I put out an SOS on the ol' Facebook page, asking the fine freaks who follow this blog to toss a few ideas for authentic Chinese restaurants out at me. While I know a bunch of these places exist in north Jersey, I end up returning to the same handful over and over.
One kind freak suggested "that soup dumpling place" in Fort Lee. I'm not sure if Shanghai Restaurant was the place to which she was referring, but once I saw the menu I knew it was authentic, and worth a shot. And I was right, as usual.
Shanghai Restaurant is located toward the east end of Main Street, away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Fort Lee. We were able to get a parking spot directly in front of the restaurant.
It's a clean, small, bright place, with several tables outside. Not something I see very often in Fort Lee.
A pot of loose leaf tea was placed on the table by the nice gentleman, and refilled several times. Two menus were delivered.
While I know it's not necessarily a dish from Shanghai, I rarely pass up a plate of spicy beef and tripe (pictured at the top of this post).
This version did not rely as much on the fiery chili oil that its Sichuan cousin does, but more on the flavor of toasted spices. Did I sense some cumin in there? And, of course, loaded with cilantro, stems and all. A fine version of this dish indeed.
Spicy dumplings can be found, curiously, on the breakfast part of the menu. Not that I wouldn't have dumplings for breakfast. I'd have them all day long.
Super tender skins wrapped around a course grind of rich pork, in a sauce just a bit different than what I'm used to. It was oil-based, as it should be, but had some sort of creaminess to it. Was that tahini paste? I don't know. You tell me. It's unlikely, I suppose, but stranger things have happened. We'd certainly order these again.
Shanghai Shao Mai didn't impress as much. Maybe I'm not a big shu mai guy. Pork and sticky rice were wrapped in a delicate wrapper. Executed quite well, but not my bag.
But the soup dumplings (also known as "Xiao Long Bao" by people who want to sound smart, and annoying, or as "XLB" by people who truly are annoying) were very successful. The wrappers weren't too thick and doughy--that's a big problem for me--, and the soup stayed intact. Outstanding, we thought. It's tough to find a good Xiao L soup dumpling, and they're doing it right at Shanghai Restaurant.
In addition to dumplings, there are main course type dishes, including stuff like twice-cooked pork, string beans with pork, chicken with Sichuan pepper, and pea leaf.
We were quite pleased with Shanghai Restaurant, and think you should be, too.
Shanghai Restaurant : 493 Main Street : Fort Lee, NJ : 201.482.8079