Previously housed in the cafeteria of the now-defunct Edmonton City Centre airport, Shanghai 456 now resides in an equally odd and out of place location, that being a west-end industrial park. You know the saying -- if you build it, they will come? It seems as if the owners of Shanghai 456 are really gunning for this whole "hidden gem" aesthetic.
My mom and my sister loooooves this place, so we find ourselves here on the occasion that they're craving xiao long bao. Which in their case, is pretty often.
One of our staple orders, and probably the most recognizable Shanghainese dish being served up at Chinese restaurants, Shanghai noodles. Mixed with bean sprouts, cabbage, mushrooms, and pork, the noodles exhibited nice wok hei, that is, the breath of the wok. Good caramelization and sear of the ingredients, and quite a strong garlic flavour as well.
One of my sister's favourite items, although I'm not really partial to it myself, dan dan noodles (spicy peanut sauce noodle with x.o. sauce). It tastes almost like watery peanut butter with a few spices thrown in. It was also served lukewarm at best, so maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it as much as she does. But to each their own.
Almost every single table will have a steamer on it, so you know this is a must-order. A thin wrapper encases a tender, well-seasoned pork filling, with warm delicious soup bursting at the seams. A basket of 6 xiao long bao will set you back at about $7.50. A bargain, if you ask me.
Aside from the xiao long bao, we always make an order of the pan fried pork dumplings, or wor tip. It basically has the same flavours as the xiao long bao, along with the characteristic hot, steaming broth, but the thicker wrapper is pan-fried to a nice crisp, providing some contrast in texture. They also have beef wor tip, but I find the seasoning for the beef too gingery and harsh-tasting. My advice, stick with the pork.
My mom likes to order these -- Shanghai homemade pan fried beef buns. They're only available on Sundays and public holidays apparently. Pretty much the same filling as the beef wor tip, but encased in a fluffy bun that is pan fried.
She also likes to order the shredded turnip and ham puff pastry. Two things that Shanghai 456 knows how to do, dumplings and puff pastry. These are deep fried flaky baseballs (essentially) encasing a mound of shredded vegetables and ham.
At the end of your meal, Shanghai 456 will bring out a complimentary dessert. Sometimes it's jello, sometimes it's almond cookies, and other times, it's their lotus blossoms (puff pastry filled with black sesame paste). I didn't want to leave it up to chance so I requested that we make a separate order for these. Crispy, flaky puff pastry surrounding a gritty, nutty filling of black sesame. One of my favourite things here.
I don't even want to think about the amount of lard or butter that goes into making these small little flowers, so just shhhhhh and let me live my life.
Shortly thereafter, the waitress brought out our second dessert which was complimentary. Black sesame paste filled sticky rice flour balls (I really enjoy their menu descriptions btw). Similar to a mochi in terms of chewiness, although not as smooth. The fact that it had black sesame, and the fact that it was free? A win-win anyhow.
Service is a little spotty, but it's understandable since there's only two waitresses manning a busy floor at times. But the food speaks for itself, and good things come to those who wait.