May 04, 2010 | | Comments 29

Shanghai Village on Cambie and West 16th Avenue, Vancouver

Update 17-April-2011: Per comments below, this restaurant is now closed. Shanghai Village may or may not reopen in another location

If you ask me where to go for Shanghai food, I will tell you straight up that you need to look no further than Richmond. This is because there are so many highly rated Shanghainese restaurants. Just to name a few at the top of my head:

While there are some good Shanghai restaurants elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, Richmond can lay claim to the most-est and the best-est. Well, move over Richmond … there is one in Vancouver that is gathering rave reviews everywhere.

When the chowhound community was creating a buzz on Shanghai Village, frankly I was rather unconvinced. Part of me was really thinking that it is just hype. After all, if you have dined in Richmond’s Shanghai River or Shanghai Wonderful for instance, you would have thought you’ve seen it all.

Shanghai Village is located on Cambie and West 16th in Vancouver. Shanghai Village is a new restaurant. I think it had been opened for only six months.

The 8GTCC team met in Shanghai Village. We were there to check out Shanghai Village as a potential restaurant for our second dinner in the series of eight dinners.

I was really impressed the moment I walked into the restaurant. The floors are beautifully carpeted and the chairs are plush. Even the table cloth are embroidered ones. I even saw that the lazy susan on the bigger tables are gold plated too … that is something I had never seen before.

Keev and Dylan was already there and had ordered some food. Oh wow, I was completely mesmerized by the Preserved Egg with Salted Egg Yolk ($6).

Apparently this is an assembly of the century eggs and salted egg yolk. It is certainly not something I had ever seen in my life and I though it is fantastic.

Keev figured that they cracked the top of the egg removed the egg white and then refill it with pieces of century eggs.

The name Shanghai Village does not do justice to this restaurant. I have come to learn that the English names of Chinese restaurants are nowhere as poetic as the names in Chinese.

The Chinese name of Shanghai Village is something like “Reminiscing the south of Jiang river”. That word “Jiang” is key to the next series in the 8GTCC adventures.

I did not get pictures of their extensive menu. It was simply too many pages. If I had taken shot of every page, it would freak the restaurant out … not to mention the 8GTCC team for fear of being thrown out of the restaurant (is that right, guys? LOL!).

The above is their House Specialties section. See the first item on top?

That is the Nanjing Specialty Marinated Duck ($12). The ducks of Nanjing is world famous and Shanghai Village does it perfectly.

Lightly salted, it is served cold and the meat was surprisingly highly delectable. This is something that I could eat many pieces of and not stop.

Their other specialty is what they call Crock Soup. This is the times I wish I could read Chinese. Look at the picture on the left above. That page of the menu describes the Crock Soup and you see that the Chinese description is lengthier than the English translations.

Anyway, if you look at the menu at the right (click on it to see larger image), they have 35 types of soups! The soup ranges from $12 to $24 and some of them require 1-day advance pre-order.

They must be very proud of their soup. At the entrance of the restaurant, they have a crock pot (should we call this an urn or a clay oven?). This is how the soup pots are placed in it. The waitress was explaining to me how it worked but I thought I heard her say they uses coal or something. Anyone?

So we got the Silkie Chicken in Herbal Claypot Soup. This is $17 and … it was enough for the five of us.

Silkie chicken are a cute fluffy chicken. They are considered as unpalatable to western cuisine but to the Chinese this is gourmet.

The chicken meat is tough and greyish and the skin is always black in color. So it does look unappetizing.

Despite that, the soup is flavourful and I think you will like it. Our waitress made sure she mentioned that “there is no MSG”.

A few weeks ago, the Chinese Restaurant Award people recognized Shanghai Village for having the Most Innovative dish in 2010.

The dish is called Fish Noodles with Enoki Mushrooms ($14).

Our waitress said that there is “no flour, only fish”.

Yeah, it looked like noodles and has a bouncy texture. Really, I can’t tell it is fish meat. The dish is unique and innovative, that much I give them. While it was not great-great, it was good. It was a good dish to order and see what it is like.

