Ala Shanghai Lunch with Friends

The Profussor had suggested a lunch date with Leah the Nosher at Ala Shanghai one day this week. I had just started craving Ala’s soups, so my answer was “Oh hell yeah!”. We met up yesterday, and Albany John was even able to join us. We got some freebie snacks for the table while we waited for Leah – Spicy 8 Jewel on the left (mmm, there was even shrimp in the bite I got!!!), and salty-delicious edamame on the right. Yeah, I tried to be good and follow my holistic Dr.’s orders to avoid spicy and fried food, but… so hard at Ala when the food is so good! And it was just a little spoonfull. Moderation, right?

Albany John and Daniel B. ordered some lunch specials, so they got egg drop soup. Nom – so good. Albany John likes how light and refreshing the corn makes the dish.

Appetizers! In the front are two kinds of cold appetizers on one plate ($9 combo) – Salty Duck is on the left, and Wine Chicken is on the right. Salty duck was good (not crazy salty, just enough) and had tender yet firm meat and wasn’t too fatty.

The Wine Chicken? Oh man, so good. Had a lot of flavor and was very tender and moist. It’s a good spring dish – satisfying, but not too heavy. Also, being kind of sick, it was a good sick people food – I could taste it (yay!), but it wasn’t overwhelming; it was a very comforting dish to eat.

In the background is an order of scallion pancake. I followed my herbalist’s orders and resisted their crispy fried goodness. But man, that was hard. I think I should get an automatic cure on being sick for passing these delicious treats up.

HAR GOW, HAR GOW, HAR GOW!!! Hee hee hee. Mmmm, nothing I love better when I’m sick than sticky, soft, and chewy rice noodles. Shrimp is the icing on the cake. Or maybe the noodles are the icing on the shrimp cake. Either way, it’s a ride to delicious town.

Xiao long bao! We ended up ordering more of these after the first round (good call, Leah!). So, so good. I’m so happy to get XLB in Albany.

Here’s one of the FUSSYlittleCHILDREN. She loves ice, and Lanny (the owner) overheard her asking her pops for more ice to chew on and brough over a cup. What excellent and responsive service.

The service at Ala Shanghai is one of the reasons I really enjoy going. They’re very old school professional – if you drop some silverware, they’ll notice it; if you casually say something to someone at your table (like with the ice) and they can do something, they will. They’re also very child-friendly. While this isn’t a major concern of mine, friends with kids always appreciate that kind of thing.

Mmm, entree time! Albany John got … um, I’m blanking on the name, but I think it was something like spicy beef shanks? It was a spicy beef dish on the lunch specials menu. Daniel B. got the mapo tofu (with ground pork).

I valiantly passed on the mapo tofu, but had to try just a little bit of the beef dish. I mean, beef shanks (so good)! I also ganked some of the bok choy, too. Mmm. Nummy veggies. I was very sad I couldn’t eat any more of the dish, because it was so tasty! Leah thought it could be cooked a touch more. I loved it – the heat really built up. And how can you not love the deep beefy flavor of shanks?

This was probably one of the hottest dishes I’ve had at Ala Shanghai (and not just spicy-hot, but flavorful). I will come back when I am not sick and eat more than one bite of this dish. It was very hard not to eat more.

And the grand finale! Seafood soup ($8)! Holy moly, this was a large bowl! Shrimp, scallops, and squid with homemade lo mein noodles and some veggies. So. Good.

And don’t worry – they will split up the bowl so you can share. They’ll even portion it out so you don’t have to mess around with it. I was glad for this, because I didn’t want to get Leah or Daniel B. sick with my germs.

Just what I wanted. I might have trouble tasting things, but hot, light broth was very welcoming. Soft noodles = awesome. And when can you go wrong with seafood?

That’s how I know I’m at least on the mend – when I want seafood. Does anyone else get sick and not want to eat certain things? Textures and flavors get weird for me when my taste is muted. When I’m really sick, I don’t even want to think about seafood (as we know, this is completely unlike a non-sick Albany Jane) or most dairy.

Anyway, part of the reason I was so looking forward to going to Ala for soup was because their soups tend to be on the lighter side. No slick of oil on top. Just light and… you know, like good soup. It’s nice to be able to go to a Chinese restaurant and not have to ask “low oil”. I’ve had to ask my dad to special order dishes in Chinese before to request low oil, just because sometimes it’s so heavy it takes away from the dish. Not the case here – so refreshing. Sick Albany Jane is happy, haha!

  1. Love it! We also had the dumplings and the Szechuan beef! It was even really good for lunch a few days later. We are lucky to have this place. It is not greasy, actually authentic. Actually we have a friend who is actually from China who swears by it. Love! (Also reasonably priced).

  2. Jenise said:

    Shanghai is awesome! It must be the best authentic Chinese food upstate. The dumplings were superb! I have been there about four times already.

  3. The one complaint I have about them is visible in that last picture — canned mushrooms. Seriously, canned mushrooms, in a restaurant dish? I mean, it won't keep me from going back there for other stuff, but I certainly won't order things with mushrooms again if I can help it.

  4. llcwine said:

    AJ, you got me so needing an Ala Shanghai fix, we went last night and had many of the same dishes, plus spicy fish in broth that had glass noodles in it…Lanny warned me, very spicy and it was…but ohhhh so good. Place was packed with cars trying to find spaces and a line practically out the door…so glad he's doing so well!!!

  5. Lori said:


    I hate to tell you this, but the baby corn, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, etc… prob came out of a can too (prob., but not def.). Chinese cooking makes use of all sorts of preserved/pickled/canned/jarred/dried or otherwise “not fresh” ingredients. No reason to swear off a dish.

  6. oops! I think my comment got ate by flaky internet. Anyway, I'm so jealous you can get good XLB in Albany! Austin is not to that point yet. And your post is making me miss Chinese food (of any kind) sumpin' FIERCE. Every Chinese restaurant we've seen in Mexico has been a buffet!

  7. Eli said:

    I would highly recommend the xiao long bao with the crab. The inside has the pork and broth but also with crab meat mixed in and the bao are then topped with a little shredded crab. Yummy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: