Great Shanghai Szechuan Restaurant
Great Shanghai Szechuan Restaurant cooks up a delicious feast of authentic regional comfort food. For more than 14 years, this Scarborough eatery has been serving up specialties from two very different regional Chinese cuisines. The diverse menu features mostly family-style dishes, ranging from popular Shanghai delicacies to spicy concoctions of Southwestern China. Eager to try a little of everything, I arrive early on a Friday evening, empty stomach in toll, for a hearty family meal.
While the decor is nondescriptly simple, the small space evokes the hospitable charm of a family-run restaurant. We are warmly greeted by the friendly owner and swiftly seated in a comfortable booth. On the wall, photos of signature items are on display, serving as helpful guides for those unfamiliar with regional Chinese cuisine.
We begin with a steaming bowl of Hot and Sour Soup ($4.50 for a small). Don't be fooled by the word "small" - the portion can easily serve four to five. Loaded with generous amounts of shrimp, shredded pork, tofu, wood ear fungus and bamboo shoots, this Szechuan specialty is packed with bold, pungent flavours that mingle pleasantly with the tang of the vinegar and the heat. Every spoonful of this thick, hearty soup is a delightful kick to the palate, and it tastes particularly satisfying on a cold, wet night.
To follow, we order some cold appetizers. The first is the Chicken with Wine sauce ($5.50 for a small). More commonly known as "drunken chicken", the preparation involves marinating the chicken in Huadiao wine to develop a rich, alcoholic flavour. While I find the chicken to be overly tough in texture, the wine certainly has a strong presence in the meat. Nevertheless, it is a tasty and refreshing follow-up to the preceding spicy course.
The next cold dish, the Cheng Kong Pork ($4.50), is the Chinese equivalent of a pork terrine. While it is a perfectly adequate snack, the flavours are rather bland and unmemorable in comparison to the previous two dishes.
One of my personal favourites of the night is the fried egg whites ($9.99 - top photo), accompanied with freshly cooked broccoli, topped with a runny egg yolk and served with black vinegar. Both the taste and the picturesque presentation win our approval at the table. The egg whites are light, velvety and well-complimented by the creaminess of the yolk. Interestingly, the dish is supposed to imitate the flavours of crab, and does a surprisingly good job in achieving that goal (due to the pairing with black vinegar, a condiment commonly served with Chinese-style steamed crab).
The Soup Filled Steamed Dumplings ($4.99 for six) is another well-executed classic. Although the dough is slightly too thick for my preference, it holds in the contents well. Each delicate dumpling is filled with delicious, piping hot soup with a wonderful, meaty flavour.
The other standout of the night is undoubtedly Spiced Fried Duck ($13.99 for half), cut up into chunks and served with steamed buns. It arrives smelling so good that we immediately attack the duck with our hands, abandoning all manners. The crispy, golden brown skin and the juicy duck meat is a delectable match. Greasy and succulent, this is comfort food at its best and the kind that makes me smile.
From the dessert menu, the Taro Cake ($3.50 for two) catches my eye. Although I am stuffed to the brim at this point, the temptation proves too great to resist for a taro-lover like me. Thankfully, my choice does not disappoint. The taro filling is tasty without being overly sweet and goes well with the flaky pastry crust. All in all, it is an excellent finale to a scrumptious, heart-warming meal.
The restaurant might not impress with its dĂŠcor and ambiance, but the food and the welcoming service certainly makes up for that.
Great Shanghai is open 7 days a week, from 10:30 am to 11 pm Monday to Friday, and from 10:00 to midnight on weekends.