When I was eating this, I was asking myself if I should eat it by the strand or if I should eat it like noodle … slurping in a few strands at a time.

I slurped like they are noodles.

To me, a respectable Shanghainese restaurant must make great Xiao Long Bao (XLB). Dylan argues that people should call this tang bao (soup dumpling) and not XLB, saying that the rest of China calls it Tang Bao. It is only the Shanghainese that calls it XLB.

Did you notice one thing that is unique about the XLBs (OK, Tang Bao) above? They have little openings on top. The first I see it like this. I was thinking it is not easy to make it like this — it needs kung fu.

You can suck the soup up from the top with these XLBs (OK, Tang Bao) instead of tearing the sides to drink the soup first.

I noticed that the skin is not too thin where it is almost translucent but I find it good … very good. I consider this one of the best XLBs (OK, Tang Bao) in Metro Vancouver.

Guess how much this costs? $0.00.

Oh yeah … it is free if you spend above a certain amount. I can’t remember how much.

We must order eel because this is a Jiang Nan restaurant. The region is a major producer of eels. The restaurant brought the eels out for us to see.

You know, in Chinese restaurant, if they bring live seafood out for you to see before they cook it, you can almost assure yourself that it will be expensive. We wasn’t thinking.

The Yellow Eel dish above is over $40! Looking at the number of pieces that is served, I reckon that each piece costs $1.50. It is a dilemma … this dish is so representative of the cuisine but it is expensive.

The eel had a nice soft texture and superb flavours. It has a bit of fine bones in it. All of us complained the use of bell peppers. Chinese food worth its salt must NOT use bell peppers.

The Special Green Bean Jelly above is $6. It is nice and have a spicy slash sourish taste.

Anyone can tell me why this is call green bean jelly. I hazard a guess that it is very much like transparent noodles made from mung bean starch.

The above is called Steamed Salted Pork with Beancurd Sheets, $13.

I like this, particularly the bean curd sheets. I personally don’t fancy the salted pork bacon which tastes like Chinese sausage.

You know, one thing about eating with these professional foodies … they always talk about nerdy stuff like is the bacon cured or smoked … or is it cured AND smoked … or did they cure it before they smoke it … or was it the other way around.

Spare me the details. LOL! For me the pork just tastes like Chinese sausage.

This next dish called the Steamed Tofu Slice caught my fancy. This is $13.

Underneath the plumb prawns, pork and ear fungus is something that looks exactly like noodles.

But it is not noodles. It is tofu sheets cut into strands like noodles. The noodle has an unique texture which is something I like a lot.

The soup is light. For me, I would call it exquisite. Suanne wasn’t there for this dinner but if she was here she would pooh pooh this as bland. She thinks that everything must be spicy or have a bold flavour to call the food nice. I know I have better taste than her even though she ignores me when I say that.

The dessert amazed me (OK, I am easily amazed).

It is called the Marble Sticky Rice Ball and is $8.

What I enjoy most about eating is when I get to learn about the food I eat. If I am served with the dessert above, I would just note that it is pretty and the proceed to gobble it down.

But when the waiter came and showed us the unique Nanjing colored stone and how this dish is made to look like it, that I enjoy learning.

We were told that the stones turns a nice hue of red when soaked on water and turns greyish when dry.

Like I said, I was amazed.

The broth is very light. It doesn’t have the strong sweet taste to it which I appreciate a lot.

But the Ball is really good. I can eat the whole bowl by myself.

The Baked Shanghai Sweet Pastry is cheap, $4.50.

It is flaky. It is sweet. It is warm. It has sesame seeds which give it the fragrance. It looked empty inside but it is sweet.

We had a bit of a sticker shock when we saw that bill. Between the few of us, it worked out to be about $35 per person after taxes and tips. On closer examination, the culprit turned out to be the $40 Yellow Eel. Take that item away, it will be in the high $20′s for each of us.

