Shanghai Wonderful Restaurant

Restaurant: Shanghai Wonderful Restaurant
Cuisine: Shanghainese/Chinese/Dim Sum
Last visited: August 12, 2011
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: 8380 Lansdowne Rd
Price Range: $10 or less for dim sum, $10-20+

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

Food: 4
Service: 2
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 4
Additional comments:

  • Shanghainese owned/operated
  • Authentic Shanghainese
  • Local favourite
  • Extensive menu
  • Very busy/line-ups
  • Reasonably priced
  • English/Chinese menus
  • Family friendly
  • Reservations recommended
  • Sometimes cash only… “machine broken”
  • Free parking
  • Mon-Sun Dim Sum/Lunch 11am-3pm
  • Mon-Sun Dinner 5pm-10pm

**Recommendations: Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Buns aka Xiao Long Bao, Turnip Cake, Pan-fried Pork Dumplings, Boneless Duck with Eight Treasures (Reservation required and for dinner only)

I’ve been coming to this restaurant before it moved to this location. It used to be a hole in the wall located on No 3 Road across from Richmond Centre. It was fantastic as a hole and the wall and I found it still very good after it moved and re-opened here. There was a lot of debate about the quality going down hill after the move, but I didn’t visit it often enough to be able to tell a significant difference. Regardless, it’s been a few years after the move, and it still remains as busy as ever and reservations are highly recommended.

On this occasion I came at around 2pm so the restaurant was a lot quieter than usual. They offer a dim sum menu for brunch and lunch and then a separate larger menu for dinner. There’s English translations and some photos, but otherwise I’d recommend coming here with someone who knows what to order because “Onion Cake”, “Baked Short Cake”, and “Deep Fried Salty Cake”, isn’t exactly a helpful menu description. I guess that goes for almost every Asian, Indian and ethnic restaurant out there though. It even drives me insane and I know the culture, but you’re bound to get lost in translation sometimes.

Shanghai Wonderful is probably one of the most popular and well liked Shanghainese restaurants in Richmond, BC. It’s one of my go-to Shanghainese restaurants although I like to switch things up and try new places, however if it’s a big group, nobody ever objects to this as a dinner spot. It’s clean, comfortable, casual and reasonably priced and the quality of food is generally there. I’ve had my hit and miss dishes though so not everything is superb, which is the case for most restaurants anyways. This isn’t my favourite Shanghainese Restaurant because I really find my experiences have been heavily based on what I ordered, but I still like it and do come back every so often.

On the table:

**Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Buns4/6

  • 6 pieces $5.25
  • I think by now almost everyone knows what a “juicy pork bun/dumpling”, “xiao long bao” or “XLB” is… and if you don’t, I almost feel bad for you. Go try one!
  • This is the must order dish at any Shanghainese restaurant and it’s supposed to show what the restaurant and chefs are capable of.
  • They were served steaming hot and  hand made upon order as they should be.

  • So many of my friends think they’re the best here, but I’m not as excited about these ones, although they are still very good.
  • Yes, they are delicious and the skins are paper thin, but I found the meat too heavily marinated with soy sauce and it overpowered the natural flavour of the pork broth.
  • There was a ton of “juice” or pork broth/soup, but it was noticeably saltier than usual and you can tell just by the colour of the broth.
  • I couldn’t taste much of the onion or ginger either, which in some cases I can.
  • The meatball was tender and good, but I actually prefer the XLB from Suhang Restaurant, Shanghai House, Shanghai River, or maybe even Beijing Cuisine better (all those are located in Richmond).

Usually there should be much more ginger in the vinegar served with it.

**Pan Fried (Pork) Dumplings – 4.5/6

  • 6 pieces $5.25
  • I really enjoyed these and for what they were, they were done really well, except the skins were a little thick.
  • Shanghainese skins tend to be a bit thicker for the pan fried dumplings, but I’ve had them thinner than this before.
  • They were fried incredibly well with a nice and crispy golden brown bottom, but it was a tad oily, but that’s to be expected.

Sorry, it’s not the prettiest picture, but I had to show how much tasty pork juice these dumplings held.

