Cuisine: Shanghainese/Chinese/Asian/Dim Sum
- Hole in the wall Shanghainese
- Shanghainese chefs/cooks/staff
- Familiar and popular with locals
- Menu in English and Chinese, but some hot items only in Chinese
- Feel a bit rushed cause of the line-up
- May have to share a big table with others during busy hours
- Open for lunch and dinner
- Quick service
**Recommendation: Baiyulan steamed mini pork dumplings "Xiao Long Bao", Shanghai pan-fried pork buns "Sheng Jian Bao", beef roll (sliced beef wrapped in Shanghainese style crepe) , sticky rice "chee fan"
This is a fantastic place if you're looking for some cheap, fast and good Shanghainese food. Super casual, fresh and hot food, nothing plated fancy - this is authentic Shanghainese home cooking with no fuss. This place gets busy by 6pm, so arrive early to avoid line-ups. We went at 7:30pm and there was still a line-up at 9pm. The line-up never goes away, but it moves super fast. The service is fast, and your food arrives quickly - it's all fresh and hot too so they must have a really good system working in the kitchen.
All of my recommendations are pretty much what every single table ordered as well, so they are obvious favourites. The staple Shanghainese item "xiao long bao" is the soupiest here. I've had several at different Shanghainese restaurants, but they are the soupiest here for sure. I couldn't bite into one without it squirting everywhere. The soup isn't necessarily the most flavourful of the bunch I've tried, but they definitely are the soupiest. They do sell out of some popular dishes, so place your order in early.
On the table:
- **Baiyulan steamed mini pork dumplings 6/6
- This is the staple menu item when dining Shanghainese. They should always be made fresh and upon order - everything should be done in house - from making the dumpling pastry to making the ground pork stuffing. There is usually one chef/cook responsible for just making these the whole night.
- It's a pork dumpling filled with hot soup broth. A good "xiao long bao" has a thin skin and A LOT of flavourful hot soup. The goal is to have the skin as thin as possible to still hold the most soup possible and not having it leak out at the same time. It takes a lot of experience to master this skill - it's not easy at all. The whole thing is super juicy and filled with hot soup - so be careful not to burn yourself when you bite into them. You dip it in the ginger vinegar they give you before you eat it.
- There is a skill when eating these. You can either wait until they cool down and pop them in your mouth whole - or you can bite the top off, suck the soup out, and then eat the dumpling. I like eating them whole, but be careful because they're really really hot!
- These were definitely the soupiest xiao long bao's I have had. The broth was not necessarily the most flavourful - although they were still very flavourful, but they are definitely the soupiest. There is a lot of soup in these, so try to eat them whole. The best xiao long bao's for me are still either from Shanghai Wonderful or Shanghai River, both in Richmond. But Chen's is still really really good! At this restaurant it's 6/6, but compared to others it's 5/6.
- $4.30 for 6 - super cheap, and they're not sacrificing on quality either.
- **Shanghai Pan-fried Pork Buns 6/6
- These are almost like xiao long bao's but instead it's a pan-fried bun. These are almost famous here. These again are the soupiest I've ever had them - they were a bit oily though. Usually the xiao long bao's have more soup than the buns (buns absorb more), but at Chen's they both equally have just as much soup - I don't know how they do it and that's why I give them 6/6. Again you dip them in vinegar before you eat them. These are harder to eat whole because they're bigger than the dumplings, so I had to bite half and the sou p just squirted everywhere...if you can eat t hem whole, eat them whole.
- $4.30 for 5 - deal.
- Malantou with Diced Bean Curd 5/6
- Minced Chinese leafy green (similar to spinach) mixed with minced dried bean curd. It's served cold.
- This is really good. They offer it at some other Shanghainese restaurants, but the method they make and serve it is different at each one. I've never seen it done this way (except in Shanghai) and I like it the best at Chen's so far. It's a very typical Shanghainese appetizer. A local and authentic dish. I would definitely order it again. The presentation isn't very nice, but it doesn't matter because it tastes better this way rather than all rolled up and all fancy.
- At Chen's everything in the dish is finely minced and you eat it just as it's served. It's very healthy too, and you eat spoonfuls of it. It's a savoury dish that has a hint of pickled flavour. It tastes and looks almost like a finely minced spinach omelette served cold. A little crunchy, but not crispy - the dried bean curd is obviously rehydrated - so it's a soft texture. The crunchiness and slightly pickled taste is from this pickled type of Asian radish that's also minced up in the dish. This Asian radish is similar to the Japanese yellow carrot you find in s ushi (oshinko) - both are delicious!
- Order it here cause I can't find it anywhere else. It's not like it's done particularly well here or anything, but it's still really good.
- **Beef Pancake Roll 6/6
- Slices of beef and green onion rolled up with a Shanghainese style crepe or pancake - freshly made in house.
- You know that Peking Duck crepe you get at Chinese restaurants served with the Hoisin sauce and green onions? This is the Shanghainese version of that. Every single table ordered this. It's delicious. The pancake is delicious and they make it in house upon order. The star of this is the pancake - not the beef, and that's ok because it should be. It takes great skill to make this pancake the perfect texture.
- This is one of the favourites and you also can't find it at every Shanghainese restaurant. The crepe is soft and chewy - it looks crispy, but it's not really. It's more chewy. It's savoury and sweet at the same time with a nice onion flavour. The onions are cooked, so it's not a strong onion flavour. These are really delicious. I'm craving it.
- Shanghai Rice Roll Noodles with Pork Chops
- These noodles are found only in Shanghai cuisine. They're think and sturdy, but also soft and very chewy. The texture and consistency of mochi. It's made out of rice flour and they're really filling. It comes either in thick logs (like we had them here) or in oval slices almost the size of cucumber slices.
- This dish is served with 3 pretty big pieces of pork cutlets - they're more cutlets than pork chops. They're battered and deep fried - and they are quite heavy on the batter. This dish is covered in this savoury brown sauce that's quite thick and more like gravy than it is sauce.
- This is really delicious in general, not particularly here because you can find it better at other Shanghainese restaurants. I would have appreciated more veggies in it though. It came with 2 pieces of Chinese veg gies which was pathetic. It's really oily and greasy though (just look at the picture) - but this is VERY common in ALL Shanghainese cuisine, so don't be surprised.
- **Chee Fan (Sticky Rice)
- I didn't get a chance to order it, because they sold out by 7:30pm! I was so disappointed and we JUST missed the last one. This is another popular Shanghai dish. It's sticky rice (different from the sticky rice you get at Chinese dim sum), the Shanghainese kind is drier and much more chewy - almost bread like, and it has this pan-fried exterior. Slightly crispy on the outside and super chewy and soft on the inside.
- Chee Fan is stuffed with stuffing such as dried pork floss and that pickled radish - similar in taste and texture to the yellow Japanese carrot you find in sushi (oshinko). They make Chee Fan differently at every Shanghainese place - but I'm dying to try it here because they sold out before I could even order it.
- Pan-fried Pumpkin Cake stuffed with Red Bean 2/6
- This shows up on a lot of Shanghai menus - and it's not good here. It's way better at Shanghai Wonderful. The pumpkin dough pastry (tastes like mochi) is made fresh and upon order at both, but they're just done really poorly at Chen's. They were way too oily too - even for Shanghai standards. Barely any red bean filling too - you can tell from looking at the picture.
- $3.95 for 3 (I know they're cheap, but still don't try them here, because they're better than this)