On an unassuming corner of Gubei, overshadowed by the clamor and din of the Yan'an overpass, an impressive dining opportunity lies hidden in plain sight. Ling Long Ge, specialist in wild freshwater crabs, offers an assortment of satisfying crustacean-based dishes in an intimate and beautiful setting.
According to the restaurant, these delectable critters were deposited in Holland during Qing dynasty trading expeditions and repopulated in their new environment. Thriving in such conditions injected them with a clean taste, which was apparent in our first dish. The Dry Sautéed Crab Meat brimmed with mouthfuls of juiciness. However the real star was the roe. The female roe, light orange in color and dry, like hard-boiled egg yolk, had a savory flavor. The male parts, sometimes referred to as "fat", are clear and resemble chunks of buttery gristle. While thicker and stickier than the roe, it can be equally pleasant, based on personal preference to texture. Splash on a few spoonfuls of vinegar and enjoy.
Next, we sampled Giant Prawns Sautéed in Crab Oil, doused in sweet and sour chili sauce, which took four big bites - shell and all - to finish. In addition, we were served Stuffed Crab Claws with Shrimp, crunchy on the outside and filled with soft roe and shrimp on the inside. Satisfying, but fairly average. Ending on a sweet note, we had cooling mango pudding covered in thick milk, molded into an adorable little fish shape.
Without distracting from the quality of the food, it would be foolish to ignore the surroundings, which provide a perfect aesthetic compliment to the dishes. The meticulous design, costing a couple million yuan, harkens back to the architectural styles of the Ming and Qing dynasty. Live zither and dulcimer music floats through the wide stone hallways and completes the trifecta of pleasure for sight, sound and taste.
Adding to the charm, each party dines in a private room, seating anywhere from 2 to 40 people and manned with waitstaff exclusively at your service. The most lavish room - costing a minimum 500 RMB per guest - includes a table for twenty, sofa and KTV area, private mahjong room and private bathroom. If you're a lucky jackpot winner with desires to purchase the 60-year old bottle of Wuliangye distilled rice wine, expect to drop a cool 39,880 RMB (over $5,600 USD) for a chance at tasting the only bottle available in Shanghai. An extensive tea menu and wine list are also available for those with smaller wallets.
Like their namesake porcelain, Ling Long Ge is unpretentious yet of the highest quality. Already popular with Japanese diners, Ling Long Ge is poised to become a reliable favorite once word gets out. We recommend you pay a visit before the next crab rush begins.
The service is excellent, attentive, knowledgeable (servers are all trained to shell crabs for you, if needed).
Atmosphere: Peaceful, relaxing and classy
Written by: Neil Yeung