  • This is the same dumpling and as soon as I bit into it, the juice squirted all over the table. It was almost a one biter. When this happens though, it’s usually because the skin is a bit thick and your teeth didn’t sink through it.
  • The skin was chewy and the pork and vegetable filling was incredibly tender with lots of pork flavour.
  • The meat used was actually quite fatty although you couldn’t tell and it wasn’t gelatinous at all.
  • I really enjoyed these!

Shredded Chicken with Starch Cake3/6

  • $6.50
  • Just by the title, I would never order this. Usually they would call it “glass noodle” “mungbean noodle” or “clear noodle” instead of “starch cake”, and by calling it “starch cake” even I got confused.
  • This is one of my favourite Shanghainese dishes, but they didn’t do a great job with it here.
  • If you’ve never had it, you would probably still find this good, but it can get so much better.
  • In the simplest “American” description it’s basically clear mungbean noodles tossed with sesame sauce and shredded chicken, but there should also be freshly sliced cucumbers in it.
  • It’s served room temperature or slightly warm and sometimes even cold. This one was in between. The sauce was warm, but the noodles were room temperature.

  • It’s not always spicy, but sometimes it is, and I like it when it is a bit. In Shanghai they serve it with Chinese mustard on the side.
  • This one had a lot of sesame sauce, but the sesame sauce tasted more like melted peanut butter than it did sesame sauce. It was very peanutty rather than heavy with the sesame. It was well seasoned and salty though so at least it wasn’t bland.
  • There wasn’t much chicken, but the pieces it had were dark meat and a bit gelatinous. This is the authentic and typical chicken it would be served with though.

**Turnip Cake 5/6

  • 3 pieces $5.25
  • These are really labour intensive to make and not many Shanghainese restaurants will offer them, but they are very authentic to Shanghainese dim sum.
  • It’s a very filling and dense appetizer and half of one is plenty.
  • The pastry is quite rich and it’s very tender, flaky and crisp on the outside, but also soft like a pastry dough on the inside.
  • The inside is stuffed with well seasoned Chinese ham, chives and shredded radish and it’s savoury, but not saucy.
  • It was also a bit sweet and some of the shredded radish which seemed pickled in a sweet vinegar, so the flavour was more than just savoury, which I liked.
  • The pastry dough can come off as a bit dry, but with the moist filling, it all balances out and it’s delicious!
  • The base of the turnip cake is crunchy and almost pan seared with a nutty toasted sesame seed crust.
  • The only other place I’ve had it at where I’ve enjoyed it as much is Shanghai House – see Turnip Cake.

Onion Cake2.5/6

  • 2 pieces $3.95
  • The onion cake is good if it’s your first time having it, but it does get better than this.
  • I wanted lots more onion, but the pastry was quite good with a crispy flaky exterior and then a soft and chewy inside.
  • It was moist and savoury and very doughy, but a bit too thick of a pancake for me.
  • An authentic Shanghai one is lighter than this, so this would be considered a dense onion cake, but it was still okay and not too oily.

Pork and Salted Vegetable Fried Rice Cake 3.5/6

  • $10.95
  • I love Shanghainese Fried Rice Cakes. It’s basically a flat oval shaped thick noodle that’s chewy and also very filling.
  • I actually prefer the “Shanghainese Style Fried Rice Cakes”, which has a bolder, darker, richer, saltier and stronger soy based sauce.
  • The noodle was sliced very thin which I liked and they’re very chewy and they kind of stick to your teeth. I love them.
  • This pork and salted vegetable version is quite traditional as well, but sometimes I find it a bit boring.
  • This one was quite savoury with the natural juices from the pork acting as a sauce.
  • The pork pieces were very fatty and gelatinous and a bit chewy and I really didn’t like that, but that is traditionally how it is made.
  • The pickled cabbage gives in a tanginess and it does make it seem less greasy and takes the heaviness of the fatty pork away.
  • It’s also sauteed with bean sprouts for a nice crunch and added texture. The flavour of this dish is not offensive at all.

