We went to Shanghai River years ago and really enjoyed the soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, here. When we were planning this trip, there were several recommendations for this place, so we decided to return for dim sum.
The decor is very bright and clean, a bit more modern than your standard Chinese restaurant. We arrived around 11:00 on a weekday and watched the restaurant fill up quickly. You can see why this place is popular – they have a lot of dishes not found at other Asian restaurants, and they also make many of their pastries fresh onsite (you can watch them as they are making various dumplings and buns).
Here’s what we enjoyed (by row, left to right):
1) Oily stick and sesame cracker. The oily stick was freshly fried, hot and chewy. The sesame cracker was a bit bland, but also tasty.
2) Duck and fish maw soup. We expected something entirely different from what arrived. A standard fish maw soup is white with chunks of fish stomach in it. This was more like a “hot and sour soup, without the hot,” is how my husband described it. Not bad, just not what we were expecting.
3) Soup dumplings! It’s nearly impossible to find a good soup dumpling in Calgary. The skin is usually too thick, and the soup has either leaked or evaporated by the time you get it. These were perfect – juicy, flavourful and to die for. They were so juicy I actually squirted myself in the eye biting into the last one!
4) Turnip pastry. Again, a little bland, but so pretty to look at. I also enjoyed the flaky pastry.
5) Shrimp dumplings. I was expecting these to be steamed. Instead, they were large pan fried dumplings with shrimp stuffing inside. A bit greasy, but very yummy.
6) Pan-fried shanghai wontons. This was a dish we tried last time and really liked. Similar to regular pork dumplings, but very tiny and tasty. The server told us these would take 20 minutes – perhaps they were still making them? When the plate arrived, the wontons were a little harder that we liked. They probably could have used a bit more time in the water, but they were still good.
If you are looking for traditional dim sum, you won’t find it here. But if you want the BEST SOUP DUMPLINGS in Vancouver and a variety of Shanghai dishes, I would recommend Shanghai River.
WHAT TO GET: I would definitely order the soup dumplings and shanghai wontons. But the majority of their dishes are very good.