From Uncle Chen’s to Hunan Wok, there’s always been plenty of Chinese takeout options in State College. But up until now, a true sit-down Chinese restaurant has been missing.
John’s Shanghai opened recently serving authentic Chinese cuisine at 316 W Beaver Ave. right below the Palmerton. We sent two staff members to check out the new place downtown.
I went to John’s Shanghai with little knowledge of what to expect – other than Chinese food. When I walked in, I was immediately reminded of my visit to Vancouver’s Chinatown. The complementary tea, the Lazy Susan on some of the tables, and the general vibe were all reminiscent of a trip to an authentic Chinese restaurant in any number of cities.
The food was different from your typical takeout type of place. It was certainly a sit-down experience and I wouldn’t recommend going if you are in any sort of rush. The food wasn’t “Americanized” like many Chinese places are, but it also didn’t blow me away. I ordered the pan-seared dumplings as a starter and the sesame chicken lunch special, which came with hot and sour soup. The dumplings were some of the best I’ve had, and the hot and sour soup was a pleasant surprise. The sesame chicken dish, however, was pretty much run of the mill — not much different than what you would find at Big Bowl.
The service was exceptional. From the second my girlfriend and I walked in, the waitress took great care of us and seemed genuinely happy to have us there. If you hope to experience authentic Chinese food, this may be one of your best options in State College.
Being a resident of the Palmerton, I think I was as ready as anyone for John’s Shanghai to finally open for business. After months of being woken up at 6 a.m. sharp to the sound of construction, the joint opened for the people, and in my opinion it flopped.
The restaurant has a great vision, for sure. The menu features a mix between the American-Chinese selections like sesame chicken and General Tso’s along with traditional and authentic Chinese cuisine. A refreshing change from the competing powerhouses that run the Chinese food options in State College, I had the highest of hopes for the food that would be offered — but again my expectations just weren’t quite met.
From the pricy menu I ordered the lunch special with traditional Chinese pork belly, white rice, the veggie of the day, which was cabbage, and traditional soy sauce from China (not the usual Kikkoman packets). The best part of this meal that I didn’t even finish was the rice and tangy soy sauce; the rest was sub-par at best. Still, I gave their signature menu item a fair shake — the dumplings. Fun to look at, these pricy dumplings were filled with soup and meat, and to say they were bland would be an understatement. All of this came a steep price compared to other Chinese food options in town. I will say however, the service and setting were excellent. I probably won’t be heading back anytime soon, but maybe with some tweaking of the cooking John’s Shanghai can bounce back.
Let us know what you think of John’s Shanghai in the comments below!