I was worried that Edmonton wouldn't have any good Shanghainese food, and while it's true that there are only a handful of Shanghainese restaurants in the city including the disappointing Shanghai Grill, I have found at least one place that serves tasty and authentic Shanghainese eats. Shanghai 456, a very unoriginal and unassuming name, has an equally unassuming appearance. It's a run-down cafeteria attached to the Edmonton Flying Club and the staff encourage customers to share tables with strangers when the place is full. Communal seating is actually a common practice for casual eateries in China, and besides it's all part of the cafeteria experience.
My first visit was on a Sunday and even though we arrived shortly after 1 pm, we still had to wait about 10 minutes for a shared table. The first dim sum we ordered was the pan-fried beef buns because they are only available on Sundays and holidays. I've never been a fan of pan-fried beef buns, but these were amazingly juicy and savoury that I really enjoyed them despite the oiliness. I also liked the texture of the bun — soft with just a bit of chew.
Next we had the traditional Shanghainese breakfast duo — savoury soy milk and sticky rice roll ($6.99). These two items are a breakfast staple in Shanghai and I found them quite comforting and satisfying.
The sticky rice roll had a little bit of sugar in the filling, though not as much as the one at Shanghai Grill. I'm still not used to the addition of sugar in this dish, but the sweet and savoury combo is not too bad.
The xiao long bao ($6.75) were a lot more reasonably priced than the ones at Shanghai Grill, and they were quite good too. The presentation was not great and the buns were sloppily made, but the food here is home-style cooking, so they don't care a lot about appearances.
The hot and sour noodle soup ($7.95) was one of the better ones I've had. The soup was thick, savoury, had all the right ingredients in good proportions and just the right balance of sourness and spiciness.
On first sight, the bamboo-shaped puff pastry filled with red bean paste ($3.95) didn't look very appealing because the pastry was quite pale and looked slightly undercooked. It turned out to be very soft and flaky, but the oil literally oozed out as I held it with my chopsticks. Probably wouldn't go for it again despite it tasting quite good.
I tried the pancake filled with red bean paste ($4.95) on another visit, and it was rather similar to the bamboo-shaped puff pastry — tasty but extremely oily.
The best part about eating at Shanghai 456 is that there is a complimentary dessert at the end of the meal. Every time it's different and the dish is a full-size dessert that would probably cost at least $4 at a dim sum restaurant.
Even though the environment is not the nicest, Shanghai 456 is still my go-to place for Shanghainese food. I think it's quite good even in Vancouver standards. Unfortunately I heard that prices have gone up since my last visit, but I suppose that doesn't change anything since the place doesn't have any competition. I would love to get a recommendation on where else I can find good Shanghainese.