It’s been quite some time since I last had a stellar Shanghainese meal. We had some very pedestrian Shanghainese food this summer up in San Francisco, and there aren’t any good Shanghainese restaurants here in OC. Last weekend, my friend suggested we take a trip to the Rowland Heights area, and I was absolutely down for it.
We decided on a late lunch at Shanghailander Palace in Hacienda Heights. The restaurant was pretty packed when we arrived, but it was only a 15-minute wait before we were seated. It took us a while to peruse the entire menu before ordering, as there were too many dishes we all wanted.
One of our favorite appetizers is Ching Chiang Cured Pork ($9.95) and here, it is prepared exquisitely. I exclaimed how fancy it was, with half cured pork, and half gelatin, a terrine-like square of perfectly seasoned, and perfectly textured chunk of cured gelatinous pork. It is eaten with thin shards of ginger and Chinkiang vinegar.
Sauteed Eels ($24.95) was my son’s choice. He remembers it fondly from our trips to Hong Kong, and the dish was absolutely spot on with lots of minced garlic, ginger, and scallions to offset the strong fishy flavors of the eel. It is well executed with its distinctive chew and bold flavors.
Shrimp ($19.95) is traditionally a simple sauteed dish comprising river shrimp and eaten with Chinkiang vinegar. I’ve not had a good version of this dish outside of Hong Kong, and sadly, it was just as disappointing here as it was in San Francisco. River shrimp possess a firm, almost crisp texture, which is unlike any other shrimp I’ve ever eaten. This dish will almost always fail when another variety of shrimp is used in place of river shrimp.
I don’t usually order Shanghai Style Spareribs ($12.95) because it tends to lean on the sweeter side, but I admit, these were perfect. Yes, it was a tad sweet, but otherwise, a stellar dish. The pork still retains its crispiness even enveloped with the rich sauce, and the coating wasn’t overly thick.
Fish Fillet with Seaweed ($14.95) is one of those dishes which bring back such nostalgia for me. This particular seaweed epitomizes Shanghai cuisine and is used in many forms in Shanghainese cuisine. We prepare it with peanuts as a snack, or, it is commonly used in a batter to coat fish with. This preparation was very good with the right ratio of batter to fish, however, I would have preferred a little more seaweed in the batter. While I was able to smell the distinctive aromas of the seaweed, there wasn’t enough of it to give it the taste I was looking for.
Shanghailander Pan Fried Buns ($7.95) is absolutely not to be missed. It was some of the best pan fried buns I’ve eaten in quite some time. The buns were fluffy and soft while the bottom was crispy. There was ample pork filling and the bun did not overwhelm. Absolutely perfect!
Sweet Rice and Pork Shao Mai ($6.95) were also good, but eat these quickly as they won’t be as tasty as they cool. The glutinous rice was chewy and delightfully seasoned with bits of pork dotted throughout.
We were so happy to find decent Shanghainese food within an hour’s drive of Irvine. We look forward to visiting again, this time, with a bigger group of friends so we can order more food.
Shanghailander Palace (the restaurant does not have a website)
1695 S Azusa Ave
Hacienda Heights, CA 91745
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