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Go big

New Commerce Street Chinese spot offers yet another ethnic taste downtown.

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Shanghai House

Where: 1126 Commerce St., Tacoma, 253.627.1859
Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Cuisine: Chinese
Scene: Casual
Drinkies: Limited beer and wine, no liquor, soda, tea, coffee
Damage:  $4.50-$15.95

ANNOUNCER: Cellars Under Broadway, Thad Martin’s Djembe Soul and now Shanghai House. These three restaurants span a decade of history on downtown Tacoma’s Commerce Street, all in the same spot. Shanghai House opened in April 2009. The Chinese restaurant is a good addition, joining plenty of other ethnic choices in the area.

JAKE: Having somewhat exclusive service was a treat as we were one of only two tables of guests. Rich spices rode the air. The place was clean; instrumental jazz played, and we were greeted and seated immediately. Large ceramic cups filled with fragrant jasmine tea followed. Before we’d even had a chance to look over the menu our server delivered complimentary orders of crisp deep-fried egg rolls. Nice gesture.

JASON: I’m always intrigued by what restaurants consider their signature dishes and so ordered Shanghai steamed dumplings. I was pleased. Super soft, steamy goodness arrived in a metal bowl on shredded white cabbage. These hot little balls were filled with seasoned ground pork and minced veggies and then dunked in soy/vinegar sauce. I could have eaten the whole order of five. 

JAKE: Next dish: the so-called seafood bisque. It wasn’t creamy, pureed or remotely resembling bisque. Snow pea pods, carrot rounds, sliced celery, and white mushrooms, scallion, baby corn and broccoli floated in clear, mildly salty broth. I was grateful the squid, tiny scallops, and prawns were not overcooked. While it wasn’t what we thought we were going to get, it was still tasty in a pure, uncomplicated way. And I love baby corn.

JASON: The Sizzling Triple Delight had a cool presentation. Served in an 18-inch long and 3-inch deep, silver, fish-shaped dish perched on a metal platform, it sizzled away. Chicken, beef and prawns were joined by mushrooms, red bell pepper, more snow peas, and broccoli. Prawns were plentiful, and chicken and beef strips were cooked so long they were almost mush. The Chinese barbecue sauce the dish swam in was underwhelming. What was your take, Jake?

JAKE: I found the food mediocre, and I couldn’t understand our server, who is also an owner. Though very nice and sweet, she couldn’t tell me what was in the egg foo yung. I ordered on faith assuming it would be edible. I suppose it’s equally my fault for not speaking Chinese, though.

JASON: How can you not know what egg foo yung is? Chinese omelet with gravy, hello? That portion was also massive, a veritable mountain of moist egg enfolding dark green scallions and tender pieces of chicken, pork and beef. No joke. The pile was four inches high.

JAKE: I give Shanghai big props on portion sizes, for sure. If I was broker than I am, I would order two entrees for takeout and eat them for a few days at home. White rice really stretches. Taste wise the food just doesn’t do it for me, though.  It’s not bad, but it’s not awesome either, hence my use of the word mediocre.

JASON: You’re just pissed because when you asked what was for dessert the lady only smiled and brought a plate of sliced oranges with the bill. No cake for you!

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