Monday, March 28, 2016

Fast and Hot and Beautiful: Ala Shanghai

No, this is not a sex thing, but maybe I've got your attention. Ala Shanghai is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the Capital Region, which may not be saying much, most of them are dreadful, but this little spot off of Latham Circle is truly worth battling traffic and crazy drivers to get to. 
Not pretty. Don't keep up with traffic. Slow down, stop and eat well.
There's a nice selection of very modestly priced lunch specials ($7 to $9, served with white or brown rice, soup a bit extra - the hot and sour was very good, not as spicy as I would have liked, sneaky with heat, lots of mushrooms and tofu). Red enjoyed the Wonton Soup - it had a mild broth and a dense, flavorful filling. 
Wonton Soup (for an extra $1.50 with a lunch special) - delicious!

Hot and Sour Soup - thickened just enough to make it feel rich and satisfying, but not hot enough for Zena
The Kung Po was good - tender chicken with crisp peanuts and celery, a bit on the sweet side but tamed with a splash of vinegar. Everyone enjoyed the Beef and Broccoli, with tender slices of meat and plenty of greens. 
Kung Po Chicken - don't eat the little red things

Beef and Broccoli - we all LOVED the sauce

The traditional menu is extensive - fish/seafood, poultry, beef, pork, Chef's Specials, Dim Sum. Seasonal specials were a bit more daring, with squid, eel, pork belly and intestines if you are so inclined - this made me think the chef/s must know what they're doing.  I was not disappointed. The Wonton in Spicy Flavor ($7) was decidedly not spicy but rather mild, scented with peanuts, rich and soothing. The Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings ($8) were a beautiful burst of flavor, slippery and salty. The dough, in both dishes, was perfectly tender. The Beef Chow Fun  - wide rice noodles with slices of tender beef -  was a big greasy dish that you must plan to share.
Lovely soup dumplings. Wait until they cool. Eat in one big bite. You've been warned

Wonton in Spicy Flavor - not spicy but packed with flavor (and pretty, too)
Beef Chow Fun. This was a very large, heavy duty dish that you should plan on sharing

Don't forget your greens. The Chinese Broccoli ($7) was fresh, slightly bitter, garlicky and shiny with oil, with a perfect texture. Everyone enjoyed the Sauteed String Beans - charred just a bit, a punch of garlic, and naturally sweet vegetables - this was a simple but lovely addition to our feast. 
Chinese Broccoli - bitter and heady with garlic
Sauteed Green Beans - you need some

The best dish was the Peking Duck, crispy yet tender, it was carved and plated table side onto pillowy steamed bread and laced with scallions and hoisin. 

A decadent addition to a wonderful meal
Overall the flavors are at Ala Shanghai are pleasant, a bit on the sweet side, not too spicy, crafted yet not complex. The best part of enjoying Chinese with a bunch of your buds is the chance to try more of what's on the menu all at one time, and I did my best to get more than my fair share.  

Lunch for 5 (no beverages besides tea) - nine dishes (including three lunch specials) was $85.32 plus tip. 

It's hard to eat slow when the food is coming on fast and hot and beautiful like a fire goddess on a mission, but I tried. 

Zena, Goddess of Fire

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