The most unusual dish we tried was salted pork with bean curd sheets.
The Great Mall of China seems to be Shanghai ground zero these days, despite the sad departure of nearby Green Village.
Spring Wave is just a few doors down from Shanghai restaurant and across the street from the more well-known Mei Long Village. Spring Wave, which describes itself on its rudimentary website as "South East Asian fusion," isn't too crowded on a Saturday night. It's a kind of plain, modest-sized spot, with the usual glaring fluorescent lights and a medium-sized menu -- not as long as Green Village, but packed with plenty of Shanghai specialties.
Though I had heard the fish with pine nuts was good, we had to skip it since I'm terrified of pine nuts now -- I spent all last week with a horrible taste in my mouth, possibly the dreaded "pine mouth."
We passed up the usual Shanghai specialties like chicken with chestnuts and Wuxi spareribs to try a few other dishes. Pepper beef is exactly what it sounds like, tender slices of beef in a soy glaze with plenty of black pepper, a very simple but well-executed dish similar to Vietnamese shaking beef.House special crispy tofu starts with pillowy fried tofu cubes, then adds sliced leeks, preserved black beans, and a medium-spicy sauce. The result is irresistible spooned over rice -- I only wish there had been enough for leftovers the next day.
A steamer full of dumplings arrived, on the house. They weren't the very best xiaolongbao I've ever had, but they were definitely the best free ones! We were pretty hungry, and though the wrappers were a bit thick, they tasted just fine.
I love bean curd sheets -- they feel like eating noodles without the doughy fullness -- but I had no idea how salted pork with bean curd sheets (photo at top) would be presented. It turned out to be slices of smoky ham atop a pile of bean curd sheets, sprinkled with sliced red peppers and scallions in a refreshing clear broth. It didn't resemble any Chinese dish I've had before, and yet it tasted hauntingly authentic, a pure representation of Chinese cooking with no influence from the West at all. The simple but flavorful dish perfectly complemented the other two dishes which had more familiar soy-based sauces.
I have no idea if Spring Wave is one of the best Shanghai restaurants near the corner of Del Mar and Valley, but I know we were quite pleased with everything we had and will definitely return -- hopefully with a large group like the dozen hungry teenagers next to us who seemed to order everything intriguing on the menu.
140 W Valley Blvd., Suite 209