Where: 1126 Commerce St., Tacoma
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Contact: 253-627-1859 We came for the dumplings and stayed for lunch.
By Craig Sailor
The News Tribune
Tipped off by readers of the TNT Diner blog that good Chinese tea lunch-style appetizers could be found at this downtown Tacoma restaurant, we sent our dumpling squad to investigate.
We were not disappointed.
Opened since April, Shanghai House occupies the space formerly belonging to Djembe Soul Restaurant.
The dumplings: An order of the Shanghai steamed dumplings ($6.95) produced six golf-ball-sized spheres. The white bready exterior contained a mildly seasoned pork mixture.
A language barrier prevented us from interviewing the owners, who hail from Shanghai, but one of them explained that the steamed dumplings contain soup – giving them their Shanghai style. We found the minced pork mixture more juicy than soupy.
Pot stickers ($7.95) bore a strong resemblance to the dumplings in both shape and size but were fried and had a slightly different pork filling. Our tasting team preferred them over the steamed version, but we agreed: You can’t go wrong with either.
Both of the dishes came with the same slightly sweet soy-based dipping sauce.
Other dishes sampled: The lunch specials are the deal here, served until 3:30 p.m. Ranging in price from $6.50 to $7.95, they include steamed rice, egg flower or hot and sour soup and a choice of 22 entrees (all the usual suspects).
We stuck with the hot and sour soup, which had the sour down – and plenty of hearty ingredients – but heat lovers will find the hot part of the soup sorely lacking.
The steamed rice had ribbons of fried egg in it – an unusual and welcome touch.
Mongolian beef ($7.50) came with plenty of oil and crispy noodles. It was an average representation of the ubiquitous dish and lacked any real spicy bite.
General Tso’s chicken ($7.50) had generous chunks of chicken without being overwhelmed by batter or its sweet sauce.
Sizzling Triple Delight Platter ($13.95) was a combination of shrimp, chicken and beef with generous hunks of broccoli and other vegetables in a BBQ sauce. It was an impressive presentation, arriving on a fish-shaped metal platter above a blue flame. And yes, it was sizzling. The sauce was more savory than sweet and was our favorite entree.
Moo shu pork ($9.25) had more fried egg than any I’ve tried before. The restaurant owner prepared several of the burrito-like bundles of pork, egg, mushrooms, vegetables and hoison sauce at our table.
Beverages/dessert: Two beers, sake and one offering of merlot make up the restaurant’s alcohol list. Deep-fried ice cream ($3.95) was the only dessert option listed.
Atmosphere: A low, black ceiling in a narrow cavelike space is not particularly inviting and the addition of fake grape vines running throughout the space doesn’t help. Neither do the plastic seat covers. But all that paled in comparison during our visit to the torturous repetition of a trumpet instrumental that played over and over again on an endless loop.
Service: The staff are friendly, helpful and attentive.
Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541