Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week Atmosphere: Clean, unadorned and informal. Price range: Entrees generally $2.50 to $6. Family dinners go from $10.30 for two to $30.00 for six. Credit cards: None. Travelers checks or cash. Reservations: Not usually necessary in the evenings. Special facilities: Booster chairs, public parking lot; easy access for wheelchairs, carry-out.
Fair or not, the mere name of a restaurant can either titillate your palate or put it in a slump. Some names, like Bubba's Beef 'n Bagel or The Strapless Sarong, simply don't stir up visions of culinary wizardry.
Thus, our family was not expecting anything extraordinary when we went to Silver Spring's Shanghai, a restaurant with a middling name that didn't fire us up. The unprepossessing building it's located in and its austere interior didn't bode well either.
The Shanghai, however, happily got its revenge against our faulty and unscientific predictions by serving us a fine dinner, much of which we had at lunch the next day. We couldn't quibble with the price either - $24.33 including wine, assorted soft drinks and the tip.
The small restaurant was hospital-clean, the tables covered with pale gold cloths and the decorative art kept to a minimum. The service, if not warm, was brisk and agreeable.
The menu, of course, read like the Manhattan telephone directory, so we decided for once, that the four of us would try to work out an agreement for the family style dinner, where you get entree choices from Group A and Group B, plus soup, egg rolls, rice, tea and cookies for dessert.
Now wise to the huge portions served in most Asian restaurants, we ordered dinner for three instead of four and were allowed two choices from Group B and one from Group A. We wanted two from Group A instead and since they are the fancier dishes, we were charged an extra $1.85 for switching, plus an additional plate charge of 40 cents each. Anyway, it added up to $17.70.
Accustomed as we are to won to a soup tasting like hot water with one noodle floating in it, we were pleased by the Shanghai version, which was packed with noodles, strips of pork and spinach. Even the egg drop soup was more substantial than usual.
The cooking, overall, could best be described as competent, the ingredients extremely fresh. The entree of king crab and shrimp with almonds was picture pretty, the crunchy celery and snow peas, a spring green.
Our 9-year-old daughter, who finds the likes of bamboo shoots and bean curd weird, chose as the second entree a dish with good old chicken. Pieces of boned chicken were fried in a light batter and perched on top of very crisp lettuce. The brown sauce with mushrooms and water chestnuts, from an adult point of view, could have been spicier.
The beef lo mein, a noodle dish, appealed to our 11-year-old who would gladly eat pasta for breakfast. The Shanghai did nice work on this old favorite, the beef strips and thin noodles shining in a thin sauce unburdened by corn starch.
Aside from these dishes, there are plenty of others, including familiar ones and house specialities. No less than a dozen chow meins - one with chicken livers - are offered, plus 13 types of chop suey, 11 kinds of fried rice and 13 egg foo young varieties.
Specialities include Sam Gib Tai (lobster, chicken, pork and vegetables) mixed Chinese vegetables, steak kew (sirloin with bok toy, chestnuts, bamboo shoots and mushrooms), plus others. A few American items are on the menu, too, and children's dinners cost $2.50.
For dessert we had a choice of canned lichee fruit, jello or fortune cookies. Not much of a selection, but after what we had been through, we hardly cared.