But we had a lot of food. We had a lot of good food.

So what do you think of this meal? Do you think this is good value?

What if I were to tell you that you can have almost double the number of dishes for $5 more? What if I were also to tell you that the dishes will include crab, beggar chicken, grouper, lion’s head meatballs, prawns and the yellow eel and more too. Would you think it will be of good value?

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  1. Jonnek says:

    I was laughing so hard with your joke on using Kung Fu to make those XLB with a hole on top. It quickly gave me an image of a Shaolin kungfu master monk sitting in front of a big wok of XLB meat and making XLB’s with his eyes closed. That was a really funny joke from you Ben. Lol.

    As for the 8GTCC dinner, I would go with paying 5 dollars more and getting crabs, prawns etc. The food at Shanghai Garden may look fancy but Im not sure if its truly representative of authentic Shanghainese cuisine. It may be just products of a very imaginative master chef.

    • Erick P. says:

      Actually, Jonnek, Ben’s use of kung fu is appropriate to describe the skill it takes to make the XLB hole on the top. The characters for kung fu don’t just stand for the Chinese martial arts, it means any skill mastered through hard work. Other than the martial arts aspect, I’ve more commonly heard the use of kung fu to describe a chef’s skill in preparing a special dish. Therefore, if you’re in a good restaurant, you may hear Cantonese or Mandarin (perhaps?) patrons say, “That chef has good kung fu.”.

  2. LotusRapper says:

    This is true “tang bao” in China …….

    http://coffee-tv.com/dia/blog/uploaded_images/Nanxiang-Mantou—-tang-bao-756672.jpg

    Two purveyors in Shanghai most known for tang bao’s:

    1) Nanxiang Mantou Dian (Nanxiang Steamed Bun Shop)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanxiang_Bun_Shop

    2) Gulong Restaurant

    • Ben says:

      oh wow, LotusRapper. Thanks for the links. If only someone in Vancouver would just make one of those big tang bao, I am sure it will cause a sensation.

  3. Shirl says:

    I think you can’t always look at value although that is in our nature but sometimes you have to look at skill and technique that is part of the food presentation. So the amount of skill and work that is required to make some of the dishes is going to be reflected in the price. So if you want quality, you can’t expect to not pay for it. Plus, I am wary of the food handling in some places that just offer cheap (lack of pride in their product).

    The service is also not typical of most Asian restaurants we are used to as it seemed like they have top notch service compared to the ones that just slap the food on the table and bring you your bill before you finished!

    I really liked the part where the waiter explained how they made the Marble Sticky Rice Ball. That shows pride in their food!

  4. Shmoo says:

    Mmmm… now I am so hungry for the Fish Noodles, Green Bean Jelly, Salted Pork with Beancurd, and Marble Sticky Rice Balls. (Although I am also not so sure about the amount of bell pepper in the eel dish.) :)

    I’m happy to learn so much more about a restaurant very close to my home that somehow I have been neglecting.

    The feeling that I get from this report is that the dishes look like they are made with a certain amount of love and pride, which should bode well for the food experience.

  5. baldtomato says:

    great post, you guys got some truly unique dishes. I would pay for a thoughtfully prepared tofu-sheet dish over some run of the mill stir fried crab, even though the crab is supposed to be more expensive. Dishes like the ones you have are worth the money (well, minus the eel dish you got scammed for haha) coz it shows the restaurant’s creativity and skill in preparing ordinary ingredients. It looks like this particular restaurant really pride themselves in being innovative and creative too, judging from the very funky chinese names they have of the dishes you ordered (seen from your receipt).

    Having said the above, i would prefer not to have crab / lionhead meatball / grouper in the 8GTCC dinner as those tend to taste predictable as long as the restaurant is decent, but it wont show the uniqueness of the restaurant or even of the cuisine? (keep the beggar chicken though!). Dont wanna pay more to have these uninspiring dishes fill up my stomach when i could be “amazed” by other cool stuff at the dinner LOL.

