wrappers were just the right thickness, thin enough to easily bite through without feeling pasty or doughy, and but thick enough to hold the minced pork and vegetable fillings inside. It’s a curiously small serving, and I’m not sure if it was actually part of the set menu or if we ordered it as a separate addition.
This was sweet and sour fish. It’s bite sized morsels of a medium firm white fish (I’m guessing it might be basa), dredged in a seasoned flour and starch batter, and deep-fried to light crisp, and drenched in a sticky sweet and sour source. This was pretty good. The fish is tender and well seasoned, and the batter is lightly crisp. The sauce was very sweet, and slightly sour.
This was stir fried vegetables. Not much to say here. It’s a variety of fresh bite sized vegetables (including broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, green beans, straw mushrooms, button mushrooms, and snow peas, blanched, and stir fried with garlic. The vegetables were fresh, and al-dente.
This was the ginger beef. It’s thin shreds of beef, dredged in seasoned flour and starch., and deep-fried. It’s dressed in a sweet and sour sticky sauce. It’s got a little bit of heat from chilis. This was probably the most curious dish on the set menu, because it’s really a chinese-canadian dish and seems REALLY out-of-place. To be blunt, I’ve never liked ginger beef. The beef tends to be dry, and I can’t really taste the beef in there, because it’s overwhelmed by the sweet & sour sauce, and the fried batter.
This was the dessert course, red bean pastries. It’s a layered pastry dough, filled with sweet red bean paste, and deep fried to a light crisp. It’s portioned and served while still warm. These were pretty good. The pastry was still lightly crisp and the red bean paste was sweet and warm.
First off, this was a HUGE set menu, it was more food than our party could eat, and we ended up bagging a lot of food to take home.
Secondly, this set menu is a combination of dishes that tries to please a wide audience, including those for who might find chinese cuisine unfamiliar or intimidating (I’m looking at the chicken chow mein, the wonton soup and the ginger beef). I’d have to guess it’s because the restaurant is located in a Best Western hotel, and it needs to have some dishes that are still chinese, but recognizable for diners that aren’t well versed in chinese cuisine.
The room is bright and expansive, with lots of bright red and white. It’s a reasonably new space (I think they’ve been here for less than two years) so it still feels fairly new.
Our servers were fairly good (by my double standard for chinese restaurants). Probably more attentive than the average chinese restaurant, but about same level of impersonal efficiency.