The service at Shanghai Café was so hostilely brisk and gruff that I almost felt honored to be seated in our tough little lady’s section. The place isn’t much for ambiance either, unless you feel comforted by the fact that your Formica table is lined (and protected?) with duct tape, but really what does ambiance matter when the perfected delicacy of a soup dumpling is there for the eating? Joe’s Shanghai is probably the better known purveyor of the messy dumplings of deliciousness, but I’d really have to eat the two side by side to decide which is better. Both are crave worthy (read: I want them right now!).
We inhaled two orders of the soup dumpling both crab and crab-less – which had the table divided – I prefer the crab, but its flavor is very pronounced and others, who may not have a palette for the briny sea, liked the all-pork incarnation better. We also ordered won-tons in spicy schezuan sauce (peanuty and spicy), eggplant with garlic sauce, and bean curb schezuan style. Unlike some hole in the wall spots, all the dishes had a distinct flavor.
Pair it all with good friends and a couple of cold Tsingtaos and you get one of those meals that can make you so happy to live in a city that hides so much good food in its quiet corners.