Ala Shanghai Chinese Cuisine

After reading about the opening of Ala Shanghai Chinese Cuisine in Latham, NY on Steve’s Table Hopping Blog last Thursday, and checking out Ala’s menu on facebook, I knew I’d have to get over as SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE to try their food.

There are no other Shanghaiese restaurants in the area, and guess what they have – SOUP DUMPLINGS! That’s right, xiao long bao!

Ala Shanghai is located at 468 Troy-Schenectady Rd, Latham, NY on Route 2 just off of the circle. If you’re coming from the circle, it will be on your right after the first light. If you’re coming from Route 2/Troy area, it will be on your left about 2 lights before the circle.

It’s a little off of the beaten path for me, but not very hard to find at all. In fact, I noticed the sign last week, but didn’t think much more of it until Steve’s post. Here’s a view from the parking lot of the sign you’ll see from the street.

As it would turn out “As soon as humanly possible” would be Saturday a little after noon, because let’s face it, it’s not like I’m going to wake up and be functional much earlier than that.


First off, the owner is also one of the waiters and beyond nice. He’s so congenial and nice to talk to. I got to explain that while I’m Cantonese and Albany John is white, he’s the one that speaks conversational Chinese and I speak… well, nada. They told us to come and practice Chinese with them whenever we want – it’s nice that they’ll put up with me trying to not butcher the Chinese language too much!

From talking with him, he really wanted to bring authentic Shanghaiese cuisine to the Albany area. It’s so great to see such a passionate owner, who really wants to bring in new food for everyone to try. And trust me, it’s worth a try.

We got one order each of the soup dumplings, and had the requisite black vinegar and ginger slices put in front of us.

We really liked the interior of the place – some warm orange tones painted on the walls. A few low hanging lamps, and my fave – a good luck kitty with the perpetually moving arm. There are some booth/bench table combos and some regular circular tables. I thought the chairs were quite comfy.


It wasn’t long before two stacked bamboo steamers came out. On top were the pork and crab xiao long bao ($6 for 6). You can tell it has crab because they have the yellow stuff on top to differentiate it from just pork.

They were a nice mix of crab and pork flavor – neither too much of one or the other, and made for a very soft, tender (and almost fluffy – in a very good way) filling.

The pork and crab soup dumplings were not very soupy per se, but more like the literal Chinese translation of xiao long bao meaning ‘little juicy dumpling’. These were much more juicy and moist than your average wonton/dumpling, had more filling, and a thicker skin to contain it all.


I also ordered the scallion pancake ($3), which came with a slightly spicy dipping sauce that you can kind of see in the top left corner of this picture. The scallion pancake was very good and scalliony when it first came out, but became a slightly tough and chewy after it cooled off a bit.

I wonder if they use a scallion oil or something in the layers, because I can never get my scallion pancakes at home to have so scallion flavor.


Round two of XLB (the bottom steamer) had the pork-only soup dumplings ($4 for 6).

These were truer to soup dumplings – more liquid in them, and you really did need to use that spoon, otherwise you’d lose some of those precious soup juices from the dumpling.

I love the pork soup dumplings. I personally love pork flavor alone when it’s cooked right, and these were cooked oh-so-right. The skins are thick enough that you can dunk your dumplings into the vinegar before biting in to it without fear of it breaking, or you can nibble a hole in the top and spoon some in like usual.

If I were to pick nits, I’d say the skins could have a little more chew to them, but that’s just picking nits. I mean, remember when I made Xiao Long Bao at home? Not such a great endeavor, and very time consuming. I am incredibly happy there is a restaurant I can go to and get soup dumplings from for such reasonable prices!

Trust me, go to Ala Shanghai and order yourself some soup dumplings.

We also ordered Szechuan style tofu ($10) with meat – it’s ma po dofu. SO GOOD! It’s got a red pepper next to it, but it’s really not spicy.

