This was a fabulous find for classic Cantonese cuisine. We spent several days in the countryside 5 to 6 hours west of Shanghai visiting the so-called river towns that Marco Polo once referred to as the “Venice of the Orient.” It was well worth it with lots of parks, canals, interesting museums, and plenty of friendly, welcoming Chinese. Our favorite towns included Suzhou, which is the silk center of China and has a marvelous Silk Museum, and the smaller villages of Zhouzhuang and Tongli, all of which are within driving distance of Shanghai. However, I recommend you hire a driver and do not try to navigate the roads by yourself unless you speak Mandarin.As the menu attests, we had some exquisite dishes at Shang Palace, including the finest hairy crab from Lake Yangcheng, which comes with its own certificate of authenticity. Some of my favorite dishes included the pan-fried beef short ribs with leek, the chicken soup with shredded bean curd and the deep-fried mandarin fish topped with sweet and sour sauce. We decided to drink beer since it was mid-day, and thus had some of the local Chinese beers which were quite good. They were slightly lighter than a full-throttle American boutique beer, but well-made. I would highly recommend this restaurant to anyone making an excursion outside of Shanghai.
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Petit Louis Bistro
A lookalike, authentic French bistro, Petit Louis in Baltimore's Roland Park is the creation of restauranteurs par excellence Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman. You feel like you’ve walked into a bistro on the Left Bank of Paris when you enter Petit Louis. The food is classic bistro, and they do it well. All of the courses we had were flavorful, sometimes a trifle rustic, but delicious in their intensity. This was good comfort food prepared extremely well. The wines started with one of the major surprises for me over the last year, the 2006 sparking wine from Tony Soter in Oregon. I had this several times while I was out visiting Oregon, and I had always been impressed, but this is a 10-year-old sparking Rosé that is just sensational, and I’m talking world class—it’s that good. Something this good from France would cost at least two to three times as much, so kudos to Tony Soter. The 1995 Billaud-Simon Chablis Mont de Milieu was oxidized and undrinkable. The 1996 Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris Clos St. Urbain Rangen de Thann was sweet, and although it went well with the foie gras, it was just a little too unctuous and sweet a wine...