I have been here a couple of times and the food is good, but not exceptional. I enjoyed this meal on Chinese New Year with a couple of friends (one of them visits this restaurant quite often). I did not order the food, but the owner of Shanghai Bistro, Li May Tang, prepared this special menu for us. Cost was US$30.00 per person.
Located in the Discovery Bay Shopping Center, Shanghai Bistro seems a little out of place with a McDonald's and a Starbucks nearby. It's by chance that I had the opportunity to dine here on Chinese New Year and I honestly expected there to be more of a crowd -- but there wasn't.
When we arrived at noon, the restaurant was practically empty. If I had visited a dim sum restaurant like Fook Lam, Legend, or Panda Cuisine, I can guarantee you that there would have been hordes of hungry people around. Not so at Shanghai Bistro. After being seated, I glanced around the room to discover four or five tables occupied in the bright and expansive dining room.
Instead of being brought a menu, owner, Li May Tang approached our table at the front of the restaurant and chatted in Mandarin with one of my friends. After their little exchange, I was told that she was going to prepare a special menu for us. Several minutes passed by before the first course arrived. I don't know what the names of the dishes are, but I'll try my best to describe them.
First up, was a salad that was served in a champagne flute with a long, thin shrimp roll jutting out from it.
The shrimp roll was still hot and the shrimp were fresh and cut into small chunks. The salad consisted of baby greens and alfalfa sprouts with a bit of spicy thousand island dressing on top. The dressing made a wonderful "dip" for the shrimp roll and this only had me wondering about what was to come.
Just as I was finishing my salad, the next course arrived at the table. It was a crispy bacon tofu roll.
A block of tofu is wrapped in bacon, then deep fried until golden brown. Crisp outside, and mouth meltingly tender inside, this dish was a wonderful contrast of textures and flavors. Salty bacon, savory dipping sauce, soft tofu and crisp bacon -- this was probably one of the better dishes.
A few minutes later, the house specialty, Shanghai style pork dumplings with broth, arrived.
Thin-skinned wrapper shaped like a rose concealed a tiny bite of minced pork and lots of steaming hot broth. I carefully picked up one of the dumplings and sucked the broth out from a hole in the top. Afterwards, I found myself dipping the dumpling into the red vinegar and ginger so I could finish it off.
As we sat there enjoying the dumplings, our server brought out this -- the Shanghai bamboo cup.
In a "cup" consisting of a length of bamboo, was a bit of clean, fresh tasting broth filled with chicken, pork, mushrooms, ginger and other ingredients. A palate cleanser, no doubt, but a very warming one.
Next came this dish, the pan fried Dungeness crab with garlic and chillies.
The Dungeness crab was pan fried with lots of minced garlic and chillies. And although this was probably the most expensive dish served that day, it wasn't the tastiest. I felt that the crab had been overcooked as the meat in the legs and pinchers was quite dry. The garlic and chillies, though, were a wonderful addition to the seafood fried rice.
This plate of kung pao chicken arrived at the same time as the crab.
Boneless pieces of chicken were stir fried with sliced garlic, peanuts, dried chillies and some green onions. This dish was the sweetest, and the spiciest, of all the dishes we had, but it wasn't necessarily the best. The chicken was moist and tender, though, I wish it had been a bit spicier.
As we were starting to get full, our waiter brought out a bowl of seafood fried rice.
Stir fried with pieces of scallop, shrimp and squid, the rice was a bit tasteless. It took several spoonfuls of the garlic and chillies from the crab dish to perk this bowl of rice up. I was kind of surprised that this came at the END of our meal. I almost feel like it was an afterthought.
For dessert, we were presented with this.
If you asked me what it was, I couldn't tell you. It's best described as a combination of rice (black rice and glutinous rice), azuki beans, sesame seeds and various herbs. It was slightly sweet, very sticky, chewy and medicinal in taste. Interesting, but not something I would have served a guest, nor would it have been something I would have ordered.
The food at Shanghai Bistro has never wowed me. It's borderline good to mediocre, even though some of the dishes like the garlic butter rice, the crispy bacon tofu rolls and the xiao long pau are better than average. The food here is a expensive given both the quantity and the quality, while the service leaves much to be desired. Based on this experience, as well as a few past experiences, I don't think I'll be heading back here anytime soon.
Discovery Bay Center
1778 Ala Moana Boulevard Suite UL-10