Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shanghai River - Review 3

Restaurant: Shanghai River - Review 3

Cuisine: Shanghainese/Chinese/Asian/Dim Sum

Last visited: January 24, 2010
Area: Richmond, BC

7831 Westminster Hwy
Range: $20-30

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5

Service: 3

Ambiance: 5

Overall: 4.5

Additional comments:

  • Known as the best/Richmond's most popular Shanghai restaurants
  • High end Shanghainese Restaurant
  • Hit or miss items - but when it's a hit it's a big hit!
  • Busy/Crowded/Line-ups all the time
  • Reservations recommended
  • Menu in Chinese and English - some pictures
  • Shanghainese staff in front and in kitchen
  • Very popular to locals/Chinese/main stream/tourists
  • Should go with at least 4-8 ppl - how the menu/portions are designed
  • Visible "Xiao Long Bao" (famous steamed pork dumplings) making station
  • Private dining room available

**Recommendation: Steamed mini pork dumplings "Xiao Long Bao", braised eggplant with chili sauce, deep fried crab with chili & garlic, hot and sour soup, fried rice cake with pork

This is my 3rd visit to Shanghai River since I started Follow Me Foodie. As mentioned in my previous posts I have been here before I started blogging as well. They been quite consistent on all my visits so therefore my ratings haven’t changed. The more I try the better recommendations I can give you and I can also track if the quality is still there.

Shanghai River is always packed and it’s one of the most popular fine dining Shanghai Restaurants in Richmond and Vancouver. Collecting a wall of awards, this is a restaurant that is familiar to locals and tourists alike.

Speaking of tourists, that is why I came here. I had a friend visiting from Austria and there everything “Asian” is all categorized under “Chinese food,” so I had to show him the difference. It was Shanghai Dining 101…for a European. He liked every single dish except for one…you’ll see which one. He liked the lettuce wraps and surprisingly the hot and sour soup the best!

The food here is Shanghainese; however it’s catered to Chinese, specifically for Cantonese taste buds. Therefore it’s not as saucy, salty or oily as authentic Shanghainese cuisine should be. The food is still good, but if you ask a Shanghainese person – then no, it is not quite authentic. There’s a reason why it’s still packed though so I wouldn’t write it off just because it’s not the real deal.

Shanghai River: Review 1

Shanghai River: Review 2

On the table:

**Xiao Long Bao – Steamed mini pork dumplings 6/6

  • A dumpling filled with juicy ground pork meat and pork broth or soup $6.80 for 8 pcs
  • This is a staple item when dining Shanghai. I will order it every time I come here and everyone else does the same. The ones here are good, but the ones at Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen have more soup that’s also hotter.
  • For more details on these Xiao Long Baos at Shanghai River please click here

**Hot and Sour Soup 5/6

  • A small size will generously fill 5 bowls $9.80
  • It’s a hot and sour soup made with pork broth, chilies, tofu, shredded pork, bamboo shoots, black wood ear mushrooms, shrimp, carrots, mushrooms, green onions and egg whites.
  • The ingredients vary from place to place and so does the level of spiciness. For me, it’s not that spicy and nobody complained about it being too spicy either.
  • This soup originates from Szechuan cuisine, but it is often served at Shanghai restaurants. The traditional Szechuan recipe will also have pork’s blood, which I’m not a fan off so I’m glad it’s not in this one. Pork’s blood is solidified and it looks like dark brown smooth slices of tofu when they use it in the soup.
  • There are tons of ingredients in this version at Shanghai River. There are more ingredients than there is soup. All the ingredients are different textures of crunchy so you’re chewing quite a bit.
  • The soup is sour from the vinegar and spicy from the use of chilies, chili oil and white pepper. It’s not that spicy though, so don’t freak out if you can’t handle too spicy. It would be much spicier at an authentic Shanghainese restaurant in Shanghai.
  • The shrimp is not bad and a decent size and we all got at least 2 of them. With the amount of ingredients they used I really think the value is here.
  • The bamboo shoots are pickled on their own so it enhances the overall “sour” flavour to this soup.
  • The broth is a pork based broth so you still get that saltiness you want in a soup. Great balance of flavours.

Chicken with Wine Sauce 2.5/6

  • This is also commonly known as “drunken chicken”. It’s half a chicken that is marinated and steamed in Chinese wine. It’s served chilled. $6.80
  • I think they used to do a better job with this. They use to pour ½ a shot of wine/whiskey on it at the table before serving, but they don’t do that anymore.
  • This is eaten as an appetizer. This is the only dish my friend didn’t like. Maybe it was because of the way it looks and the taste was unusual.
  • The wine doesn’t really cook out in this dish and I think they add a little bit of just the wine before serving. It’s quite boozy and at first it’s sweet and then it gets a bit bitter because it’s too much wine.
  • The chicken is very well marinated, but there’s also not much meat. Consequently the meat absorbs the wine easily.
  • Since it’s served cold there is a little gelatin on the chicken which is common. It’s supposed to be flavourful, which it is, but the wine was too overpowering overall.

