At this point, it is no secret that the xiao long bao ($5) — soup dumplings — at LJ Shanghai are one of the single best things you can eat in Cleveland.
Since this spacious AsiaTown eatery opened in 2017, chef Edmond Tsui and company’s delicious morsels have developed a cult following. Minutes after you order, a bamboo steamer basket arrives bearing a half-dozen tender, gumball-sized parcels, filled with a mix of lean ground pork and chicken suspended in stock.
“Once they have the first bite, they fall in love,” says Tsui. “People talk to each other. It’s better than advertisements.”
Though the dumplings are what brings most diners in, Tsui’s Shanghainese and Sichuanese dishes are prepared to standards typically found in New York City and San Francisco. Tsui has been cooking in Chinese and Japanese kitchens in Shanghai, New York City and Cleveland for more than four decades, and his expertise shows through the simple interplay of flavors and textures in his dishes.
The cold pig ear salad ($7) is a knockout, as thin slices of al dente pork snap with cilantro and chili. The pan-fried beef noodles ($12), or dao xiao, are thick and springy, rich with soy and scallion and tender flank steak. Tsui has his noodles specially prepared by Toko Foods in Vancouver, British Columbia — North America’s unofficial center of fine Chinese dining.
Fans of LJ Shanghai, mark your calendars. The restaurant will close from June 2 through July 1 for a much-deserved vacation. But when Tsui returns, the eatery will debut an updated menu featuring sheng jian bao, pan-fried pork dumplings served with a caramelized crust. It’s sure to be your new best friend.
3142 Superior Ave., Cleveland, 216-400-6936
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