Shanghai times two

“You’re not going to put my picture in the paper, are you?” Dad asks.

“You’re not going to put my picture in the paper, are you?” Dad asks.

Photo By Deidre Pike

Shanghai Shanghai

“Anywhere you want,” Mom said. “Wherever you’d like.”

We were driving down South Virginia in search of lunch.

“Sushi?” I suggested hopefully.

“Go ahead,” Mom said. “I’ll wait in the car.”

Our starving trio was saved when I spotted a new joint on the street. The place formerly known as Bananas (and before that Colombo’s, and before that Lyons), is now stepping out as Shanghai Shanghai. The name of the new place boded well for me. One of my family’s favorite Asian restaurants of all time is Shanghai in Sparks.

Shanghai Shanghai, the host told me, has been open only eight days. We hunkered down, way down, in a booth. The table was too high for Mom. “It comes up to my chest,” she said.

The waiter was happy to move us to a comfier table with chairs. Water, wine and Dad’s Tsingtao were quick to arrive. We ordered from what one waiter called the temporary menu. It featured a few standards with some intriguing differences. Mom and Dad stuck with cashew chicken and beef with broccoli ($6.95) respectively. “That way I get my vegetables,” Dad said. I felt daring and ordered teriyaki salmon ($8.95).

First up, a seafood flower soup that tasted much like the egg flower soup at the Sparks’ Shanghai, only this had small pieces of shrimp and lobster. Yum. Mom, who doesn’t like seafood, tried to convince me to eat her soup as well as my own.

“Wouldn’t you feel bad if you were a brand-new restaurant and someone didn’t eat your soup?” she said. “I think I’d feel bad.”

Mom and Dad, I should explain, own their own small resort in southern Wisconsin, about a three-hour drive from Chicago. They have complete empathy for a new restaurateur.

“I’ll bet it’s pretty competitive here,” Dad said. He hadn’t heard the history of that particular location, which proved fatal for both a relocating Colombo’s and a trendy Thai start-up. “That place is cursed,” said a friend.

My perfectly grilled salmon arrived gently topped with teriyaki and arranged on a bed of lettuce with vegetables and sliced oranges. A small dish contained fat, sticky rice. Good sushi rice, I thought to myself.

Mom dug into her cashew chicken, pronouncing it excellent. The thin citrus fruit slices with the chicken seemed a bit weird to her at first, but on second bite, she loved them. Dad’s beef with broccoli was even tastier, and the sauce seemed, like the soup, vaguely familiar.

Turns out there’s a reason Shanghai Shanghai felt awfully comfortable. It’s owned by Pang and Betty Bai, whose restaurants have included Aloha Sushi, the China Dynasty Bistro and, yes, Shanghai in Sparks, said the manager Pao Wang.

“Mr. Pang is going for more of a ‘fine dining’ here,” Wang explained. Pang Bai got his start in Reno as a keno runner and worked his way into the restaurant industry. He and Betty are tireless and passionate. So are the folks they hire.

If anyone can overcome the curse of 2323 S. Virginia St., it’s the Bais. That’s the power of family.