Shanghai Dim Sum is a sort of shack sitting in a corner lot in Scarborough. It looks a bit like a converted Dairy Queen from the outside, but the inside is a cosy, old timey slice of colonial Shanghai, complete with faded, sepia-toned photos and background music to match.
After two dinners, the verdict is that the home-style cooking is earnest, enjoyable and decently authentic. The cold tapas-style starters are solidly executed (the jellied pork satisfyingly meaty, the braised bamboo shoots savoury and crunchy), with the balance leaning less sweet than Asian Legend’s versions of these dishes. The pan-fried buns (shengjianbao) are very good, with a pillowy casing (the dough is obviously homemade) and a juicy pork filling. The soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) are okay — better on the second visit than the first, but the dumpling “tips” were still a bit hard (undercooked) and the texture of the filling was a bit off. The crystal shrimp are simply and perfectly prepared, although if there are any natives dining with you, they will admit to this only after pointing out that the tiny river shrimp used in Shanghai have a more delicate flavour. The braised eel, again made with some locally available substitute, is rich and succulent, with the eel being so fresh that it is noticeably less firm, though not unpleasantly so, than in the traditional dish. Bean curd skins with pickled snow cabbage and soybeans, and crispy duck with steamed lotus-shaped buns (dead centre in the photo above) are excellent, as is the fish head soup, although you may want to ask for extra mung bean sheets as we found them to be rather scarce. Return visits will be necessary to try a number of other promising looking dishes that were spotted coming out of the kitchen to other tables, such as the sesame-coated shredded pork pastries and chicken and peanut stir-fry.
There are a number of specialties (including the braised eel and stir-fried rice cakes (neen goh) with Vancouver crab) that depend on the supply of key ingredients. The restaurant is a small, family run operation, so these dishes must be pre-ordered at least one day ahead; in fact, the earlier you call, the better the chances that they will be able to secure the necessary ingredients.
Shanghai Dim Sum
4401 Sheppard Ave E. at Brimley (Scarborough)