Shanghai Lil had been a fairly regular place for us (particularly for carry out and dim sum), but for whatever reason, we hadn’t been in ages (last time I posted about it was 2009, holy moley). One of the reasons we don’t go a lot is because my son is allergic to a whole host of nuts, which pretty much rules out Chinese food because of all the nuts used-- I fear that there is a lot of cross-contamination going on with woks, etc. It is just too scary. But the other night he was spending the night at a friend’s, so we took our daughter and went.
I noticed a change on this trip—there are no longer any of the Japanese offerings that they used to have. I always wondered about this, because we never ordered Japanese, and I never saw people eating it. That has got to be expensive to keep up the fresh fish angle (for sushi) if no one is ordering it. We went with a couple of things we have had before and a couple of new things as well.
We started with the stuffed eggplant ($6) and the dumplings in chili oil ($6). The eggplant was a new dish for us—kind of interesting. It is slices of eggplant stuffed with minced pork and tempura fried. It had a garlic ginger sauce. We liked it—a lot of stuff going on here, but the more we ate it, the more we enjoyed it. It was really hot and freshly fried, so it was nice and crunchy on the outside, even with the sauce drizzled on top. It is probably really more of a pork dish than an eggplant dish though—there was a lot of pork stuffed in there. I liked the sauce—it had a nice flavor and wasn’t too sweet.
The dumplings in chili oil are an old standby (one is already missing in the photo), and I am not sure why, but they just weren’t as good as I remembered. Maybe they weren’t made as freshly as other times I have had them or something. They just seemed a little bland and the insides (that contain pork, shrimp, and scallions) didn’t seem to have enough seasoning or something. They have a “spicy sweet” chili oil that was fine, but wasn’t saving the dumplings.
For a main dish, hubby wanted to try the pepper-salt flounder ($18) to see if it was as good as some salt and pepper fish we had in Chicago awhile back. This is a dish that doesn’t really have a sauce—the fish is just lightly fried and has a very distinct salt and pepper flavor in the crust. There are chilies and scallions chopped and served with it. It was very good. The flounder was nice and tender and the seasoning on the crust while simple, was really good (salty and peppery, go figure). I think we may have even liked it better than the Chicago version. The crust was a little crispier, and it had more of a battered kind of feel than the cornmeal crust that we had before. Not the healthiest choice, but darn good.
My daughter got the crispy shrimp rolls ($4.50) and chicken fried rice ($11). I have had the shrimp rolls a lot before and they are pretty basic (a shrimp wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and fried). There’s a little seasoning in their (chives I think) and they are nice and crunchy, but nothing amazing. Their fried rice is pretty good—not a ton of veggies which my daughter likes. In fact she ate it for several days after for breakfast and was very content.
I still think Shanghai Lil is one of the better Chinese places we have on the Northeast side. It isn’t cheap, but the ingredients are fresh—I feel confident ordering seafood there, which I can’t always say about some Chinese places. And they have dim sum for lunch---and now I am craving that again. But remind me again, what are your favorite places for Chinese?
8505 Keystone Crossing