Ala Shanghai & Sweet Temptations

Guess where I went for lunch again? Ala Shanghai! Their driveway is getting full with all of the popularity they are gaining!

This time I was joined by Dear Daniel (you might know him as The Profussor) and Little Miss Fussy! Dan hadn’t been to Ala yet but wanted to try it, so I figured it was a good spot to grab lunch and catch up. Hello, XLB!

After we were warmly greeted and seated, we got some free samples of the egg drop soup.
Uh oh, I think someone’s on to me and my not-so-secret identity!
There was a recipe change after I mentioned I thought it was a little gloppy the last time I was there. I read about the change earlier on their facebook page, and it knocked my socks off to know that something I mentioned was worth changing their recipe for.
It’s a great change, too. The soup is much lighter and tastes freshly of egg and corn. Now if you get one of their lunch specials, you’re really getting a deal! I think soup can be so-so sometimes when it’s included with a meal, but when included soup is good, oh man – that just makes it all the better.

And how can I go to Ala Shanghai without ordering the scallion pancakes? I can’t. We got two orders ($2 each). So crispy, flaky, and chewy all at once! Little Miss Fussy really liked them and kept clamoring for “More, please!”

Dan wanted to try the wontons in spicy sauce. 10 to an order, and covered in what seemed like three sauces in one. One dark and soy sauce-y, peanut, and a chili oil. They weren’t super-spicy (I ate them with no pain), just had a nice kick of heat to them. The sauce was a different one to me, but man oh man am I in love with how incredibly tender and thin those wonton wrappers are. You could easily see through them!
The meat inside was moist, and had a pleasing texture to it. It was a coarse grind/chop of meat which contrasted beautifully with the silky wonton skins.

Then the stars of the meal arrived! Two steamer baskets of pork soup dumplings ($4 each)! Xiao Long Bao, yaaaayy!

I first noticed how delicate these looked – more detail in the pleats, and skins that were a bit thinner than on previous visits. And the dumplings looked quite juicy and full of liquid.
These soup dumplings were juicy and are getting to the level of soup dumplings you may be accustomed to in New York City. They were full of hot, soupy goodness (plus meaty goodness, too).
Gotta eat XLB with more scallion pancakes.
Before it’s time for round two. More pork soup dumplings! Don’t forget your vinegar and special soy sauce and ginger slices, either – even juicer!

When I went to pay, I had to compliment Ala Shanghai on the progression of their soup dumplings, and the owner explained to me that they had made them intentionally non-very-soupy in the first place. Why? Liability! So people up here would get used to what they were and not burn themselves! So they’ve gradually increased the amount of soup in each dumpling the longer they have been open. Ah ha – mystery explained.

Also cool to know – he brought all of the staff up here from NYC. Everyone knows what they’re doing in the front and back of house, chefs and servers alike. He said he wanted to do it right up here, and I think they’re off to a great start.

We ordered the Shanghai lo mein noodles ($8). It had pork, chicken, and beef in it, plus some veggies.

The noodles were made in house! Ala makes their noodles from scratch about twice a week. The noodles were soft, and picked up a good amount of charred flavor. In Chinese cooking the char in stir fries is a good thing – it adds a little smoky flavor. If you don’t taste the char, the wok wasn’t hot enough to sear the ingredients!

Dan was asking if they made hand pulled noodles (he’s all spoiled from living in Cali). It turns out that you need a special chef who specifically knows how to pull noodles, and they’re very hard to find right now, even in NYC. I suppose the current noodle craze in the City doesn’t help either.

Still, these noodles were quite tasty.

Little Miss Fussy was head over heels in love with the noodles. She is not enjoying things that are green, so I helped with some of the veggies.

Heads up – if you’ve got an Entertainment book, Ala Shanghai has a 20% off coupon you can print out once a month. Our total for this visit was a very affordable $22 after that coupon!

