Restaurant: No. 1 Shanghai 滬上
Cuisine: Chinese/Shanghainese/Dim Sum
Last Visited: April 8, 2012
Location: Richmond, BC (Richmond Central)
Address: #120 – 4200 #3 Road
Transit: Aberdeen Station Southbound
Price Range: $10-20 dim sum, $20-30 dinner ($10-15 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Shanghainese cuisine
- Shanghainese chefs
- Chinese staff
- English/Chinese menus
- Photos on menu
- Family friendly
- $1.99 dim sum specials
- Credit cards accepted
- Free parking
- Dim sum/lunch/dinner
- Mon-Sun 11am-1am
**Recommendations: Wild Vegetable with Diced Dried Bean Curd, Marinated Bamboo Shoots, Pan-Fried Live Crab with Egg Yellow Sauce, Country Side Chicken Soup
No. 1 Shanghai Cuisine. Ahh, I don’t know about that one. It wouldn’t be in my top 5 places to go for Shanghainese cuisine in Richmond, BC, but then again I only tried their dinner menu and perhaps their dim sum is better. Personally, my go-to spots in Richmond for Shanghainese cuisine are usually Shanghai Wonderful, Suhang, Shanghai House, Chen’s Shanghai Kitchen or Shanghai River and maybe now even Top Shanghai Cuisine. As I mentioned before, Richmond is the hub for Chinese cuisine in Metro Vancouver, so if I’m dining in this category I guess you can call it my go-to destination.
It’s located in a strip mall and although it doesn’t look like much from the outside, in fact I think it looks a bit shady, the inside was quite nice. It’s gone through a few changes in restaurants and ownership and I think the last time it was a karaoke place. It was spacious and perceivably clean, but there was a stale presence in the atmosphere and it might be due to the fact that it was near empty the entire dinner service.
I always have to point out the menu when I go for Shanghainese because it can be intimidating. If there’s no English or photos, I won’t know what the heck I’m doing. And if there’s a language barrier with the staff (there almost always is), then I’m pretty much left to a 20 minute session of Pictionary where I am likely not the winner. Anyways thank goodness the menu at No. 1 Shanghai had a lot of photos and decent English translations.
Personally, I really dislike ordering set menus and I find them quite “mass produced” in terms of quality. However when I asked for recommendations it was pretty much “set menu” as a response and I didn’t get much help beyond that. I didn’t have say on this occasion, but we did end up ordering a set menu and adding on top of that. To be honest, it was a very average dinner and it didn’t showcase anything I would come back for.
I’m not sure if they were just catering to a Cantonese crowd way too much, but the chefs are Shanghainese. I feel like there is potential on the dim sum menu, and that’s the only thing I’d be curious to come back and check out. Otherwise all the items I had I could satisfy elsewhere for better. I guess the value here is pretty good and I have heard good things about No. 1 Shanghai, but my experience on this occasion wasn’t enough to justify an eager revisit.
On the table:
**Wild Vegetable with Diced Dried Bean Curd – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- This is the Shanghainese staple also called “Malantou” that I always order as an appetizer.
- It’s almost like a chilled salad made of finely minced vegetables like Chinese Celery (strong flavoured celery with watercress qualities), firm tofu, dried bean curd skins and wild greens. I like it when it has the crunch of pickled radish too, but this one didn’t have any.
- The bonus was the pine nuts, which I’ve only experienced at 2 places before, but it’s not authentic for the dish although I like it better with them.
- It’s soft and crunchy and has a strong watercress and celery flavour.
- It’s usually marinated or served with vinegar, but this one was not as well marinated nor was it served with vinegar.
- They did a pretty good job with the dish, but it was slightly under seasoned and on the dry side.
- Naturally it does have a dry crumbly texture, but this one was drier than normal.
- Personally I prefer the one at Suhang – see their Marinated Bean Curd with Special Vegetables.
Shanghai Style Juicy Pork Bun – 3/6 (Good)
- 6 pieces $5.50
- This is the “tell all” item to order. The famous Shanghainese pork dumplings, xiao long bao or “XLB’s”.
- They were making them upon order and they were served hot, but the execution wasn’t great.
- Just looking at them the dough was on the thick side and it should be more transparent like the ones at Top Shanghai Cuisine.
- The skin was pretty thick and chewy with the nub (top part) a bit high and thick as well. Yes, the folds and nub are important factors in a Shanghainese dumpling.
- The pork had a hint of ginger flavour and it was not as creamy or as tender as it should be and usually it would melt in your mouth with very minimal chew.
- There was a decent amount of pork soup, but not as much as other places like Suhang or Top Shanghai.
- I liked that they served it with malted vinegar though (which should be standard), but the XLB did need it for flavour otherwise it was slightly bland.
Briased Pigeon w/House Sauce & Vegetable – 2/6 (Okay)
- Part of set dinner for 6 $148 – about $8.50 a la carte and portion may be bigger a la carte
- It’s actually squab, not “pigeon”, but Chinese people call it pigeon all the time.
