Hours: Tuesdays through Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from noon until 10 p.m. Closed Mondays.
Atmosphere: Modern, comfortable dining.
Price range: Entrees average $7.
Reservations: On weekends.
Credit cards: MasterCard and Visa.
Special features: Two small steps; highchairs and booster seats; parking lot; carryout. By JUDY LIBERSON Special to The Washington Post
With pleasant memories of previous visits, we recently went back to the Shanghai, a Chinese restaurant in a small shopping center at Lee Highway and George Mason Drive.
Everyone was so friendly and so attentive that we had hopes the restaurant had not changed. The dining room is pretty with colorful Chinese prints lining the walls. Music played softly as we settled into one of the comfortable booths.
The menu details standard fare with no specials listed. We almost just ordered the family dinner for four but on an impulse we asked the waiter about specials. He suggested a number of Szechuan dishes -- now, we were getting somewhere.
Chicken with walnuts and shredded chicken Szechuan both sounded good. We settled for the shredded version ($8). We also ordered beef with scallions ($6.95) at the waiter's suggestion and chicken chow mein ($4.75).
The children each began with bowls of wonton soup (80 cents) and shared an order of egg rolls ($1.80).
The soup was a hearty chicken stock that had been perfectly skimmed and filled with light noodles. Similarly, the egg rolls were quickly fried and drained of all excess grease.
The Szechuan specialty was cooked almost perfectly. Thin pieces of chicken were stir-fried with a ginger sauce that had the children begging for water refills. Whole spinach leaves had been lightly tossed with the chicken and were a wonderful accompaniment.
But not all the pieces of chicken were properly cut or cleaned. Too many thin slices were really pieces of gristle. The same careless cutting occurred with the chicken chow mein.
The all-white meat portion of chow mein was a total disaster, a study in tastelessness. Boiled chicken was not only unappealing as it sat atop a mound of gelatinous overcooked vegetables, but also was dry and gristly.
The children therefore shared the Mongolian-style beef with spring onions, a small platter filled with more greenery than beef. The sauce was a wonderful, thick base that again stirred fond memories of past meals. Unfortunately, the meat was no longer hot. Actually none of the dishes was served steaming.
The sauces for the Szechuan chicken and the beef demonstrated that a chef in the kitchen was aware how meals should be prepared. But the performance was erratic. Gone was the magic ofordering anything and being pleased with the outcome.
The total bill was $27.53 for four with tax and tip. It was a disappointing return to a popular neighborhood favorite.