We had the full spectrum of fantastic meals, good ones, average deals, and crap meals chockful of MSG that we rather not remember. But there was this dinner that turned out surprisingly okay because the kitchen acceded to our request of 'no MSG' (they put fewer spoonfuls) and 'less oil'. The dishes tasted okay and were pretty edible. Serving up Shanghai dishes, 上海人家 (Shanghai Ren Jia) is a big standalone restaurant (in an odd familiar style of a neoclassical Palladian two-storey bungalow) in Pudong near Waigaoqiao frequented by the locals and virtually no tourists, except us.
Clearly there weren't any non-smoking rules in the restaurant. We were assaulted by a curtain of cigarette smoke upon entering. The restaurant was full that evening with lots of huge family dinners dotting the halls and private rooms. The adults certainly didn't care about the babies and children being passive smokers. While we had a private alcove of sorts, it certainly didn't deter smoke from drifting over. Luckily we went late and many people were done with their dinner and were streaming out. So the amount of carcinogens in the air diminished over the next 30 minutes.
The simple omelette was done well. It really went low on oil and NO MSG. Hurrah!!! The pieces of tofu were impressive- they were blessedly bland. OMG. It's so difficult to find bland Chinese food in this area!!! The two items that had a zillion spoonfuls of MSG that they couldn't do anything about were the mustard greens that sat in chicken or pork stock and the scallion noodles. Tsk! I'll never understand this fascination with MSG in commercial Chinese kitchens. Totally must chant the mantra strongly, “不要味精、少油、少盐、不加糖、请别放味精。”
Had fun watching a large family line up at the staircase for a family photo. We were joking about crashing that and photo-bombing them. But we didn't do it. Imagine our howls of laughter when we realized another group of foreigners (dunno if they're tourists too) did it!!! They were leaving the restaurant but the staircase was blocked, so they waited. One dude simply went down the stairs and placed himself in the photo next to the most elderly couple, presumably the patriarch and the matriarch. WIN! And the family didn't object! They graciously posed for a few more shots with the foreigner. Too funny.