Monday, May 31, 2010

Shanghai Bamboo House- Monrovia

Shanghai Bamboo House Exterior

I haven't had much success when looking online for a restaurant that we would end up returning to. Same story with restaurants that we have not visited before. What we always end up with are so-so visits. See these: HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE for examples.

So considering that I was the one who recommended this restaurant to my companions to try out one day for a weekend lunch, I was not expecting awesome results. Even if Yelp reviewers gave very positive results. But guess what? We loved it. And we have been going back since.

Interior
Interior

This location used to be many different restaurants. Having grown up visiting this plaza weekly due to the close proximity to our old home, I've certainly seen it change as I have routinely come back to visit. The last owner of the location was a Korean restaurant. Now, it is a Shanghai restaurant.

As for some history with Shanghai Bamboo House, it's been in California for quite a few years already. But, most of those years were spent in Temple City nearby Green Island and (current) New Mandarin Noodle Deli. However, they moved as a HSBC bank bought out their space. So, now they are in Monrovia in a strip mall that has places like Super A Foods and the famous Alpha Science (used to be ARK that had the space).

I did like the Temple City location, although I did not constantly visit it as there were more familiar options in the past. A Mandarin ______ Restaurant next to Big Lots! was our favorite for lunch, and for dinner, Mei Long Village was our frequent go-to for dinner. However, the Mandarin____ place shut down and now has another Shanghai restaurant (after a HK Cafe), and after two incidents of severe food poisoning at Mei Long Village, it was time to find a different place. Chang's Garden was pretty good, but the place did not seem as nice of a place (faster service during peak hours, unlike other places). So what next?

Now, I have a great go-to option for Shanghai food that is not too oily. Yay!

Boltonia Znaica and Dried Bean Curd
(plastic spoon removed for photo purposes :) )

Our first visit was during lunch and we could immediately tell this was a place for regulars and people who enjoy Shanghai food. The clientele were all families and friends, with a few young children- which all seemed to be from Shanghai.

And when we saw the item above available, we knew we were in for a good meal! On the menu it is called Boltonia Znaica and Dried Bean Curd (4.50 USD) or 马蘭香干. This item rarely is put on any Shanghai restaurant in our area, but is a popular appetizer in Shanghai. My friend from Shanghai ordered a big plate of this when we were in Shanghai more than five years ago, and immediately after tasting this, we were thinking that he probably likes this restaurant a lot (he too lives nearby here)! If you haven't tried it before, it is a fragrant grassy like herb with bean curd which is lightly flavored with seasonings. Small serving, but worth the price for something as rare on menus around here. Try it out. You probably won't see it anywhere else except for in Shanghai and Asia (or a few Shanghai restaurants around here in So Cal).

Jade Celery and Jellyfish
(now if everything else was removed from the table this would make the perfect product shot!)

The other appetizer that we ordered was Jellyfish with Celery or 西芹海蜇 (4.50 USD). This was yet another simple, yet tasty appetizer. The celery was slightly blanched and then flavored, and then put into the fridge. And the jellyfish were nice as well, with a nice chew and the light flavor of the seasonings that also went into the celery.

Zhao Lou Yu Pian (Fish Fillet with Fermented Rice)

I wanted to try something that I haven't had a long so I ordered the Fish Fillet with Wine Sauce (6.95 USD) or 糟留鱼片. This was slightly different compared to the other versions I had, as there was much more sauce and there were also green onions added for color and pop. However, the flavors were there- the fermented rice were made in house as we would find out on our second visit, and the sauce was slightly vinegary and sweet like fermented sweet rice is. Great with rice! As for the fish, they were lightly pan fried and then cooked a bit further the sauce. Bamboos and the wood ear fungus were added as usual and were crisp and delicious. Overall, a nice rendition and a good deal too! If you don't want to try out something really unusual this is the thing to order.

Xiao Long Bao
(That is not juice leaking!)