    • baldtomato says:

      ummm oooops sorry typo there. FUNKY chinese name. u know what i mean. sorry, sorry! if i could go back up to my post to change the typo, i would do it in a heartbeat…

      • Ben says:

        He he he … For a moment I was shocked you used that word. Anyway, I had edited your comment. Your reputation is intact.

  6. Regarding the 8GTCC dinner, I think the purpose of the dinner was to have representative dishes of Jiangsu cuisine. Hence, even though lion’s head meatballs might be a common enough item in other restaurants, a “true” Jiangsu specialist might prepare the dish differently or more “authentically.” Even another common dish like Yangzhou fried rice, I would pay to have someone who is a specialist in Jiangsu cuisine to prepare me his or her version of Yangzhou fried rice. It might or might not be relevatory, who knows, but that is part of the fun. Getting to sample dishes of the region prepared by someone who grew up and trained in the cuisine of the region for $40 dollars is still cheaper than flying to Jiangsu province.

    • Joe says:

      Over and above that, the one thing that should be emphasized is the difference between the Chinese name, which emphasizes “Jiang” (as in “River”, referring to the Yangtze), and the English name, which merely mentions Shanghai. As far as I know (and I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time), we’re not focusing on foods of Shanghai for the 8GTCC dinner, as that doesn’t properly fall into Jiangsu. But I may be spoiling the surprise, so you can read into that what you will….

  7. Winnie says:

    Hi Ben,

    You are right. I think the menu item “green bean jelly” is translated literally from Chinese words “green bean” (綠豆) which is actually mung bean.

  8. timetochow says:

    funny and good report. enjoyed the great pictures too…
    agree on comments about cooking technique and better service…
    we are going from farmhouse Hunan to a more celestial Nanjing cuisine.
    also whilst there are many representation on certain dishes ie yangchow fried rice, it is always fun and educational to learn the origins of the native dishes, for myself. thinking about it now, i wonder how it will look and taste??

  9. I am amazed by this post. Amazing preparation and thought! Especially with the sticky rice balls and the eggs.

    You mean “kung fu” as in skills about the XLB making? :)

    Fish noodles usually have some corn starch to bind the meat together but I haven’t seen the preparation in a long time now.

  10. J. says:

    Looks great, the dessert in particular has me captivated. So, how do they make it look like the stone?

  11. Jenny says:

    Okay, after reading this post, I can’t wait for the dinner, so many delicious looking dishes. The sticky rice balls looks amazing, I have never seen it like that before (either I easily amazed as well, or it’s truly amazing, I would go with the latter ^^)

  12. Nancy says:

    OK. I am drooling. I want in on this meal. I have been putting off going because I heard there are always crowds there. I’ll keep a lookout for the next scheduled meal here.

  13. Doug says:

    If people are searching for this restaurant on Google map, and the restaurant shows Curry king cafe then you’ve found Shanghai Village. Google map should really update there maps…

  14. [...] I blogged about the Shanghai Village Restaurant on Cambie which from the feedback I received I think you all are impressed. Well, guess what … the [...]

  15. grayelf says:

    I called and the English part of the message says they’re closed temporarily while they look for a new space.

  16. LotusRapper says:

    My parents’ fave place too, and they live within stone’s throw from SV.

    Sure hope whoever moves into the space is of the same genre.

    • Sandi says:

      Too bad – it was my favorite restaurant on Cambie St. I’m glad to hear they’re only moving and not closing down…that would be a shame! Just had lunch at Shanghai River and I’d have to say I still prefer SV.

  17. Angie says:

    Guess what? Shanghai Village just opened at my neighborhood. Finally, there’s a proper Chinese restaurant here. They are located at 1479 Clyde Avenue, West Vancouver.

    • LotusRapper says:

      Interesting, thanks for the heads-up Angie ! Good to know if/when I’m in that neck of the woods and am craving (good) Chinese food, to which is almost non-existent on the North Shore.

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