Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant, Oakland CA
Our first venture for dinner in Oakland’s Chinatown was above expectations. After looping around the one way streets to find parking even when most other businesses were closed, we went inside Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant and realized that here was where the parking spots’ occupants were eating. To try the well-known dumplings and handmade noodles, we brought Will, Zach’s brother, so three people didn’t necessitate a Lazy Susan table. However, with ordering six dishes so as to sample the broad variety, the staff was very accommodating in helping us shuffle the plates around the table and load up the leftovers for Will.
Pork and vegetable dumplings were served with their own special sauce. The veggies in the filling “reminded (August) of spring somehow” with the light and fresh combination.
The shrimp were super garlicky, the vegetables very crunchy, and it was all doused with a lightly flavored sauce. Broccoli, carrot, artichoke, and green bell pepper were abundant and on par with perfect cook time.
“Saday” might be a typo on the menu for “satay,” or “saday” is Shan Dong’s very special specialty. We may never know, but there is no doubt of the goodness of this dish. The handmade noodles were hearty and gummy in a totally enjoyable way. Tender beef was a hair spicy, but the spices themselves were brand new for Will to taste, and he liked them. The fresh snow peas added a great crispiness to break up the texture of the dish.
From the black beans, there was a nice earthiness to this sauce. It was like an oyster sauce but with a rich fermented black bean flavor. Despite its depth, the sauce didn’t overpower the other flavors, like the fresh and in season asparagus. A lot of places tend to overcook asparagus and it turns mushy and stringy – not here! The beef was exceptionally tender and not overdone.
This was a Beninana moment, when the waitress set the ingredients to sizzle in an iron platter. The smell was so rich, but the steam nearly burnt Will when he leaned in to check it out! The scallops, August’s favorite seafood, were plentiful and made succulent by the sauce, and you can’t go wrong with perfectly good shrimp. Maybe it was the variety of veggies melding together, but the sauce seemed sweet and almost nutty with a mild onion flavor.
Another Shan Dong specialy is the chicken with a tiny red pepper next to its name on the menu. It starts off sweet and very, very slowly warms up to spicy, so you can appreciate the range of flavors before the heat. It’s not extremely spicy, but the bite is there. The sauce was thick and coated the chicken very well, but it didn’t make the pieces mushy and they still maintained their crispiness. This was one of the top favorites for all three of us, and Will might even be addicted now because he made sure to get the sauce boxed up in its own leftover container!
If you’re in the area and can find parking, make your way here for some unforgettable Chinese food. Be prepared, though, the place is popular so you might want to get it to go.