Since when we visit a Shanghai style restaurant we like to try out a steamer of 上海鲜肉小蘢包 or Pork Steamed Bun, we ordered one steamer which had eight pieces of these dumplings (4.95 USD). These of course were not like Din Tai Fung's. Instead, these had a fresh, thicker skin similar to Yi Pin Xiao Long in Beijing with the fresh dough scent and flavor like you would get at either place I just talked about. Inside was a tasty, tender meat filling with a light wine scent to it, and plenty of flavorful juice! Very nice, I have to say. I prefer the skin to be just slightly thinner (similar to Mei Long Village pre 2007) but overall, one of the best Juicy Pork Dumplings in the area, and at a great price too!

Edit August 16, 2011: Jonathan Gold reviewed these steamed buns and other items and liked them. On the other hand, after eating Dean Sin World's frozen pork steamed buns, it seems like they source them from there as they taste very similar if not exactly the same.

Pigs Stomach with Green Peppers

Since one of my companions likes pork stomach, we ordered the Pig's Stomach with Green Pepper or 青椒 肚丝 (Qing Jiao Du Si) (6.50 USD). This had plenty of bamboo shoots (probably from a can but could be fresh too...), julienne green bell pepper, and the main event, thinly sliced pork stomach. Everything was done nicely and was not oily. And the pig stomach was perfectly cooked and not too chewy. If you like pig stomach, order this! And again, another great deal. Prices here are very reasonable.

Shrimp Roe Braised Sea Cucumber (Small portion)

Wanting to taste their version of Stewed Sea Cucumber with Shrimp Eggs, we ordered a small portion of 蝦籽大烏渗(Xia Zi Da Wu Shen) (8.50 USD). Like the Chinese description said, the sea cucumber really was "大" or big! So long! This was excellent, with the sea cucumber being very tender like a medium firm jelly with no grittiness due to a clean washing. The sauce was nice with a sweet vinegar flavor but was a bit on the sweet side. A few splashes of black vinegar fixed that though. Overall, excellent deal for an excellently prepared sea cucumber!

During this visit, the employees noticed me and my camera. What I did not know at the time was that it was the manager! She was very happy about it though unlike the self keeping manager at Pioneer Point whose website doesn't even have pictures of the place! :)

We left quite happy, even if the bill ended up to total more than usual for a lunch. We did order quite a bit, after all!

----

Last week on Thursday we arrived back again for a dinner visit. This time, we ordered quite a bit of different things.

Green Onion Pancakes

Out of curiosity we ordered the Green Onion Pancakes or 葱油餠 (Cong You Bing)(2.95 USD). We were not expecting anything special and they were just standard. Very crisp and hot was the main positive! Other than that, it was chewy but not very fragrant though in terms of green onion flavor.

Bean Curd Wrapped Meat

The Pork Wrap with Bean Curd or Pork Bean Curd Rolls or 齐菜白页包肉 (7.50 USD) was one of the two entrees we ordered. This was very light with several bean curd rolls immersed in a pork broth with a few pieces of bok choy. Inside each bean curd roll was a meat filling that had the flavor of the broth. The rolls are best with the broth though, or else they would be too dry eaten alone. That is a good sign, since that means the pork has not been altered with things like baking soda which would make it seem passable due to the softer texture. Overall, a good light dish for those who don't want bold flavors for dinner- you can make it more flavorful by adding some condiments like the good standby, black vinegar.

Special Clay Pot Soup

For a soup and for a variety of meats, we ordered the House Special Hot Pot or 特色什錦砂鍋 (10.95 USD). When you visit a Shanghai style restaurant, we like to order a "砂鍋" or a clay pot soup where the soup has been prepared in the clay pot with additional toppings. This preparation is more similar to Giang Nan (link to KevinEat's review), where there are bamboo, thin glass noodles (less here compared to Giang Nan), fried fish, shrimp, fishballs, napa cabbage and egg dumplings as ingredients. Here at Shanghai Bamboo House they even had a few pieces of delicious and chewy fish maw. The soup base is a simple clear meat broth which has been enhanced by all the toppings and the benefit of cooking in a clay pot. Together, it is a great all in one meal. Just some rice and this and you could just say,"This is enough for dinner tonight!"

