Mei Long Village (Los Angeles, July 2015)

Mei Long Village: Shanghai Spareribs
One of my very first Los Angeles meal reports on the blog was of a dinner at Shanghai #1 Seafood Village, a then relatively recently opened and somewhat snazzy restaurant. I noted there that the strong reviews it had received particularly made me want to eat there as there are no Shanghai restaurants in Minnesota. This is still true (as far as I know); but, of course, it is not true that Shanghai #1 was in any way a Shanghai cuisine innovator in the San Gabriel Valley. My report today is of a meal at one of the mainstays of the Shanghai scene in the area, the very far from snazzy Mei Long Village.

We’ve been eating here, on and off, for almost 15 years and in the San Gabriel Valley that is a lifetime for a restaurant (it’s been open even longer)—it’s an unforgiving market and places that are not good or slip in quality don’t survive. It’s been a while since we’d last eaten here (about four six years) and so I was hoping that we would enjoy the food as we always have across the years. I am glad to report that this was indeed the case. I don’t want to oversell the place though: it is solid but nothing amazing or revelatory.

Now I do not in any way want to give the impression of being an expert (or anything approaching it) on Shanghai cuisine. I know that it is not one of the eight major Chinese cuisines and that like the city of Shanghai itself (and Los Angeles, for that matter) it can be a little agglomerative; and I know that, on the whole, it is known for milder, often cloying food that often uses a lot of sugar and soy sauce—but that’s about as far as my knowledge goes. And so I can’t tell you with any sort of authority which of the things we ate (or have eaten there in the past) are classic Shanghai dishes, which are Shanghai versions of dishes from other cuisines, and which are just on the menu because they’re now popular dishes in Shanghai. We did steer clear of some of the classics, old and new (lion’s head meatballs, pork pump, jade shrimp etc.) as I did want to try a lot of new dishes; this led to some imbalance (more on this below).

To see pictures and descriptions of what we ate (there were three adults and two small children) please click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow.

With tax and tip this came to a little over $105. Six or seven adults could have eaten what we ordered so that’s only about $15-18/head. In other words, a good deal.

Everything was quite good but I did order badly as it turned out. There was a little too much sameness among a number of the dishes. If I were to do it again I’d swap out the braised bean curd sheet with pork for something green; and as good as the fish tail was, a spicier fish dish might have made for better balance as well. Still, we did enjoy everything, both at the meal and as leftovers (of which there were a lot). And having gone there for the first time with a 75 yo, and a 6.5 yo and a 4 yo, I can tell you that this is food that appeals across the age spectrum: my mother-in-law loved it all and the boys chowed down on everything from the jellyfish to the braised fish. (It is not, however, food for people who are salt-averse.)

On our next trip we’ll do another Shanghai meal but next time we might go a few doors to the right and check out J&J instead.

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