- The meat and skin were quite tender, but the pigeon wasn’t even braised in the sauce.
- The sauce was poured on top and it was very syrupy and much too sweet.
- Part of set dinner for 6 $148 – about $6.50 a la carte and portion may be bigger a la carte
- It was chilled and crunchy bamboo shoots braised in a sweetened soy sauce with sesame oil and dry sherry.
- The flavours absorbed well into the bamboo shoots and I actually really enjoyed this. I would order it a la carte and they did a good job.
Shanghai Jelly Pork – 1/6 (Poor)
- Part of set dinner for 6 $148 – about $6.50 a la carte and portion may be bigger a la carte
- I’m really not a fan of this and it’s basically Shanghainese head cheese. I’m not a fan of head cheese, but I’ll eat it on occasion.
- This one was very gelatinous with too much gel and the pork wasn’t that tender and it was almost crunchy.
- Even though I’m not a fan of this dish, I’ve had better versions of it.
Country Side Chicken Soup – 4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)
- $24.50/half $8.50/bowl (Part of set dinner for 6 $148)
- This was probably the most impressive thing on the set menu and for dinner overall.
- I’m showing it early, but it actually didn’t come out until the end which is unusual. It tasted very fresh and was served piping hot.
- A good chicken soup should be simmering slowly all day which I really believe this was, but they finished it off before serving it with Napa cabbage.
- The chicken looked braised and it was literally falling apart and shredding into bits in the soup from being so tender.
- There was also some other ingredients like pork and I think ginseng roots, but it was by no means bitter.
- Traditionally, Chinese would actually fault the soup for not being bitter though because that bitterness is desired in ginseng for a great soup.
- The broth was almost milky and intense with chicken flavour and it wasn’t too oily or salty and it seemed very natural, home cooked, pure, simple and delicious.
- I can’t confirm, but it tasted free of MSG.
Braised Beche-de-Mer with Green Onion – 2/6 (Okay)
- Part of set dinner for 6 $148. About $28 a la carte (Portion may be bigger and includes shrimps if ordered a la carte)
- This was quite disappointing and maybe it was because it was served with the set menu, but even so I don’t think that’s really an excuse to lessen the quality so much.
- I’m not sure what the order looks like a la carte and it could potentially be better, but I wouldn’t want to order it based on having it from the set menu.
- The “Beche-de-Mer” is also known as sea cucumber which is a Chinese delicacy and pricey ingredient.
- The sea cucumber was supposed to be the highlight to this dish, but the quality of it was quite low and it was very crunchy and not tender yet.
- The dish was also swimming in a sweet soy based sauce with tons of onions, which I like, but it was to the point where it was used to fill room on the plate which I don’t like.
Spareribs with BBQ Sauce on Hot Plate – 3/6 (Good)
- $14.50 (Part of set dinner for 6 $148)
- This looked pretty good to me, but when it came out the hot plate wasn’t sizzling although the ribs were really hot.
- I think the sizzling plate was used for presentation factor and usually it should be used for functionality as well.
- The ribs were huge and generous, but the quality of them was poor compared to Western restaurants, but quite normal for most Asian restaurants.
- Asians tend to use fattier meats and this is what this one was.
- The ribs were deep fried and crispy and coated with the Chinese version of sweet and sour sauce.
- The orange one is the Western version of the sauce, but the Chinese do have their own version which is what this one was.
- It was a sweet and mildly sour barbeque sauce and the meat pulled away from the bone easily along with the membrane and at times it was a bit chewy and too fatty for me.
- They likely pre boiled the ribs first (which I actually don’t mind), but the membrane and meat pulled off in one long strip and it was only semi-tender.
- It was pretty good if I don’t relate it to American style BBQ ribs.
- It’s really apples and oranges, but I prefer the Dinosaur Bones Beef Ribs at Hog Shack Cook House.
**Pan-Fried Live Crab with Egg Yellow Sauce – 4/6 (Very good)
- About $28.50. Served with Shanghai Rice Cakes a la carte. (Part of set dinner for 6 $148)
- This was probably my favourite dish of the evening even though crab takes so much effort to eat. I don’t really mind though and this one was worth the effort for me.
- The crab was fresh and they do have in house tanks.
- It helped that the sauce was one of my favourite sauces for live seafood at Chinese restaurants.
- The sauce is made with salted duck egg yolks and it’s very nutty, salty and a bit creamy and powdery in texture at the same time.
- This one was sauteed with sweet bell peppers which I liked to contrast the saltiness of the yolk.
- The sauce was almost less salty than normal and the colour comes from perhaps turmeric.
- The crab itself was juicy, flaky and tender so they did cook it well.
- The sauce wasn’t particularly better than other places offering this sauce, but it was still good here and I enjoyed it.
