Saturday, November 2, 2013

Ala Shanghai

I have fond childhood memories of rolling dim sum carts in Montreal. A dim sum experience in the Capital Region is nowhere near that of the bustling cities, but I'd give up the carts for quality food anytime especially at Ala Shanghai in Latham. Forget the cloyingly sweet sesame chicken takeout or crab rangoons.  Go for an authentic Chinese food experience minus the grease and MSG. 

We've dined at Ala Shanghai a number of times for dim sum, aka Chinese brunch, and dinner and every experience has always been spot on. Dim sum is a great way to try a bit of everything since they are small bite-sized plates. A typical spread includes a mix of dumplings and buns and Ala Shanghai alone has fourteen dim sum dishes to pick from a Cheesecake Factory-length menu that includes chef's specialties, soups, noodles, and fried rice too. The stars of the dim sum menu are the pork soup dumplings. What are soup dumplings? Just as it sounds, soft chewy dumplings steamed and stuffed with a wonderful rich broth contained inside an edible pouch. A drop of hot sauce and soy and they are too die for bites. Just be careful that you don't put the whole thing in your mouth, you might die from exploding hot broth. The secret to eating soup dumplings is to put the dumpling on your spoon, dress with sauces, take a tiny bite out of the dumpling just enough to break the skin and carefully slurp up the broth. It's a very interactive and tasty experience. 

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Other highlights from the dim sum menu include crispy scallion pancakes and shu mai, another kind of dumpling. We enjoyed the one that's stuffed with sticky rice, ham, mushrooms, and dried shrimp. Another favorite dumpling are har gows, shrimp ones that come in a translucent wrapper. Ok, so that's a lot of favorites but they're all good! Even my parents who are picky when it comes to Asian food say this is better than what they get in Montreal nowadays. 

If you still have room after dim sum or happen to come back for dinner, we highly recommend the Tong-Po stewed pork belly dish and fried salt-and-pepper squid. Yes, these are fried and fatty dishes too but are so much better tasting than your typical take-out. Plus the pork belly comes with steamed baby bok choy so you've got a veggie to balance things out. If you are a lover of all things pork and bacon, don't pass on the pork belly. It's fork chopsticks tender and wonderfully unctuous. Plain white rice is the perfect carrier for the pork but if you prefer fried rice, they've got that here to and it's flavorful and not greasy-tasting. If you are a fan of calamari, go for the salt-and-pepper fried squid. It's light and crunchy and simply dressed with salt, pepper, scallions, chilli and garlic but so flavorful. Raw garlic really packs a punch here and chili gives the dish just enough but not too much heat. 

We've also just started exploring the cold appetizers. We got a duo of jellyfish mixed with sesame oil and scallions and salted duck. Yes, jellyfish is edible! It's got a fun texture and reminded us a lot of the seaweed salad we get at sushi joints. Slices of steamed duck were simple yet delicious. If you love the gamey flavor of duck, this is a dish for you. 

The menu at Ala Shanghai is extensive and we've only broken the tip of the iceberg. With each return trip, we've been trying to give a go at other dishes on the menu but the dim sum keeps calling our names. The flavors are clean and classic and you know it's authentic, and the good stuff, when older Asian generations are dining right by your side. This place is a favorite among other bloggers and for good reasons. Have you stopped by yet? If so, what are your favorites? What else are must-try dishes that we haven't covered yet? Let us know so we can eat more! 

1 comment:

  1. You should try the cold appetizer spicy cabbage...crispy, spicy, vinegary...delish