Shanghai Bun is not a place that I can judge fairly. It's only about an eight minute drive from the house I grew up in and was a quintessential part of my culinary obsession's growth during my high school years. The small shop's name is a cue to their most popular dish – a dish that goes by many names. This dish was at the time completely foreign and unfamiliar to me, but quickly became the focus of my ever-growing need to find the best version around. Before my friend introduced me to Shanghai Bun, I had never before had the pleasure of trying freshly steamed Xiao Long Bao (aka soup dumplings, steamed pork buns, tiny steamed buns, Shanghai dumplings, juicy buns, and more). But, all it took was one time – my soup dumpling addiction was triggered and I never looked back.
If you've got a car and are willing to drive to strange strip malls in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of interesting Asian foods to find. It's always hard to know if a dingy shop is one of the good ones or the bad ones until you try it for yourself, so as I approached Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, I prepared myself for the whichever side of the coin it was going to land.
Transport yourself to Hong Kong. And you don't even need to leave the cushy confines of Palo Alto, California. Just a block off the main drag on University Avenue, there's a massive dim sum parlor that would be all too easy to miss while walking by. Despite its enormous front signage, there's nothing about its appearance that would actually draw a pedestrian inside to experience an authentic Hongkongese dim sum meal.
*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is not longer open. The scenario: a random Tuesday, impromptu date night, day-of, no reservations. Sure, you could wrack your brain and come up with a place, but I chose to use ScoutMob to do the work for me. For those, unfamiliar, ScoutMob is a mobile app and newsletter that provides deals at carefully hand-picked venues without having to pay anything upfront. It alleviates the risk of coupon purchasing that is often associated with Groupon and its competitors. After scrolling through the Android app, my girlfriend and I spotted Zak Pelaccio's Fatty 'Cue, a place we had already talked about wanting to check out. It's settled, we walk the four blocks from our apartment over to the restaurant and are seated promptly.