Shrimp Roe Braised Sea Cucumber (Large Portion)

For the second entree, we ordered again the Stewed Sea Cucumber with Shrimp Eggs or 蝦籽大烏渗 (Xia Zi Da Wu Shen) (14.95 USD), but this time in a larger portion. Everything was still consistent. The Sea Cucumber was extremely tender and large, and the sauce was still the same- a bit on the sweet side. But we were very interested on that day on how the sea cucumber could be so tender and large. Was it something awkward? Or was it pure skill?

Sea Cucumber from Mexico

So, to fully answer the question, the manager came to us and talked about the sea cucumbers after we finished our dinner. Above you see them in the way they get them- dried and expensive at almost a hundred dollars a pound. These were actually from Mexico and had the capability to expand to the size of the final product. To get to that final product, it was exceedingly laborious in terms of preparation. There was a lot of work involved in repeating a procedure again and again to make it expand. And all that was at work was time and water! No baking soda, no weird items. And after it was ready, they could put it in the fridge until they needed to use it. That breaks the myth of prepared sea cucumbers available at 99 Ranch Market having baking soda or something added so that the sea cucumbers stay in the way they are.

She said that sea cucumbers are not very profitable and thus are a great deal for the customer. It always makes her happy to see people come to the restaurant, and she actually remembered me from the last visit! :)

Sesame Rice Balls in Wine Blew with Eggs and "Gui Hua")

There was still more however, as dessert also came since there were not too many people (3 tables) in the restaurant, which let the manager have time to take out some Sesame Rice Balls with Wine Blew and Eggs Dessert Soup or 酒釀桂花糖圓 (Jiu Niang Gui Hua Tang Yuan). We were not expecting this at the end of the meal (free dessert) and it was excellent! We found out the fermented rice was actually made in house and so were the sesame rice balls. No wonder why the rice balls were so elastic and smooth! Great chew and a nice sesame filling too that was not too sweet. The soup was also excellent with the thin ribbons of egg and the slightly sweet and sour feel from the wine blew. Probably one of the best desserts I've had in a Chinese restaurant so far, and I have had many different desserts!

Overall, an excellent choice for Shanghainese food in the area that is authentic and not overloaded with oil and MSG. And a great bargain too! I like it. :)

Shanghai Bamboo House
933 W. Duarte Rd.
Monrovia, CA 91016
Tel: (626) 574-5960

Shanghai Bamboo House on Urbanspoon

Shanghai Bamboo House in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

9 comments:

Mochachocolata Rita said...

uh oh! the xiao long baos are leaking! eat them quick! hehehe

EatTravelEat said...

Mochachocolata Rita,
That's what I thought at first too! But luckily it wasn't. :)

KirkK said...

Hi ETE - It does look like the XLB's are leaking! ;o) The rest of the dishes look so vibrant and fresh.

EatTravelEat said...

Kirk,
HAHA :). I guess they probably used the juice so that the dumplings wouldn't stick as the juice would kind of act like oil.

Will said...

Have you been to Shanghai Yu Yuan yet (on Valley, near Hawaii Supermarket and the new Jazz Cat)? I think it's one of the better Shanghai places around.

http://exilekiss.blogspot.com/2010/02/fresh-vibrant-pure-shanghai-cuisine-and.html

Alice said...

Hmm, I wouldn't mind some Green Onion Pancakes!

elmomonster said...

I prefer the skin to be just slightly thinner (similar to Mei Long Village pre 2007)

You are a true connoisseur ETE!

And yes, I was going to say the same as the other...need to eat the XLBs fast!

tigerfish said...

Those appetizers are really quite "Shanghai-nese" ;p ...I've heard from my friend about this 马蘭香干 and I wonder what other name for 马蘭 other than Boltonia Znaica?

EatTravelEat said...

Will,
I have actually read that post! I do want to try it, it does look quite nice.

Alice,
And nor would I! I just had some yesterday.

Edwin,
You made my day on Wednesday when I read this comment after I hurt myself falling down! XLBs are great piping hot, I have to agree, as long as the juice isn't scalding.

Tigerfish,
Is that for real or is that smile sarcastic? :) What I have heard for the vegetable is "Shanghai Style Vegetable" or something like that. Weird!