A fellow foodie’s Chinese restaurant recommendation proves disappointing

Shanghai City is in the shadow of the Hilton Boca Raton on Glades Road.


It’s been challenging to find authentic Chinese food in the Boca, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach area, so at a recent South Florida foodie event, my ears perked up when the discussion turned to Chinese food. One of the participants, someone I’d never previously met, chimed in with a recommendation for Shanghai City in West Boca Raton. “It’s very good Chinese,” he avowed.  We had never been there, so my wife said we should give it a try.

And we did on a recent Friday evening.

Finding it was not easy (until I turned on my phone’s GPS app). We found it in the shadow of the Hilton Boca Raton Suite Hotel, deep in the Stanford Corporate Plaza just east of Florida’s Turnpike on Glades Road (behind City Fish).

Prior to heading out, I read the social media reviews , which were mixed. But you can’t always trust the Vox populi, especially when it comes to restaurants.

I was encouraged by the big crowd, largely Boomers, that occupied the large outdoor tables and the nicely-decorated interior. Some of the crowd I imagine represented holdovers from the early bird dining hour. If you order by 6 p.m. and pay cash you get your choice of multiple entrees along with soup (wonton, egg drop, hot and sour or wonton/egg drop), and egg roll, rice and a dessert, chocolate, vanilla or pistachio ice cream.

As you enter Shanghai City, you’ll spot, working behind plexiglass panels, plastic sheets and a golden Buddha statue at the front counter, Lucy Tsang, who along with her husband, Hucong Cong Feng, established Shanghai City in 2010.

And at one booth near the entrance, I spotted two Asian couples dining. A good sign, I thought.

“Do you have reservations?” I was asked in greeting by a server, attired in black, as she deposited menus at the host stand.  To be honest I rarely think about reserving at a Chinese restaurant, so I answered, no. Nevertheless, we were seated promptly in a grey-lined booth near the front of the dining room, where dark wood and beige-painted walls are decorated with Chinese art. White linen covers the tables. The room is bright. Alas, it was a tad noisy. You could make out conversations of diners tables away and the rattling of dishes and silverware being bussed was jarring. And it was icy cold. We adjusted to the noise level and the chill.

Soon, our server, a middle-aged gent attired in a long-sleeve white shirt, perhaps Mr. Feng, the owner, placed a large bowl of tubular crispy noodles, plates of duck sauce and mustard, and two tall glasses of ice water on the table as we perused the menu.

The largely Caucasian crowd, the noodles and dipping sauces, as well as the menu, made it clear that Shanghai City, despite its name, specializes in Cantonese Chinese-American food, the kind that existed in a time in the past and a cuisine that many diners continue to enjoy.

Pupu platter offers a variety of appetizers.

Shanghai pan fried noodles.

Not me, though.  Those who’ve followed Delray Dines for a while, know how much I relish authentic Chinese food.

Nevertheless, I attempted to make the best of the situation and try a variety of dishes including soups, appetizers and entrees.

My wife started with wonton soup ($2.75), a deep-hued, but overly salty broth with wontons filled with gingery ground meat. I had hot and sour soup ($3.25), which was anything but, although brimming with slices of tofu, mushrooms, roast pork and more.

We decided the Pupu Platter ($13.95) – when was the last time you saw that on a menu? – would allow us to try several appetizers.  Beef sticks were tender and flavorful. Crab Rangoon, which I haven’t had in ages, were crispy, greaseless fried wontons encasing cream cheese. Spring rolls, too, were greaseless, but unfortunately pasty inside. And then, the spareribs, which were short, fatty and a bit chewy.

In Chinese-American restaurants, I shun entrees likely to be laden with sweet, gloppy sauces, so I ordered Shanghai pan-fried noodles ($19.95).  Here, a plateful of crispy fried, some burnt, vermicelli noodles was topped with a handful of sizeable shrimp, slices of chicken and slabs of fibrous roast pork. Guess what? The sauce was the corn-starch thickened variety.

Peking duck.

We also ordered a whole Peking duck ($47).  No fancy presentation here. A serving dish was delivered to the table piled high with shredded, somewhat dry, duck meat and skin. The accompanying thin pancakes were cool, and we had to request the requisite scallions and cucumber slices. The Hoisin sauce for spreading on the pancakes was very good.

Our server had warned us that we had ordered a lot of food, but we knew we’d have the leftovers another day. Not that I’m sure, I really wanted to.

Some 40 minutes after we were seated our check was presented along with a pair of cellophane-wrapped fortune cookies. Nothing more. My fortune may well have read, “Don’t bother with another try.”

Shanghai City Chinese Restaurant

7860 Glades Road, Boca Raton, Florida 33434

(561) 482-1321

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