Shanghai Cafe Surprised!
5574 Nolensville Rd
Two days ago, I was tipped off by stranger in an email, that there was an authentic homestyle Chinese Shanghai region restaurant in town. The cryptic email said this place was opened in the May/June time frame, the writer had eaten at the restaurant a few times since the opening, and thinks that it is authentic because of the number of Chinese people eating at the place. I do not know where I might know the stranger, but the stranger was kind enough to include a scanned menu in the email for me to study. I looked, and it is a small menu. There are dishes like Shanghai Kaufu, duck wing with brown sauce, stuffed bean curd and puff with minced pork, and potherb mustard with shredded pork. You can't get these dishes at any other mid-TN Chinese restaurants. All the other Chinese restaurants in the area are like "mall food" like that syrupy sweet General Tso's kind of places, and not real Chinese food. This Shanghai Cafe is, so far, the one and only authentic Chinese restaurant in Nashville.
iPoh Malaysian restaurant, and before that China Buffet. The location is a bit far from my house, so I won't be going often, but I will support this venture. The location is kind of strange now that the Walmart moved out, and it is a bit of a dead mall. There is the big giant white elephant (the empty Walmart building) and then a few restaurants around. I think this location may be a "hard sell" because it is hidden from the road, and there is no reason to go to this strip mall without an anchor store.
So, we ordered two dishes off the menu, the rice cake (moochi) with pork and mushrooms, and the veggie pork fried rice. The specials board was written in Chinese, and the owner did not bother to interpret 1/2 of the Chinese menu. I wish I knew how to read the board. At anyrate, the specials were mostly veggie dishes, and I told the owner that I wanted him to make us a veggie dish, chef's choice.
As the dishes came out, we were happily surprised. The moochi - rice noodle dish was the real deal. It was made with chopped pork, rehydrated dried shitake mushrooms, bamboo shoot slivers, and moochi noodles. The sauce was simple, it tasted like chicken stock and water that was thickened with a little rice flour (from the moochi) or corn starch. It was as homestyle as you can get. It was a good dish. We got the veggies next, again another simply made dish. The ingredients included black fungus mushrooms that are only served in real Asian/Chinese restaurants, and I ate every single one. They have a nice salty and earthy flavor that I am happy to taste. The veggie dish also tasted like there were fresh bamboo shoots, not canned in it. That is impressive in my mind. Most every bamboo shoot served, even in Boston, San Francisco, and New York Chinatowns are the canned yellow variety, not the sort, fresh white variety. The fried rice was also getting close to what I would want in a fried rice. If you go to New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco's Chinatowns and get stir fried noodles like Chow Fun, or any type of fried rice, there is a peanut oil smoke point flavor and aroma that adds to the dish's appeal. When the owner brought out the fried rice, it had that peanut oil smoke point aroma. I was hoping some of the rice would have some crispy burnt bits (I love that) but alas it did not. The chef put in some chopped pork and a green chopped veggie that is probably some type of Chinese broccoli, but it had almost an onion undertone to it. It too was fresh, different from the expected and tasty.
I am surmising that Shanghai food is lighter and veggie based food while Szechuan, which is hot and spice. Also, as the chef is making authentic Chinese food, there was not one drop of high fructose corn syrup or sugar in the food, thank goodness. It was really good straight forward Chinese food. It is not "Americanized" food with the label "Chinese" as all the other Nashville Chinese restaurants are. Shanghai Cafe is the real deal.
As we were leaving, I spoke with Dave, the owner. He came from Shanghai 11 years ago, and has owned a couple of other restaurants in Nashville. He used to own a Chinese restaurant in the Rivergate area, Golden Garden, but sold it. The only Chinese restaurant I had been to in Rivergate was sadly that same old "Americanized mall food" like General Tso's chicken made with a high fructose corn syrup sauce. I am wondering why Dave would open such a business like this new one with authentic food. I am totally on board with this restaurant, there were a couple other Asian diners there who are totally on board, but who else? I really hope more people catch wind of this place and try some of the real Chinese food.
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