Wok-Fried Lily Bulb with Asparagus – 3/6 (Good)
- Part of set dinner for 6 $148. Around $11 a la carte (Stir-fried Scallops with Asparagus $16.50 available a la carte)
- This was a basic vegetable dish and there was really nothing to it.
- The vegetables were fresh, tender and still crunchy.
- The flavour was pretty ordinary with no particular soy and it was what it was.
- The lily bulbs almost come across as starchier shallots and the flavour is very mild and delicate and almost like a bland shallot.
- $14.50 (Part of set dinner for 6 $148)
- This was quite disappointing due to the quality of ingredients used.
- The mushrooms were fresh button mushrooms, although few, Shiitakes, and canned straw mushrooms.
- Canned straw mushrooms aren’t unusual in Chinese cuisine, but when you call something “3 Kinds of Mushrooms” it’s not acceptable to have these 3 kinds showcased in my opinion.
- The abalone sauce also tasted canned which is supposed to be the valued part of the dish.
- The bok choy was tender, but regular, and overall the dish was quite uninspiring and I wouldn’t order it a la carte.
Pan Fried Rice with Garlic & Shrimps Baby – 2.5/6 (Okay-Good)
- $12.50 (Part of set dinner for 6 $148)
- I’m pretty sure they meant to call it Fried Rice with Garlic and Baby Shrimps.
- I have a feeling the rice was fresh and not day old. Day old is always ideal for fried rice.
- The wok could have been a bit hotter because I didn’t get that “wok aroma”, but the rice was moist and not too dry or wet.
- I think they mixed the sticky rice and the regular rice because the rice was chewy which I liked. Shanghainese fried rice should be chewy too.
- It was a very aromatic fried rice with lots of egg, a little bit of dried scallops and some fried shrimps to give it depth in nuttiness, saltiness and seafood flavour.
- The rice was pretty well seasoned, but it didn’t have that much dried shrimp and I could have used more.
- It was a bit plain for a fried rice and even though it tasted fine, it was under delivered in terms of ingredients even for a set menu.
Fried Red Bean Paste Cookies – 1.5/6 (Poor-Okay)
- $6.50 (Part of set dinner for 6 $148)
- This is a very typical Shanghainese dessert and it’s a pancake, not cookies.
- I’m not a fan of red bean, but I’m starting to give it a chance and hope that it will change my mind.
- The pancake is like a deep fried crepe, but this one wasn’t crispy.
- It was filled with a good amount of creamy, thick and semi-sweet red bean and the quality of it was good even according to others.
- The pancake itself wasn’t great and as a dessert it’s not my thing, so I’m biased.
Fried Sweet Puffs with Red Bean Paste – 1.5/6 (Poor-Okay)
- Consider these the Shanghainese versions of donuts. It’s a donut meets a cream puff.
- They’re actually baseball sized deep fried egg white puffs stuffed with red bean paste and sprinkled with pink or white sugar.
- They’re not special to this restaurant and they do exist in Shanghai, but they are rarely offered at Shanghainese restaurants in Vancouver.
- It is usually considered a speciality if it is on the menu. Suhang is also popular for theirs, but I haven’t tried them yet.
- Apparently these are always good here, but on this occasion they were really disappointing so I hope it was just an off day.
- They should be light and airy and these ones were very dense and doughy and more along the lines of steamed bread.
- The egg white part was scented with a hint of ginger and it is mildly sweet and not savoury.
- It almost reminded me of the Chinese steamed egg white and ginger milk in terms of flavour.
- I could taste the faintness of egg white, but the texture was heavy which is unfortunate.
- The red bean was thick and smooth and good quality without being too sweet although I’m not a fan of red bean again.
- It really should be a lot fluffier and the outside wasn’t crispy either.
- Since the donut is not that sweet it is common to dip the puff in the excessive amount of sugar on the plate.
Shanghai #1 we’ve been twice (for research purposes, of course). Yeah the exterior/interior was unusual and somewhat juxtaposed. The food …… average and acceptable, but no wow factor. I think being in the thick of Richmond and amidst so many other Shanghainese restos within a 2-km radius, they have stiff competition to go against. But if they were on the west side of Vancouver, or Burnaby (or anywhere else in Metro Vanc), then they’d fare better *relatively-speaking*.
[whispers] I would say they’re better than Lin’s, ‘tho ……. 😉
^ Actually now come to think of it, we’ve been there three times …..
thanks for this…I’ve wondered about this place for a long time.
Guess we’ll stay with the tired and true.
As always, enjoying your posts….eat on!
this place looked like it had so much potential but every item that i wanted to try didn’t turn out to be very good… the puffs are definitely interesting.. not too sure about the combination though lol and you with red beans?! i’m surprised you even ordered it lol
with that said, i’m glad the shanghai buns were good – they definitely look very delicious.. i heard they might be opening up a din tai fung here in vancouver on richards street, have you heard anything?
@Linda – haven’t heard anything, but DTF in Hong Kong will beat any of the ones we have in North America! I’m warming up slowly to the red bean lol