Ask anyone who has spent a fair amount of time dining in Las Vegas where to find the city’s most exciting food, and they’re likely to say Chinatown. From favorites like Abriya RAKU to newcomers such as Sparrow + Wolf both quality and diversity is plethoric. And, since late December, the area’s embarrassment of riches has only grown through the opening of Shanghai Plaza.
Featuring everything from locally owned Weera Thai Kitchen to the valley’s first outpost of international dessert chain 85 Degree Bakery Café, the two-story structure at the corner of Arville Street and Spring Mountain Road is a brightly lit beacon. If one is looking for a true flagship for the plaza, however, the standout so far has to be Chef Jimmy Li’s ShangHai Taste.
Tucked inside Suite 104 of 4266 Spring Mountain Road, a mere 38 seats greeting guests from 10:00 a.m. daily, it is upon entry that eyes are immediately drawn to Shanghainese born and trained chefs working inside the restaurant's display kitchen. A long-term goal for Li, who previously cooked at 3 Villages, 1900 Asian Cuisine and award-winning Niu Gu, it is from a diverse menu that diners are invited to select everything from hand-made Xiao Long Bao and Sheng Jiang to beef noodle soup, fried rice cake or Shanghai duck.
Affordable without skimping on ingredients, all thanks to Chef Li and business partner Joe Muscaglione’s hard work, authenticity extends far beyond food. Almost every single item on-site is imported from or near Shanghai. This includes tables, utensils, art, uniforms and a sound system featuring thousands of songs from genres including Shanghainese hip-hop, mandopop, hardcore punk and electronic dance music.
Getting back to food, the menu runs deep enough to please a variety of patrons without trending too large, like so many others. By doing this, Chef Li hopes to share “some of the most common Shanghai foods, perfectly prepared” and accomplishes his goal admirably. Think steamed wheat gluten sounds strange? Call it Kao Fu, and pair it with soy and mushrooms for an incredible combination of flavors and textures.
Undoubtedly most popular for Xiao Long Bao, or XLB to those familiar, no off-Strip restaurant comes close to ShangHai Taste for these soup dumplings. Offered fried, with pork or crab, even gluten-free guests of all types can get their fix. Vegetarian? Indulge in Shanghai scallion pancakes, steamed vegan dumplings or stunning cold bean curd noodles slick with housemade scallion oil.
Accepting reservations by phone or online, service is a work in progress but already comparatively quick. For those waiting a cursory look next door will discover several unique imports, and by the time one is done perusing beauty products alongside quirky confections a table will be ready with full view of ShangHai Taste’s modern kitchen.
Built on family recipes handed down to Chef Li, using only the highest-quality product is important. "We want to be able to offer our customers authentic Shanghainese dishes using the best ingredients without compromising on the quality and freshness and keep the prices approachable to everyone.” With a location less than ten minutes from Las Vegas Blvd., even an Uber both ways will see guests save money compared to the big resorts, and they very well may eat better as a bonus.