We almost left!
First an update on the Hongqiao situation; the restaurant we were talking about earlier in the post “Not a brown door in sight” has made some changes. The fried chicken with cumin that we raved about has been taken off the menu. After much deliberation and discussions with the waitress, she managed to dig out an old menu and finally understood what we wanted to order. Sadly though, it was not the same. Though the flavor was good, the chicken pieces were not boneless and there was simply too much work eating it. There is hope though; you can still ask for it but do remember to ask for the chicken to be without “gu” – bone.
When we went to Hongqiao for a second time in a week we felt like trying something new and went to a small eatery right next to the cumin chicken place; a restaurant with a red door (there seems to be a thing about colorful doors in the Hongqiao area). This place was void of foreigners, understandably so since the menu was all in Chinese and no pictures except for a few selected photographs on the wall (their most popular dishes we were told later). We had heard good things about it so decided to venture inside.
The first waitress to help us was one of those who are so intimidated by the idea of not being understood that she didn’t even try. Nothing worked. Pointing, grunting – nothing. At this point we got up to leave, frustrated and hungry.
Luckily an observant server saw the dilemma and came up to our table, sincerely wanting to help. With his limited English and our limited Chinese, and the kind patience of the table next to us who seemed to enjoy their dishes, we managed to order our meal. At this point we realized that it was a dumpling restaurant. How, we don’t know. There were none of the typical paraphernalia around and patrons were not exclusively eating dumplings so even though dumplings are a specialty, they are not the only ones we presumed.
However, a dumpling restaurant’s dumplings deserve to be sampled so we choose one plate with mushroom filling and another with pork and vegetable filling. And they were good. The meaty mushrooms were especially delish with just the right amount of filling in thin skins, steamed to perfection. We also tried a cold lotus root dish in lemon sauce. It was surprisingly sweet but crisp and refreshing. We had to have our favorite cold, vinegry, wilted spinach with peanuts, which is always good, and a huge plate of cold tofu cubes with coriander and century eggs. The tofu could have been seasoned more but once we poured on some la jiao and vinegar, the dish improved substantially.
The best part is yet to come though – the bathrooms were clean, fresh smelling and had paper! What a novelty!
When we were ready to leave we tried to strike up a conversation with the smiling server and offer him some friendly advice. Considering the restaurant is located in an area loaded with foreigners starved after shopping and in dire need of a clean restroom, they should at least offer a picture menu! We don’t know if the information got through but one can hope!
So, next time when out shopping in the area, try the Red Door or as it is also called - The West East Dumpling Restaurant.
You may notice a lack of pictures in this post. We apologize and will add them the next time we are in the area – or send us yours! We were so busy ordering and stuffing ourselves with dumplings that we simply forgot.