This new restaurant specializing in salt-baked seafood and meat is ironically named (“Ms. Zhao doesn’t wait for seats”), given its newfound popularity and its refusal to take reservations past 7:30pm. However, if you’re willing to overlook the hour-long wait and cramped quarters in this three-story space, you are amply rewarded with a simple menu featuring a list of shellfish and animal bits (like goose feet and beef tongue), as well as a seafood item of the day.
Ms. Zhao’s most popular dishes are exercises in simplicity: a few crabs or a smattering of clams arranged atop a salt bed on a metal baking dish. These dishes highlight the strength of salt as a singular seasoning, but also the texture it can lend to seafood. Beyond that, salt’s ability to absorb moisture results in the meat of the shellfish retaining most of its rich, briny juices.
The crab (六月黄, RMB48 each), though small, had juicy and flavorful meat, with gooey innards like a rich pouch of sweetness and tang. The crab shell was tinged with a light crust of salt, a finger-licking nuanced improvement over a simple steam, so that the typically arduous task of cracking or chewing through shells now had a salty bonus. After the crab, the clams (腰蛤, RMB38) were my second favorite, pleasant bites and easily shucked from their shells, just chewy and sweet enough to relay their freshness. The razor clams (蛏子, RMB38) were the juiciest, at times bursting with insulated brine, as if released from the hermetic seal of their shell casings.
I’d advise sharing plates and mixing in cold-brew iced tea (冷泡茶, RMB28) or beer to further balance out the salt. Unfortunately, nothing salt-baked is available for lunch yet, but there is vegetable fried rice topped with a delicious, heart-stopping pile of pork cracklings (灵魂猪油菜饭, RMB48), and a few set meal options.
Miss Zhao Doesn’t Wait For Seats / 赵小姐不等位
628 Changle Lu (near Xiangyang Nan Lu), 长乐路628号 (近襄阳南路)