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456 Shanghai Cuisine

photo by Robert Menzer

Dozens of Chinatown restaurants serve some semblance of Shanghainese food, but few do it with as much friendly polish as 456 Shanghai Cuisine, which opened in 2010 on Mott Street, the heart of the neighborhood’s Cantonese stronghold and onetime home to the Chinese gangs of Five Points. This was also the neighborhood where founding chef and part owner Zhou H. Li’s grandfather ran an earlier incarnation of the 456 brand years ago. Inside the grandson’s expansive, round-tabled room, vested waiters proudly proffer hot steamers of soup dumplings, here called “juicy pork bun,” two-bite wonders deeply imbued with porcine flavor and perhaps enhanced by a drop or two of sesame oil. Eat them alongside larger plates bearing all manner of steaming red shellfish, stir-fry, and dim sum from the south of China, helpfully annotated on the menu to point out dishes the New York Times’s Sam Sifton recommended in his glowing 2011 review. We’re partial to the pork shoulder in honey, the broccoli in garlic sauce, the scallion pancake, and the sweet eight-jewel rice.