Hidden in a lane on Wanping Lu across from the Xujiahui Park basketball courts, Little White Birch has become a city favorite of mine, in part for its quirky, uncle’s-parlor vibe, the funny, bespectacled owner who plays the quirky uncle role, and its simple yet fresh and flavorful 本帮菜. The restaurant has been around for well over twenty years, according to the jovial boss, who we trust to recommend a few new dishes or tell us what seafood or veggies just came in.
But I do have some go-to dishes that I order almost every time, including the sweet, crispy Shanghai smoked fish. In contrast to Fu 1039 and Lynn’s versions, which use meatier cuts of fish that aren’t fried all the way through, the fish here is almost pure crunch, soaked through with the syrupy sauce.We tried a radish appetizer as well, which, although light and fresh, wasn’t particularly noteworthy. When I came here previously with larger (or hungrier) groups, it was easier to sample a wider selection of the sizable appetizer menu, but we felt compelled to move on.The next three dishes are also some of our favorites: pumpkin fries with salted egg yolk, razor clams with fried garlic, and steamed egg with clams. I’ve become an unapologetic fan of salted egg batter for fried things, be it pumpkin strips or shrimp or crab. It’s intensely aromatic and savory, salty without being boring, funky without overwhelming the underlying ingredient. The fried garlic really makes the razor clam dish, adding texture to the clams’ succulence. I acquired my sister’s love of steamed egg dishes, particularly those infused with an extra twist of flavor – in this case, clams – and topped with a sprinkle of what I think is light soy sauce. Finally, we polished off a soul-warming crab and winter melon soup – granted it was still the dead of summer at the time, so the soup’s heat and strong peppery flavor weren’t exactly what we needed, but it was so good – particularly the pepper-infused crab meat – that we didn’t hardly care.
Little White Birch (小白桦)
Xuhui District, No. 297-3 Wanping Road, near Zhao Jiang Bang Road