It’s still Chinese New Year time for a couple more weeks, and we wanted to get some authentic goodies. But it was late, there were just two of us, options were limited. You may recall I already rejected a number of local options in previous posts. So I hit the Internet and decided to try Shanghai Palace Garden as it sounded most authentic, and I like Shanghai style Chinese. I called first. Yes, they had some fresh lobster specials. Yes, I could bring wine.
We were a bit nervous when we found it was part of the Ramada Inn in Torrance. Parking was limited, we had to go behind the hotel. But the restaurant itself was nice enough, brightly lit, much bigger than it looked from the outside. It was completely filled with Chinese Patrons, always a good sign. And they had signage that proudly boasted “all natural ingredients” with a circle and slash over a picture of MSG.
THey were very friendly and helpful with navigating us through the menu. Lots of unusual options. We settled on two soups to start: 1) Bamboo “marrow” and greens, and 2) abalone and chicken broth and bamboo marrow. Each “cup” easily served both of us one large bowl each. The bamboo marrow and greens, at $2.50, was amazingly full of flavor and light. I had never had bamboo marrow before; it was spongy, maybe sort of similar to braised daikon in texture, but a delicate flavor. The second soup was a bit disappointing; the abalone was a bit tough and the chicken flavor was lacking (here is where some MSG may have helped, lol)
Next came the mains, described as: seasonal snow pea leaves with garlic, juicy shanghai dumplings, special “lobster,” and fish fillet with garlic and pepper.
When we asked about the juicy dumplings, we mentioned the well-known Taiwanese dumpling house, Din Tai Fung. They nodded enthusiastically and agreed that they were similar. We then commented on the “shanghai” focus of the restaurant in context of this Taiwanese specialty, and they then joked that the dumplings were “Shanghai-nese” dumplings. They were quite nice; thin skinned and bursting with a juicy broth and flavorful meat. They told me these are also available, along with a few select other dumplings, for lunch.
The snowpea leaves were fresh, full of great garlicy goodness, not oily at all. The fish fillet, to my horror, turned out to be fried. I guess I should have asked. Still not sure what kind of fish it was, but the breading was very light and it was not greasy at all. It was smothered in crispy sauted chopped garlic sprinkled with some chili peppers. For me the taste was ok, kinda like chinese fish and chips vs tempura. The whole “lobster” dish, $23, was the biggest surprise of the night, as it turned out to be a dungeness crab. This was amusing. It came disassembled, in a nice brown sauce infused with crab juices. In the sauce were rice cakes and a bean similar to edamame. The carapace was the best part, very rich and crabby.
In regards to wine, we are not of the opinion that Asian only goes with Riesling and other similar whites. We enjoy experimenting pairing Asian food with red wine. It is worth mentioning that we brought an inexpensive Barbera with us that paired brilliantly with this meal. A 2005 Vietti Barbera Tre Vigne. It was a nice dry wine with light acid and tannins, great fruit, but not all that heaviness/high sugar you frequently get with similar CA varietals in that price range these days. It really paired well with the light sauces and garlic flavors without overpowering them. LA Wine Co has it for just $14.95. I recommend you get some before we buy them out.Shanghai Palace Garden
2880 Pacific Coast Hwy