There are so many regional Chinese cuisines that it’s hard to keep up. Some, like Sichuan and Cantonese, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on. Others are becoming more familiar; the food from Shaanxi province is becoming more familiar thanks to the Xi’an Famous/Biang! family of restaurants, and Fu Run was a nice introduction to the food of the northern Dongbei region. Shanghai-style food is something I was not familiar with, but when I read this article over on the Village Voice blog, I figured it was time to get acquainted. My parents took me for my birthday, and the cold appetizers were really the highlight of the meal. My favorite was the Kao Fu Shanghai Style, above. The waiter described it as “tofu in a black sauce,” but it’s actually a wheat gluten product. The sauce was an intriguing mix of salty and sweet, and the chewy wood ear mushrooms and the crunchy peanuts added an interesting textural contrast. The fact that it was served cold made it even more unusual, in a good way.
Also good was the Vegetarian Mock Duck; a chewy bean curd skin wrapped around chopped mushrooms, also served cold. The Scallion Pancakes and the Ma Po Tofu were more familiar, and less interesting dishes, and contributed nothing to my knowledge of Shanghai cuisine — but that’s my own fault for ordering them.
Full House Cafe — 97 Bowery