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City Temple of Shanghai

* Restaurant is now closed*

A week ago, I was heading down Main street and something caught my attention. Despite what you think, it wasn't a pretty female. For me, restaurants catch my attention. Yup, I can't resist the lure of a sexy storefront... However, the restaurant that caught my attention was really not a looker. In fact, it looked quite awful. The place is City Temple of Shanghai. Definitely a mom & pop operation, you wouldn't even know if it existed unless someone told you or like me, look out specifically for restaurants. So when I briefly chatted with Degan (Ethnic Eats) at the Granville Foodie Tour about Xiao Long Bao, I thought this would a great place for a meetup. Apparently she'd already visited the place; yet she was up to visiting it again. Rounding out our dinner party was Kim and Elaine. When I originally made a reservation (which is quite laughable for a place like this), I tried to do it in English. No dice. The woman on the other end did not speak it. So I tried Cantonese. That was moderately more successful, although it was clear that she was a Mandarin speaker. Somehow during the phone call, she asked if I wanted to reserve a Peking Duck. Assuming that is must be good, I went ahead and made an executive decision to order one. I really hoped everyone likes Peking Duck! Otherwise, I'd need to eat the whole darn thing...

I arrived a bit early and it turns out that a reservation was not necessary. If I thought the place didn't look like much from the outside, the inside was not much better. Resembling an old wonton noodle joint, the dining space is purely for function only. Adorning the whole side of the place were menu items, surprising in both Chinese and English. Once again, I was in charge of doing the ordering since I could speak the language. I had to decipher what the lady was saying to me since it was a mix of Mandarin and Cantonese. So we started with the aforementioned Peking Duck. It consisted of 2 courses, with the first being the classic crispy skin wrapped in flour crepes. The skin was quite crispy with very little fat or meat attached. It may have been a tad too dry in some areas. Also, I felt it was cut into pieces that were too small. The flour crepes were not very good. They were too thick, cold and gummy. The second course consisted of the Duck Lettuce Wrap. This was better than the duck skin. Curiously, the veggies were crisp; but the overall filling was mushy. I think that there may have been a lack of "wok hay" or wok heat; thus not enough caramelization occurred. That would explain the lack of colour and flavour. Other than that, it wasn't too bad.

Now for the litmus test, the Xiao Long Bao. We got 2 orders since one is never enough. Call it unrealistic expectations because I thought they were only alright. I liked the filling and there was enough juice; but (agreeing with Kim) the dumpling skin was a thick and gummy. Don't get me wrong. They were more than acceptable, much better than Legendary (which inexplicably were in a XLB competition). We also got 2 orders of the Potstickers. I felt that these were better than the XLB. With an appetizing crisp bottom and a surprising amount of juice, the potstickers delivered. I enjoyed both the taste and texture of the filling as well. The meat was not gritty and modestly-seasoned. Our obligatory bowl of noodles came in the form of Tan Tan Mein. It consists of flour noodles topped with either a sesame or peanut based sauce. In this case, it was a slightly spicy peanut sauce topped with green onion and ground peanuts. Possibly because I ate it last, I found the noodles to be a bit soft. Otherwise, the sauce itself was decent with enough soy sauce to balance the peanut.

We also got the Shanghai Fried Noodles as a recommendation. Once again, I found that the noodles were soft. Other than that, the dish was quite alright. It had good colour, just enough dark soy flavour and plenty of spinach, cabbage and pork. Although the nature of this dish results in a large usage of oil (so the noodles don't stick), there wasn't an overload of oil in this case. Everyone knows the cliche, "save the best for last"; however, this really didn't apply. The Pork Chops & Sliced Rice Cake was terrible. I found the rice cakes themselves to be almost gummy rather than chewy. The pork chops were terribly over-tenderized resulting in a mushy texture. To top it all off, the sauce was just too sweet with little in the way of any other flavour.

When we thought our meal was over, we got a complimentary dessert in the form of Pumpkin Rice Pastry with Red Bean. These were pretty good with a nicely pan-fried exterior and a soft rice flour interior. The red bean paste was only semi-sweet. Served hot, these little treats were a nice end to the meal. And about that meal... I gotta admit it was pretty average at best. Even the XLB were average. I mean, the pricing ain't bad and most of the food was very edible; but with some many choices for Shanghainese food in the GVRD, this would not be my first choice. I'd gladly pay a little more and head over to the nearby Shanghai Village or Lin instead.

The Good:
- Inexpensive
- Friendly owner-lady
- Vast menu

The Bad:
- Average food at best
- So-so Xiao Long Bao
- The place has no ambiance

The City Temple of Shanghai Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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