In a city filled with so much delicious authentic Chinese food that I could never finish eating it all, sometimes the American in me just wants a tangy plate of sweet and sour pork. Lemon chicken and orange beef will also do. Lo and behold, Sweet & Sour, a newcomer to the American-Chinese food scene that opened up shop across the street. They actually tout “Global Chinese Food,” Chinese food with the twist you know whatever your home country – Australia, U.S., India, etc. The decor of this restaurant is far from Panda Express though, with moody blue lanterns, luxurious grey brick walls, and Old Chinatown-style Bruce Lee posters. Modern, artistic, and old-school all rolled into one.
A bartender came to my table and pleasantly greeted me with an ice-cold, mint-topped “Mao-jito” on the house, since it was Ladies’ Night. Yay! The frosty drink was good with the complimentary shrimp chips with sweet & sour dipping sauce. Normally I don’t eat shrimp chips, probably because I OD’d on them as a kid, but these came fresh out of the fryer! And the matching sauce was just so good; it wasn’t your typical syrupy sweet and sour sauce. Just as I judge a restaurant by the yumminess of their bread, I took it as a good sign that Sweet & Sour actually put some thought into their complimentary chips. First impressions matter.
We started with the highly-recommended Prawn Toast, followed by General Tsao’s Chicken, to pay homage to my favorite dining hall dish during my college days at Wellesley. For veggies, we finished off with the Manchurian Cauliflower. The Prawn Toast was puffy and admittedly tasty due to the lightly fried egg in between the buttered toast and shrimps. Again, the accompanying sweet & sour sauce made the dish shine. The General Tsao’s Chicken tasted as expected and portions were good, but the Manchurian Cauliflower with organic cauliflower really stood out. I had become sick of the same sauteed cauliflower everywhere in Shanghai, but this one had a surprisingly (or maybe not so surprising) twist – it was lightly battered and fried with the signature sweet and sour sauce.
If you order mostly sweet and sour dishes as I did, I would definitely recommend ordering some white rice on the side. A small detail, but I liked how they scatter black sesame seeds over each bowl. In the end, I didn’t even have room for the Deep-fried Milk with Ice Cream that I had been secretly plotting to order. Argh! But it was a fun walk to the restroom to wash my hands. The gentlemen’s and ladies’ rooms were distinguished by a Chinese lion with a bowtie vs. a lion with a bow on her head. Just for the cool ambience, I’ll probably stop by again for a drink at the bar to try out their craft beer and cider selection.
Sweet & Sour / Nanjing West Road, Shanghai