Terminal 2 has been getting a lot of hype at San Francisco International Airport, and it’s no doubt a major upgrade from the typical overpriced dreck that’s available pre-flight, there’s an even better alternative, as long as you’re willing to drive or make a short walk from the BART station to downtown Millbrae. The stretch of Broadway between Library and Victoria Avenues touts plenty of enticing options with international flavor, including a Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant called Hoa Ky, a chicken restaurant called Chicken Pho You and if you’re in the mood for pork liver with ginger and scallions, Cafe Salina has got you covered. Still, the natural choice for me was Shanghai Dumpling Shop, a restaurant with a name that drew me to Broadway like iron to a magnet.
Shanghai Dumpling Shop has been open for about two years and features red booths, a purple ceiling and walls decorated with wood screens. They have a large menu, over 135 dishes, including sautéed eels, soy braised pork rump, beef with capsicum, and West Lake beef soup.
Blue postcards list specials like spicy dry chicken wing and salty egg yolk pumpkin. Despite the distractions, my focus remained on the Bun and Dumpling category.
Xiao Long Bao (10 for $7.50), which are often fetishized in foodie circles, were especially good at Shanghai Dumpling Shop. Given the name, they should be. The thin flour wrappers contained balls of juicy pork, which exploded with flavor. A vinegar soy sauce with ginger strands tempered their richness. Eat the dumplings quickly; the wrappers firm up if you wait for them to cool.
Pork-filled Spicy Wontons (10 for $6.25) arrived in a sesame slurry spiked with chile oil. Sesame seeds and scallions also dressed the hefty flour flaps that were more like noodles and could have used a trim.
Savory Rice Roll ($3) looked like uncut maki at a sushi restaurant. The plastic-wrapped sticky rice contained dried strands of salty pork floss and strips of fried dough. This was a fine version of a dish that’s readily available at a lot of Taiwan-style breakfast spots.
Red Beans Pancake ($3.95) arrived in a griddled, crisp-edged rectangle, filled with a layer of semi-sweet, earthy red bean paste, and cut into six squares. Even after devouring so much food, it was impossible to resist a single square.
The owner, who employees know simply as Ivan, also owns Xiao Long Bao Kitchen at 331 Grand Aveue in South San Francisco, reachable at 650 589 8188. Based on my initial experience with the xiao long bao at Shanghai Dumpling Shop, and given the even more specific name of the spinoff, a trip to South San Francisco just became imperative.