The tofu was incredibly soft and jiggly, and the sauce over it had some ground pork and chili peppers. I think it also had some crushed peppercorns in it too (maybe ma la pepper?). This tasted… healthy!? There was no grease or oil in it. When I’ve had it at Cantonese or Beijing style restaurants they usually make it mind numbingly hot and it’s usually slicked with grease and oil (probably a good portion of that is just chili oil to make it both oily and hot). I really liked this version a lot better. The pork and tofu flavors and textures complimented each other very well. The tofu was very creamy, too.

I think it could be kicked up a little bit in the heat department, but as-is it was very tasty and enjoyable to have some bites hotter than others, instead of only having one flavor profile (hot). It made it very fun to keep eating.
Albany John also got some brown rice ($1.25) to spoon his mapo dofu on top of. The tofu chunks were so soft, it was hard to pick them up with chopsticks without breaking them apart. I used a soup spoon to eat mine since I don’t really like rice and enjoyed every bite.

I had a wonderful dining experience – There’s something about dining out in the winter that feels so right. I felt like I was wrapped in tastiness and warmth. The lighting, the food, the tea, the service – all were so warming.

If you are a friend with them on facebook, you can print out a 10% off coupon to use as well.
I don’t know about you, but I want to go back again soon for dinner! I think one of the upsides to the Cap’ Region having a growing Chinese restaurant community is that we can have dim sum at any time of the day – imagine trying to get yum cha for dinner at a restaurant in New York City. Hah!

25 comments
  1. Oh those pancakes and dumplings look fantastic! It's near my office so I'll have to try it out. Thanks so much! 🙂

  2. llcwine said:

    had takeout from them a week ago, and the dumplings were great. My husband tried their General Tso's chicken (I know, this is an american dish) and wasn't thrilled, but I told him..hey, it's a Shanghainese restaurant…order Shanghai cuisine. We will go back and eat in there as it's really close and I pass by it to and from work. I friended them on FB and will print a coupon. Thanks for the great write up….

  3. DelSo said:

    I can't wait to try this place! So much more convenient than trekking to Joe's Shanghai to get my soup dumpling fix.

  4. josie said:

    Is the place crowded? I'd probably wait a few weeks before trudging over there. Places tend to get crowded once they've been reviewed on the TU or TU blogs. I went to Blue Spice soon after it was reviewed and was very disappointed with it. Could be they were overwhelmed with the sudden increase in customers but I've never been back there.

  5. beck said:

    I don't think I've ever had soup dumplings, but they sound awesome. We are a dumpling-loving household, so it sounds like we need to try this place!

  6. I had soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in NYC and I finished the meal splattered from head to toe with broth. I felt like a stupid American 😉 but I am willing to try again!

  7. ella – deffo try it!

    llcwine – you got XLB as take out?! And they were still soupy?

    DelSo – for real! MUCH closer!

    josie – not crowded at all. I think they are still waiting for the crowds to come in. The link from Steve's blog was not a TU review, just a blurb for public knowledge. And lord knows I just run this thing solo – no TU association other than being a reader.

    beck – you've got to try them if you love dumplings! They're so unique.

    Jennifer – then it's a good thing these aren't as soupy as Joe's. Just nibble off the top to let steam out (and add the vinegar if you want)and eat it in the spoon. No lost soup!

  8. I've always wondered about scallion pancakes. They're definitely on my try list

  9. llcwine said:

    AJ, They pack everything in plastic containers, very nicely…the XLB had some liquid in them, being my first time ever tasting them, I'm not sure if they would be soupier, than they were…still mighty juicy and tasty.

  10. Yeah, the white table cloths are especially mean for a place that serves such a messy treat.

    But I'm looking forward to getting out there and defiling one of their beautiful tabletops.

  11. Alan said:

    hello,

    was there round 1 PM.Were you guys seated at the corner?

  12. Katie said:

    Yay, I'm so excited! We love soup dumplings!

