Shanghai 456 Chinese Restaurant, Edmonton, AB

Shanghai 456 Chinese restaurant - a great 'find' in an unexpected location

Shanghai 456 Chinese restaurant – a great ‘find’ in an unexpected location

We’d been dining on ‘Easter ham’ all weekend, and I was ready for a change.

“How about Chinese food tonight?”, I asked, tentatively.  Ingrid seldom agrees to dine out, usually preferring to stay in and dine at “Timmy’s Place”, which means I get to cook (again.)  Surprisingly, she replied with an enthusiastic “yes!”

I grew up in a family-run Chinese restaurant, and frankly, since moving to Edmonton, we almost NEVER go for Chinese food.

Feeling particularly adventurous (and without any referrals from friends) we chose Shanghai 456, located oddly along the mostly industrial/commercial strip of 118th Avenue, a major east-west arterial road that runs across the city.

We arrived just after 5:00 PM when the restaurant opens, and frankly, had second thoughts.  Here’s a restaurant we’d never heard of, had no recommendations from friends, and located unexpectedly in a slightly out-of-the-way place.  “Do you still want to go in?”, queried Ingrid as we pulled up to the dark, nondescript eatery.  “Yeah, let’s give it a go”, I replied.

Shanghai 456 has an unremarkable storefront that most people would easily drive past.  That would be a mistake.

Two things immediately impressed us upon being seated.  First, the menu is printed in English and Chinese.  That’s a very, very good sign.  To me, it means the owners are Chinese and hoping to cater to a Chinese clientele.

Second, Ingrid immediately notices the chef.  Seated from our vantage point with a clear view into the kitchen, Ingrid says, “Did you see the chef?  He’s wearing a chef’s tunic.”  I stand at our table studying the trio of circa 1940 black and white photos of Shanghai mounted on the wall, really trying to get a better view into the kitchen, and sure enough, the chef is wearing a crisp white chef coat with black trim.

Now, in all the years I’ve been dining in Chinese restaurants in Canada, most of which are your classic Chinese family-run restaurant businesses, I have NEVER seen a single cook wearing European-style chef’s garb.  All the cooks I’ve ever seen behind the scenes in Chinese restaurants have worn the traditional white apron.

This is going to be interesting, I thought.

It turns out the nattily-garbed man in the kitchen is Shanghai 456 owner, Chef Wong, who previously ran his restaurant out of the Edmonton City Centre airport before its closure, and prior to that, was associated with a casino restaurant in Macau.  Looking carefully at the menu and the restaurant’s signage reveals three dice showing 4, 5 and 6 – a number combination our server tells us is considered lucky in Chinese.  I didn’t know that.

Standard procedure for ordering Chinese food is to select one main dish per person, plus add steamed rice.  We asked for Shanghai Noodle Sauted with Pork and Vegetables ($10.95), Pan Fried Sea Bass Steak with Chef’s Soya Sauce ($17.95), with a side order of steamed rice.  Our server then did a brilliant job of ‘up-selling’ us and we happily accepted her recommendation for Steamed Pork Bun in Basket (Xiao Long Bao, $7.95.)

Fat noodles differentiate Shanghai noodles from Singapore noodles.  'Lightened' with bean sprouts, cabbage, mushrooms, with strong garlic flavour.  Delicious!

Fat noodles differentiate Shanghai noodles from Singapore noodles. ‘Lightened’ with bean sprouts, cabbage, mushrooms, with strong garlic flavour. Delicious!

Sea Bass with Chef's Soya Sauce

Sea Bass with Chef’s Soya Sauce

 

The Shanghai noodle dish arrived with blinding speed, merely minutes after we’d ordered.  Fat noodle dishes tend to be ‘heavy’ but this entree was ‘lightened’ with bean sprouts, thinly sliced cabbage, Chinese mushrooms, and thin slivers of pork.  The Shanghai noodles was heavy on the garlic, and suited my palate to a “T.”    Two good sized pieces of Sea Bass was delivered shortly thereafter, and cooked in a style I’d never eaten before, pan fried with a light crust and served with ginger slices and soya sauce.  We were happy with it, too.

Xiao Long Bow - steamed dumplings filled with pork and clear broth, usually found only at dim sum, but here on the dinner menu

Xiao Long Bow – steamed dumplings filled with pork and clear broth, usually found only at dim sum, but here on the dinner menu

Finally, six steamed dumplings arrived in a bamboo basket.  The dumplings are typically available only for dim sum (akin to Chinese brunch or ‘high tea’), so it was unusual for me to see them on an evening dinner menu.  These particular dumplings are special – filled with pork and a spoonful of CLEAR BROTH.  Make the mistake of biting into one and a sploosh of broth dribbles down your chin.  Bite the dumpling over your rice bowl, or, inelegantly as I did and eat each one in a single bite.

Mango flavoured agar was a surpise.  Dessert is seldom found on the menu in Chinese restaurants

Mango flavoured agar was a surpise. Dessert is seldom found on the menu in Chinese restaurants

Seasoned diners at Chinese restaurants know one typically doesn’t expect dessert, but we were each served up a small dish of mango flavoured agar – a cold, sweet, finale that’s similar to jello, but with more body and flavour.

Shanghai 456 was terrific.  It was nice to find this ‘authentic’ Chinese restaurant in the city’s West End, and we’ll be back.  Highly recommended.  The only caveat is this is a cash only establishment.

Shanghai 456, 14456-118th Avenue, Edmonton, AB.; Tel.:  780-451-8333.  Hours:  5:00-9:00 PM.  Cash only.

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