They brought some heart shaped jelly bean candies before we left. I tried the green one, but we had other places to head to:

Like Sweet Temptations (496 Albany Shaker Rd, Colonie, NY). Dan misread his blog reader and thought the cake sample giveaway was today, but it turns out it was yesterday. Whoopsie.

SOME SWEETS! HAHAHA. Little Miss Fussy and I saw some other things that caught our eye.

Even though we were mistaken, they were still sweet as pie (or would that be cupcakes?) and gave us a free original cupcake to try. Killer!

And holy moly. I know the whole point of the free sample was over how you don’t need transfat based ingredients to make a good buttercream icing, but the cake is what stood out most to me. The icing didn’t really taste buttery to me but was plenty smooth, fluffy, and light. But the cake. Oh mama. It was SO incredibly moist. It was like a pudding cupcake. I usually think of the cake part of cupcakes as being vehicles for icing, but man, this vanilla cupcake alone made me think “Hmm, maybe cupcakes don’t need icing,”


Ok, so I have to say, Sweet Temptations has the best vanilla cake I’ve ever tasted. I will definitely be back for one. Maybe one without icing, even (but probably not. Hello, icing!).

And since I felt kind of guilty/odd that they gave us a free whole cupcake because we walked in and pretty much admitted we missed free sample day, I felt like I should buy something.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt this urge if both Little Miss Fussy and I had not immediately set eyes upon these Hello Kitty decorated cookies upon walking in. At least I was slightly more reserved and didn’t yell “KITTY!” when we saw them. Well, that loudly…

At $2.75, it was a bit on the higher end, but hello, Hello Kitty. And it was probably more icing than cookie, so it wins out in the Albany Jane frosting : item frosted ratio of things. The sugar cookie underneath all of that frosting was moist and just a bit chewy in the best of ways.

Man, I feel like their goods don’t even need icing. When’s the last time you ran across a baked good like that? My head’s ready to explode at the very idea: doesn’t need icing. Pshh, since when?!

And Little Miss Fussy even backed off the cookie when I was all OCD and like “Hey, no! I need to get a picture first! And smile for the camera!”

We managed to polish off about a third of the cookie (and cover ourselves in frosting). Dan also got a red velvet cupcake for $2.50. He liked the vanilla more, but I thought the red velvet was good, too. Solid cream cheese frosting (not too sweet or gloppy). I’d eat it again.

And get this – they also don’t bake JUST CUPCAKES. A good amount of their display case was cupcakes, but as you can see we also managed to sample a cookie, and they had some danishes for sale, too. And probably other things, but at this point I am off the walls filled with a sugar and XLB happiness high!

  1. AAAAHHHH!!!! those porky balls look like the real deal
    😀 wait why I am cooking dinner tonight?

  2. josie said:

    Those wontons look good! I went to Ala Shanghai a few weeks back. Wasn't really impressed with the SLB. I was expecting a more transparent (or thinner) skin. Theirs were a bit tougher.

  3. DelSo said:

    Looks like it is time for us to go back for another try. Those dumplings (ALL of them) look divine. Hit me up if you're planning another visit pre-Labor day.

  4. capitalregionfoodie said:

    I have got to try those soup dumplings…I'm always on a search for great ones…

  5. beck said:

    I already mentioned how good I found the soup dumplings to be, but did I mention how much I liked the scallion pancakes? I don't think I did, and I probably wouldn't have tried them if I didn't read about them here, first!

    How cute is Little Miss Fussy? I tried some cupcakes from Sweet Temptations a few weeks ago and have to admit that I didn't love them as much as you did. I will be writing a post on my blog about them soon enough, but I remember thinking they were mediocre. Maybe that calls for a return visit?

  6. I was hoping you'd one day get around to hitting Sweet Temptations – they're right in my backyard – and I have gained more than a few pounds because of it. They did our wedding cupcakes too, and they were amazing… such good stuff. And the presentation puts it over the top! Hello Kitty indeed.

  7. nomnomnom – i haven't had scallion pancakes in YEARS!!! i know where i'm going for dinner.

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