Old Shanghai, Temple Street
We had been eyeing this place for a while (55 Temple Street, 6327-1218) and finally came by tonight as a fallback to the packed "Whispering Man" hot pot next door. By and large, the food here was decently respectable. Our meal started off with the Stewed Noodle with Dried Shrimp & Scallion Oil, a nice little bowl of goodness that erupted with a flavorful oil once you stirred it up from the bottom. As is typical of Shanghainese food, this was light but tasty thanks to the oil (and the noodles were done just right too).
We also grabbed the Baked Scallion Pastry, which if I'm not mistaken actually had its origins in Northern China rather than Shanghai. Despite that, it was still pretty darned good here being crispy, piping hot, and of course - oily (albeit not as oily as one I had off the streets of Shanghai not long ago).
Now, one thing that I was a bit concerned about was the Boiled Wonton with Hot Chili Sauce. This was something from the Sichuan province rather than Shanghai, and hence something that I had really low expectations of here, especially considering many previously poor experiences that I've had with trying to order Sichuan food in Shanghai. But I just had to order it since I like this dish so much. It turned out better and spicier than I had expected, even if it seemed like they used dried chili pepper flakes that one sprinkles on pizza. Sure, it was still a far cry from the real deal, and not something that I'll come back here for, but it worked for tonight.
Finally, we closed up the meal with two Shanghainese specialties. The first was the Sauteed Eel with Chive Shoots. This disappointingly turned out to be different from ones that I'd been accustomed to from Shanghai, as it featured a heavy dark sauce rather than submerged in the clear bubbling hot oil that I was expecting. I don't profess to be an expert in Shanghainese cuisine though, so I don't know if this was an intentional variant of it (can anyone verify?). Well, even if this turned out to be the lowpoint in the meal, it was still fine in its own right.
And of course, the quintessential Shanghainese closer was the Old Shanghai Steamed Pork Buns, or xiao long bao. I was pretty impressed with the quality here: the skin was fairly thin, and yet they packed a ton of broth into those little bad boys. Granted, I felt that the filling lacked some taste (I wish they had used more lard), but the handiwork here was nearly meticulous enough to rival those of Din Tai Fung.
So by and large, this place turned out decently well. Admittedly, Shanghainese food isn't something that I'll go out of my way for, but at least this will be a nice fallback to keep in mind when needed.