Portland’s Chinese food scene continues to diversify with a forthcoming Shanghainese restaurant. Shanghai Chinese Restaurant will open in downtown Portland this month, taking over a restaurant space at SW 4th Avenue.
Shanghainese owner Danny Chen, who also runs the longstanding Szechuan Chef restaurant on Macadam, wants to highlight distinct cuisine and classic style of Shanghai; Chen’s menu covers both traditional and modern Shanghainese dishes hard to find at other Portland restaurants. The venue will feature familiar Shanghainese classics like xiao long bao, as well as more elusive dishes like Shanghai-style borscht — a beet-free, tomato-based adaptation of the dish brought to the city by Russian immigrants fleeing persecution in the early 1900s. Other Shanghainese trademark specialties coming to Shanghai Chinese Restaurant are shīzi tóu (lion’s head meatball), a tender braised pork meatball often with a cooked egg in the middle, and the classic táng cù páigǔ, sweet-and-sour spare ribs.
Chen isn’t exclusively focused on traditional Shanghainese dishes, however; the menu also features a few “new Shanghainese” dishes found at some contemporary restaurants in Shanghai, such as sautéed cubed beef with wasabi sauce. On the sweet side of things, Shanghai Chinese Restaurant features a couple of pastries, including red bean pancakes and miniature pumpkin-shaped pastries called nánguā bǎobǎo found at some high-end Shanghai hotels. Although the menu largely holds true to its roots, a few crowd-favorite Sichuan dishes, such as mapo tofu and kung pao chicken, have snuck onto the menu.
Inspired by influential restaurant trends in Los Angeles’ Chinese San Gabriel Valley, Chen has outfitted the restaurant with vintage photography of 1920s Shanghai and Chinese antiques, adding a sense of context to one of Portland’s historic buildings. As the restaurant evolves, Chen intends to continue expanding his collection of antiques, as well as the menu. Shanghai Chinese Restaurant opens in late September at 515 SW 4th Avenue.
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