    You mentioned the joys of constant dim sum. I'm wondering, are there places around here that do the whole push-carts-around-and-people-can-point-and-choose-from-the-table thing that you get if you do dim sum in one of the big places in Chinatown? I'm thinking that that would be a great activity for families–might motivate kids to try new stuff.

  13. grace said:

    well hot dog! this is the type of food that i don't mind risking life and limb to consume. stupid foul weather. 🙂

  14. p – I'll have to make them for you at some point! I just never use enough oil. Lol.

    llcwine – good to know. Maybe they are take-out-able!

    Daniel B – when you wanna go? That means we can try more stufffff.

    Alan – Most likely! Were you one of the bigger groups or along the wall?

    Katie – sadly, no push cart ladies around here 😦 But the quality is getting reeeally good. Daniel B also has an iPhone app for dim sum – definitely cool!

    grace – totally worth it. Totally.

  15. Alan said:

    Jane,

    To be frank I was the bigger “one” facing the wall. My wife and I had our 2 year old with us. If you were the couple,. I just can't get over the fact that Albany John was white but sounded “ethnic”.At least from what I heard. . .promise. . .not eavesdropping. . .

  16. Alan – THAT'S AWESOME! He takes it as a huge compliment! (And cute kiddo, too!)

  17. Anonymous said:

    謝謝你,可是我的漢語水平不夠高。我很喜上烸館子的飯可能應該一點多辣。

    -AJ

  18. Sharon said:

    My bf and I just had lunch here today. We got two of the pork XLB, the scallion pancake, and the wonton's in spicy sauce. The XLB were great and had just enough juice in them and the pork flavor was very good. The scallion pancake was awesome and I think that ours was actually a bit darker than the one you got (the bf loved this) it tasted a lot like a mediterannean delicacy that my mom makes called malawach. The wonton's were good and had a good peanut flavored sauce on them though I didn't think they were spicy.

  19. Anonymous said:

    What a great resource!

  20. llcwine said:

    Last night, we picked up some scallion pancakes, spicy wontons and spring rolls as apps/side dishes for a bunch of us, and all were great. We used the 10% off coupon from facebook and the owner couldn't have been nicer. Has anyone tried the duck dishes yet?

  21. DelSo said:

    Well…we went on Sunday for lunch and I hate to say it, but I wasn't blown away. We had pork soup dumplings and they were tasty, but didn't compare to the lusciousness that I've experienced at Joe's. There wasn't much liquid in them at all and the pork was kind of dense, like a meatball. The scallion pancakes were thin, very heavily fried and didn't have a whole lot of scallion flavor. The squid with salt & pepper was very good – not greasy or chewy at all. Our 5 y/o is a sesame chicken whore and their version was quite good. We also had broccoli with garlic sauce which was perfectly prepared, however, we really wanted to try the green beans and the steamed shrimp dumplings, yet neither were available. I'm not saying it was bad, and I'm certainly not an expert on Chinese cooking, but I don't see much of a reason to drive to Latham when Emperor's Palace and CCK are much more convenient. Maybe we were there at an off time?

  22. llcwine said:

    back at DelSo,I too love CCK, but Ala Shanghai is much much much closer for me..than Emperor, or CCK, being that I live on the border of Latham and Watervliet. Emperor has always been a hit or miss for us, never a consistency. I'm sorry your experience was less than stellar.Give it another try and I hope you enjoy.
    llcwine

  23. I think location is a big factor – the soup dumplings are the distinguishing item there. Other items can be found at other places. I'm guessing it's location/preference, but still, a great addition to the Latham dining scene.

  24. Nic and I went yesterday to finally try soupy dumplys. We were completely sold. YUM. Also while we snacked we saw a whole fish pass us by that looked aMAZing (the waiter, on questioning, said it was cooked with pine nuts) so we're going to try to make it back for dinner this week, this time with boys in tow.

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