Earlier this week I was catching up on Eater (one of my favorite sources for local restaurant news) and I read a fantastic review of Shangri-La, which is about three blocks from my house. I have driven by the restaurant nearly every day for the past three and half years, but had never been in. Once I saw photos of the food, I knew I had to get there stat!
Every Thursday night I have dinner with one of my best friends from college and I suggested that we check out Shangri-La for our dinner date this week. She said "yes" with no hesitation and added, "Tonight is a perfect night for Chinese. It's freezing outside and those dishes will warm us right up."
We arrived at 7:30pm and the restaurant was nearly full. There were two open two tops and thankfully we snagged one. A waitress brought us menus and set down a silver pot of tea.
After reading the review on Eater, we knew we wanted to try the pan fried white turnip cake. The review described the dish as, "Similar to a crispy tater tot, the cake comes cut into triangles with a thick, shatteringly crispy golden brown exterior and a creamy white center. It's best doused in what can only be described as Asian ketchup, a tomatoey sauce with a rice, five-spice and soy flair to it."
I am not sure I would call the consistency tater tot-like. To me, it was more like fried mozzarella. I do agree that the spicy ketchup makes the dish. It had a tang like you get from BBQ sauce.
We also ordered the steamed vegetable dumplings. Each dumpling was plump and packed with a mixture of spinach and mushrooms.
The best part of the dish wasn't the dumplings, but the salty soy sauce we dunked them in.
We also ordered one vegetable bun, which was the size of a softball! It had an identical filling to the veggie dumplings. Absolutely no need to order both.
For the main course we shared two dishes, starting with the Szechuan spicy bean curd. This being our first visit to Shangri-La, I wasn't sure if the dish would come with anything besides the cubed bean curd and the sauce. I was very pleasantly surprised to see it was served with broccoli (my favorite) and topped with peanuts for crunch.
Of everything we tasted, the spicy bean curd was far and away my favorite. The bean curd really absorbed the sauce, which had a mild heat to it. The broccoli was perfectly cooked and I loved the texture from the peanuts in every bite. We licked this plate clean.
Our second entree was the vegetable pad thai. I compare all pad thai dishes to the version made by Brown Sugar Cafe on Commonwealth Avenue near Boston University. Shangri-La's version wasn't mind blowing enough to knock Brown Sugar out of the number one spot, but it was a valiant contender.
I love the pea pods mixed in with the noodles, fried egg, carrots and the mountain of chopped peanuts.
When the plates were cleared and the leftovers were boxed, our waitress brought the check with two fortune cookies inside. When I was a little girl, before I could read, my grandfather used to recite my fortunes to me and they would allegedly say things like, "You will always hug your grandfather when you see him" or "Sit next to your grandfather for the rest of dinner." I can't see a fortune cookie without thinking of him.
Our meal at Shangri-La included three appetizers, two entrees and hot tea and all together we paid just $36 dollars.
I really loved the spicy bean curd and I can't wait to order it again. The Shangri-La menu is enormous (it rivals the Cheesecake Factory menu in terms of length) and there are so many other dishes I'm excited to try.
During our dinner we noticed a ton of people coming in to pick up takeout. It's great to know that if I ever want to dine in, I can call Shangri-La on my way home, pick it up and eat it on the couch.
A big thank you to Katie Chudy at Eater for helping me uncover a great place in my own neighborhood!