As the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has been shaped by travelers and settlers from all over. This is particularly evident in the city's food, which has been influenced by the culinary styles from both the northern and southern regions of China, as well as dishes from throughout the entire continent of Asia. This cultural integration holds true at Shanghai Café, where the chefs use recipes the Hu family has spent the past half-century perfecting. These recipes follow various Shanghai cooking principles—for instance, the original flavors of meats and fish are allowed to shine through rather than being drowned out by heavy marinades or sauces that are too sweet or salty.
Though the recipes are traditional, they respect modern, healthful eating habits by incorporating natural broths and stocks and limiting the use of oil. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes include boiled dumplings, steamed pork buns, and dim sum—a Shanghai staple. In the spirit of Shanghai's pan-Asian tendencies, the menus also include Thai dishes, such as pad kee mao (drunken noodles), nigiri, sashimi, and maki.
Sala Thai's multitalented chefs prepare fresh sushi rolls that share billing on the menu with traditional Thai cuisine. Meals begin with zesty appetizers such as Pinky in the Blanket—deep-fried shrimp swaddled in an egg-roll wrapper ($6.95). In a split second, the entire table vanishes and reappears in a cloud of curry-scented smoke, revealing sizzling entrees such as chicken lemongrass ($8.95–$12.95) and scallop pad phed with spicy hot chili, garlic, and bamboo shoots ($10.95–$14.95). The diner with the quickest chopstick draw will enjoy the first bite of sushi offerings that include the smoked-salmon-cream-cheese roll ($6).
Filling a need in the District for appealing pan-Asian eats, the Satay Club has obviously struck a pleasing note with a broad spectrum of locals. Slipping in at lunchtime, patrons will find tables filled with students from nearby American University, business folks out for an inexpensive bite and neighborhood pals chatting over a plate of sushi or pad Thai. For the serious eater, the menu offers such offbeat dishes as Malaysian rendang, a spicy beef stew, and gado gado, a fan-favorite Indonesian salad with lots of steamed vegetables. More familiar dishes include bowls of ramen, Chinese lo mein noodles, and roasted Peking duck. For anyone who doesn’t have time to relax inside the long red-walled and wood-heavy eatery, online ordering and quick pick-up options are available.
Spring Garden's unassuming exterior and no-frills decor don't hinder it from being a neighborhood staple. That's because the restaurant prefers to let its food do all the wowing. In the kitchen, chefs whip up more than 100 different dishes that are sure to satisfy almost any craving—whether it's for something spicy, something sweet, or something vegetarian. They simmer tender scallops in garlic sauce, and they tuck slices of beef into bowls of red curry. Sweet-and-sour sauce slathers pork, and noodle get pan-fried, stir-fried, or sautéed with hot chili peppers for an extra kick.
At Vannipa Thai restaurant, cooks introduce tastebuds to the complex, perfectly balanced flavors of Thai cuisine with dishes culled from all-natural, MSG-free ingredients. Like a Rodin sculpture made of marzipan, each dish is an edible masterpiece: Bone-white dishes frame colorful peppers and coriander leaves, slices of Thai eggplant, or morsels of roasted duck and fried fish. Palm sugar sweetens papaya salad and pad Thai, whereas spicy Thai peppers and curries add piquant notes to dishes including chicken stir fry and steamed rockfish.
Green-blue lights illuminate the oversized oceanic mural, hitting the paint in such a way that the tropical fish, coral, and whale seem to come to life. The underwater scene?complete with a sunken pirate ship?is the centerpiece of Tara Thai?s dining room, which accompanies d?cor such as a molded wave that spans the front of the bar, plates painted with colorful fish, and dangling lights fashioned to look like jellyfish.
With the aquatic ambience, you might make the mistake of thinking Tara Thai serves nothing but seafood. But in reality, dishes like fresh mussels with lemongrass and chili sauce are only part of the lineup of traditional Thai dishes. Those traditional offerings include the Chef recommended spicy roasted tofu and honey duck curry, as well as classics like crispy spring rolls which, despite their name, are served year-round.