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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ala Shanghai 上海館子

While in Schenectady, performing a couple of recitals, my delightful soprano Jennifer took me to what she said was the best Chinese restaurant in the area, Ala Shanghai 上海館子 (shàng hǎi guǎn zǐ in Mandarin, which literally means "Shanghai restaurant"). It's damn good for any area.

This place serves better food than any Shanghai-style restaurant in NYC. I would be delighted to have it just a bus (or, if you insist, subway) ride away. Since Jennifer's husband wasn't feeling well, it was just the two of us, so we were a bit limited as to what we could order from the varied and interesting menu, but everything we did get was top-notch. We started with a combination plate of four cold appetizer items: drunken chicken (醉雞 - zuì jī), soy beef (五香牛肉 - wǔ xiāng niú ròu), sliced pork shank (扎蹄 - zā tí), and and salted duck (鹽水鴨 - yán shuǐ yā). This is easily the best drunken chicken I have ever tasted, and the thin slices of brined pork shank were equally wonderful. Thin slices of beef that had been simmered in a five-spice broth were subtly flavored, and the duck - just as good as everything else on the plate.

"Salted veggie w. soybean & tofu sheet" (雪菜毛豆百葉 - xuě cài máo dòu bǎi yè) was a lovely stir fry of salted mustard greens, tender young soy bean and ribbons of tofu skin - a great variety of interesting textures and subtle flavors. Tong-Po pork (東 坡 肉 - dōng pō ròu), the famous dish Zhejiang dish of pork belly braised in soy sauce, sugar, and other spices is also the best version of this dish I have ever tried. The title used to be held by the now-defunct China 46 in New Jersey, but Ala Shanghai's is equally good, and even better for my tastes, not as sweet.

But the culinary star of the evening was their "pork intestine w. onion in pot" (红烧大腸煲 - hóng shāo dà cháng bāo). This is another "red-cooked" dish like Tong-Po pork, braised in soy sauce and sugar, but the slices of intestine are then mixed with a generous amount of scallion and served in a hot clay pot. Stupendous. I have got to find somewhere I can get this dish in NYC.

Ala Shanghai 上海館子
468 Troy-Schenectady Rd., Latham, NY 12110


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