Tofu with Four Treasures – 2/6

  • $6.95
  • I actually ordered this at dinner on a previous occasion and it looked nothing like the picture on the menu.
  • There are photos on the menu, but after this, I don’t know how trustworthy they are.
  • I love all the ingredients, but they really skimped on the toppings and the presentation wasn’t there.

The photo looked like this, so I wasn’t expecting what we got at all.

  • It just looked like a block of tofu dumped straight from the plastic container it came in and it even had the ridges of the container imprinted around the edges.
  • The “four treasures” will vary depending on the restaurant, but this was the vegetarian version.
  • It was topped with some chopped up salted duck egg yolk, preserved century egg, pickled cabbage and another preserved pickled radish.
  • The one they serve here will always come with the salted duck egg yolk, preserved century egg, and pickled cabbage, but the fourth “treasure” will vary according to what they have in stock.
  • Other “four treasures” often include shrimp, smoked fish, peanuts, black wood ear mushrooms or other preserved, pickled, or dried Chinese ingredients.
  • As much as I enjoy all the “four treasures” in this version, overall the execution was disappointing and they skimped on the toppings.
  • The sauce was a soy based sauce and it was a bit oily, but it gave flavour to the tofu, which is obviously just bland.
  • It’s a chilled salty and tangy appetizer and it was pretty much something I could have done at home after a quick stop at T&T.

**Boneless Duck with Eight Treasures 4.5/6

  • (Reservation Required, Dinner Only) $36.95
  • This is another item I ordered at dinner here before. It’s a famous Shanghainese dish.
  • It’s visually stunning, but it is pricier, although it is meant to be shared by at least 6-8 people.
  • It’s pretty much an Asian style stuffed “turkey”.
  • The duck is braised and it’s incredibly rich, filling, greasy, and heavy. One piece is almost more than enough.
  • The “Eight Treasures” are different than the “Four Treasures” from the appetizer above.
  • The duck is swimming in a bed of sauce and traditionally it’s supposed to be as well.
  • This is also offered at Suhang Restaurant, and it must be pre-ordered there too.

The whole duck is incredibly tender and it cuts like a meatloaf.

  • Unless you’re familiar with this type of cuisine, most of the ingredients in the stuffing will be foreign to you and perhaps a bit acquired, although it’s generally not hard to accept if you’re prepared for what to expect.
  • It was stuffed with sticky rice, lotus seeds, duck meat, duck livers, shrimp meat, possibly pork or chicken gizzards, green soybeans, dried scallops, ham dices, bamboo shoots, dried mushrooms and maybe ginko nuts and dates.
  • I’m not exactly sure which of those 8 were in there, but it was some combination of those listed and it was a bit hard to pick out.
  • It’s all sorts of traditional Chinese ingredients that are bound together with duck fat and foie gras drippings. Yum!
  • This wasn’t the best stuffed duck and it was a bit heavy on the sticky rice rather than the ingredients, but it’s still good and I would recommend you to try it.
  • The skin is incredibly fatty and then the inside is almost mushy and creamy and a bit wet from all the ingredients, but it isn’t always like this.
  • The duck is tender and moist and braised for hours so it melts in your mouth, but then there’s some texture from all the other ingredients too.
  • It’s heavily sauced with a oily, rich, thick sweet and savoury duck broth gravy, and it is good, but just heavy.

Steamed Sticky Rice with Eight Treasures1/6

  • $8.95
  • I call this Asian style “Christmas Pudding” or “Rice Pudding”.
  • This is not for me at all, it’s pretty much everything I dislike about Chinese desserts in one bowl.
  • For people that like this dessert, it might be a 5/6.
  • It was another menu item with “treasures” in the title, which is super vague for anyone unfamiliar with the food or culture.
  • I don’t even know what the eight treasures in this dessert were, but it was different than what was in the stuffed duck and tofu appetizer… thank goodness.

  • First, I saw red bean… ew. It was extra thick and pasty too. Sorry, not for me.
  • Then there were those artificial tasting syrupy preserved fruits that remind me of Maraschino cherries… 🙁
  • To top things off it was served warm and it’s incredibly dense, heavy, filling and gluey.
  • Basically it’s sweetened sticky rice, sweet dried dates, dried apricots, ginko nuts,  and some type of artificial candied jellies or fruit and other beans and overall this was an utter nightmare for me.

