Found: A Good Shanghainese Restaurant in America

Shanghainese emigres don’t open enough restaurants, consequently, finding good Shanghainese food outside Shanghai is not easy.

Yesterday I wrote about our favorite Chinese restaurant in America which is always our first and last stop in Los Angeles eating trip weekends.

I gave lukewarm mentions of two California Shanghainese restaurants. That set me on the search for better.

There are many Chinese restaurants with Shanghai in the name or claim to have Shanghainese food. Usually these are run by Cantonese or Fujianese and have a handful of Shanghainese-style dishes among standard dishes having nothing to do with Shanghai. Shanghai Heping Restaurant in Manhattan is a typical examples where the menu gives no indication which are the Shanghainese dishes.

Restaurant review sites like Yelp are useful only if you know what to look for in a cuisines. Searching Shanghainese food in Los Angeles you get many entries, even with reviews that start, “I am Chinese, this reminds me of food from home, we come here all the time…”

Yelp Bad Shanghainese ReviewThese reviews should be discarded because:

  1. Shanghainese are like New Yorkers. Would a New Yorker start a review, “I am American”? No, they start, “I am from New York.”
  2. There are no specific dish names. If you are thrilled to find food of your hometown, you will name it.
  3. They say “and anything kung pao.”

I was hunting around the Chinese communities of Hacienda Heights and came upon Shanghailander.

(Tip: you can identify Chinese communities in California by searching for 99 Ranch Supermarkets.)

Not far into the pictures I saw this glistening pork hock. It was exhibit 1 in convincing my wife to give it a try. Pictured here from the menu, along with another local favorite: eel.

Shanghailander Menu Pork Hock

We were stuffed from a late afternoon Korean barbecue so only danced around the menu with light dishes:

Shanghailander Drunken Crab

  • The drunken raw crab my wife gave a thumbs up as similar preparation to her mother’s (I am allergic so did not try)
  • The pot with towel gourd, wheat gluten pouches and soy beans was delish
  • The Shaoxing drunken chicken was a thumbs down
  • The mock chicken with soybeans was an impressive thumbs up (Chinese vegetarian cuisines comes from a Buddhist tradition that east very well)

3 out of 4 were top notch.

The menu has a range of Shanghai classics and a few other Chinese dishes that can be forgiven to include since they frequently appear on menus in Shanghai as well.

Shanghailander InteriorThe setting is mid-upscale and the prices are moderate.

Some of the staff speak Shanghainese.

Next LA trip will be up on the hill at the Courtyard by Marriott Los Angeles Hacienda Heights.

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  • Dylan

    Long’s Noodle House in Vancouver is pretty good. Not a huge menu. And no drunken raw crab. But the chicken is good, as is the salted fish, crispy rice with salted egg yolk, few other things.

  • phoenix00

    Actually a good number of Northern Chinese restaurants in the Vancouver area due to the number of immigrants. Peaceful, Top Shanghai (Richmond), and River (also Richmond) are my go-tos.

  • Thank you, we will be passing through in July on the way to Whistler. What other Chinese restaurants do you recommend for any cuisine, not just Shanghainese?

  • Lots to sample. Calling Shanghainese ‘northern’ is all relative and really gets their hackles up!

    What other Chinese restaurants do you recommend for any cuisine, not
    just Shanghainese?

  • phoenix00

    No shortage of Chinese cuisine, especially in Richmond. Ken’s (on Kingsway), Victoria (in the mall near the Hyatt downtown), Red Star, Kirin, Empire, Fisherman’s Terrace, Neptune all excellent, and nowhere near exhaustive.