Pan-fried Pork Buns 4/6

  • A pan fried bun that is made with homemade bread dough and filled with juicy pork $6.80 for 5pcs
  • This is usually an item you would order for dim sum and not for dinner, but since it was Shanghainese food 101 I had to order them.
  • These buns are made pretty well and you could pop the bun whole if you wanted to. Just like the “xiao long baos” you dip them in vinegar before eating them.
  • I could taste the flavour of the meat in these ones more than the “xiao long bao” because these buns have less soup. The soup comes from the fact that the pork filling also has gelatin so as it cooks/steams/fries the gelatin melts and becomes the “soup” or gravy. There wasn’t as much soup as I would have liked though.
  • The flavour of the meat has ginger and garlic aromatics, but they’re extremely minced up so you’re not biting into pieces of anything except for pork. I feel like they could have been using ginger oil because it was so subtle. The meatball is really soft, but also not mushy like meatloaf.
  • The bottom of these buns are nicely browned and fried and most importantly not soggy from the soup.
  • As well as green onions there should be some sesame seeds served on top of these buns.

Duck Meat Lettuce Wraps 3.5/6

  • Stir-fried duck meat and vegetables. Served with lettuce leaves and Hoisin sauce $16.80
  • And I thought EVERYONE knew what a lettuce wrap was. Nope! Not the Austrian, so of course, I had to order this “typical” one as well.
  • Ok rip to the off! $16.80? The portion was so small! There were 6 lettuce leaves! They gave just enough stuffing for the 6 leaves, but the plate looked empty when they served it. Was it good? Yes. Was it great? No. Was it worth $16.80? Definitely not.
  • The best ones are still at Kirin Seafood Restaurant.
  • What I did really like was the addition of pine nuts! That was their twist which I really liked. I know they’re expensive, but the price still isn’t justified.
  • Everything was really minced up including the duck meat and I like my stuffing a bit chunkier. I felt like I was eating ground pork which is kind of a waste of duck meat.
  • It’s stir-fried with water chestnuts, green onions, onions, and carrots. It’s savoury from the marinade, nutty from the pine nuts, sweet from the caramelized veggies and the duck.

**Fried Rice Cake with Pork 5.5/6

  • Stir-fried rice cakes with shredded pork, cabbage and pea shoots.
  • I love rice cakes, so I maybe a bit biased. I really like this dish and it’s common in many Shanghai restaurants. I still think they do an excellent job here.
  • The rice cakes are thin and fresh! They’re not the packaged ones or dried ones you see at the grocery store so they're very soft here. These “noodles” or rice noodle patties are made in house. They’re cut nice and thin so they can pick up more sauce. They don’t absorb flavours though because they’re a thicker noodle. It has a creamy texture, but there’s no dairy. They’re smooth and slippery, but chewy and stick to your teeth.
  • I liked the use of pea shoots and not many places will do this. They may not use any greens or if so they will use spinach. The pea shoots made it more “gourmet”.
  • The cabbage is stir-fried and combined with the slices of Chinese mushrooms they both add a sweet and juicy flavour to the savoury dish.
  • The only thing is that it need more sauce and it wasn’t as salty as it should have been. If it were authentic there would have been more sauce because rice cakes need a lot of sauce. I know it looks oily, but that a common characteristic of Shanghainese cuisine.


Glutinous Rice Balls with Sesame 5/6

  • Sticky glutinous rice balls filled with hot black sesame filling. I don’t remember the price, but it wouldn’t be more than $8 for 8pc.
  • I’m not a fan of this dessert, but I did try it. For people that like it, it’s 5/6, but for me it’s 2/6.
  • It’s fresh, made upon order, and served hot.
  • The sticky rice balls are nutty and sweet because they're rolled in a coating of ground peanuts, sesame seeds, coconut and light brown sugar. The dough is made out of rice flour and it’s the same as eating a mochi. It’s very thin, chewy, delicate and sticks to your teeth, but doesn’t have much flavour without the crumbled toppings.
  • The sesame filling is made of ground black sesame seeds and sugar so it’s sweet, but not too sweet.
  • The black sesame is smooth but also gritty. It has a really deep nutty thick flavor and it’s almost creamy like a crème anglaise.
  • They’re pretty small, so you can eat them whole like a mini cupcake. I like the outside better than the inside filling.
  • Overall I’m just not a fan of most Chinese desserts though. I’m sure I’m not the only one.


  1. Nice review! I've been there a few times, but it's too pricey for what you get.

    My usual go-to place nowadays for Shanghai food is Shanghai House on No.3 Road (right across from the famous submarine sandwich shop/dive, in the same plaza as Staples). The food didn't use to be that great (No.1 Shanghai's and Shanghai River's food was significantly better), but they've since changed chefs and the food now is killer. The service and ambiance is also really good (better service than Shanghai River, but of course worse ambiance. Of course, better service and ambiance than No.1 by a /longshot/)

    Try it out sometime and let me know what you think! :-)

  2. Oh yeah, and the owner is from Shanghai, so a lot of the dishes are authentic.

  3. Thank for your comment! I didn't know they changed chefs so I shall head over and give it a shot! I do love shanghainese good...but so good!

    Yes, the chefs are from Shanghai, but they tone down their recipes for the Canton crowd since that's their main traffic. Real Shanghainese food (like homecooked) or in Shanghai is actualyl quite different. Much more oily/salty etc. I like the style here better even though it's not as "authentic"

    Thanks again for posting!