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12 Comments

  • Andy says:

    I think I shot the music video for my song, “Take a Bao,” outside of this restaurant; find it on my Lucky Tao post, LOL. I’ll have to see if the award for the best bao goes to Shanghai Wonderful myself.

  • Carmen says:

    I visited Shanghai Wonderful last week on my trip to YVR. Was underwhelmed by the XLB… like you I found it was too heavily seasoned and I wanted more ginger flavour. I found the soup too sweet (strange). The wrapper on the regular XLB seemed thick to us but we had their crab XLBs which were much better. For some strange reason the wrapper was thinner and the crab flavour was more prominent than the pork in the regular XLBs. We did like their pan fried pork buns (the kind that at a glance resemble steamed BBQ pork buns). The bottoms were crispy and the soup was hot and flavourful.

    In a city like YVR, with so many great Shanghai restaurants, I would drive down the street to another restaurant (ex. Shanghai River, Dynasty) for better XLB.

  • Mijune says:

    @Andy – lol let me know how it goes! “Best bao” is hard to say until I try them ALL! 🙂

    @Carmen – Hmm interesting, I rarely venture from my standard pork XLB, but now I might! I liked their pan fried pork buns too! But it was a while ago now.

    Yeah it’s funny.. even if the XLB isn’t good.. it’s never BAD really.. we just have too many good places in Richmond that we can be “picky” about where we go 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  • Bow says:

    Mijune, just ate there yesterday. Some of its best items are on the dim sum menu. I refer to the appetizer page…a great duck dish and crispy prawns. They make a great Hot ‘n’ Sour soup and a good smoked fish dish. The very tasty Tan Tan noodles with the salt n pepper pork are on the lunch menu. I find the Wonderful quite consistent and always enjoy it. I see you bought the Turnip cakes…they’re really good. Try the tea smoked duck and Singapore vermicelli, as well as the fish dishes.

  • Mijune says:

    @bow – well then… you are very familiar with the menu! The Crispy Prawns I will for sure order and debated the tan tan noodles, but passed. I trust your tastes too Bow, thanks for ur recs! I’m glad I hit one of your favourites!

  • LotusRapper says:

    Hi Mijune,

    My first (& only) dinner at SW was overall good, I’d say a 7/10. I can’t remember every dish we ordered (6 adults, one child), but I do remember while the XLBs were big and juicy, the filling’s lack of depth and flavours somewhat disappointed me. IMHO, Top Shanghai & Dinesty still have the better XLBs.

    GOP (green onion pancake) shouldn’t be deep fried at all, only pan-fried like how a roti is made on a large skillet.

    SW did have decent deep-fried fish & seawood. We also had the braised pork belly with spinach which was well done, as well as a very respectable (and hard to do) sweet & sour mandarin fish (松子鲑鱼).

    Bon appetit,
    LR

  • Mijune says:

    @LR – I love how picky we can be about XLB… all over Vancouver (out of 10) it doesn’t get much worse that a 6… being that 5 is average.

    haha I was like what’s a GOP? Got it! It shouldn’t be deep fried, but in Shanghai “pan fry” = deep fry… “authentic” versions use A LOT of oil. They intend to pan fry, but it’s not for our “American” standards lol.

    Mmmm pork belly for the win!!! Thanks for suggestions!

  • Linda says:

    i love chinese food 🙂 i always feel bad for ppl who never grew up eating it because they never realize what kind of weird combinations and flavours they’re missing out on 🙂

    the shredded chicken with starch cake is definitely something new to me – i’ve actually never seen it on a menu before! i thought the starch cake were shreds of chayote lol the turnip cake looks so goooooooooood! i wish i had one right now 🙂

    too bad about the tofu! totally not the same as the one portrayed in the picture! the boneless duck! wow, i remember reading something on your twitter about it sort of being like the chinese version of turducken lol i would order this in a heartbeat!

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