Little Shin Shin – Don’t let appearances fool you.

I was deeply suspicious of Little Shin Shin’s stickers as being voted “Best of Oakland.” It’s Piedmont location was already a big strike against it but the lack of Asians just confirmed my suspicions about Little Shin Shin. “At least we can say we went to a restaurant called Little Shin Shin,” I thought to myself and J and I got seated. As we walked through the restaurant, we saw the usual platters of Happy Family with unassuming clear sauce and batter-fried nuggets of meat in thick sauces.

Once we got seated, things began to look up. First, we got water and tea promptly and then when we ordered, our server let me know that my order of steam sea bass would be $35 and asked if I wanted something else. That was really thoughtful of him and prevented me from being saddled with a $35 fish dish. J and I had the sizzling rice soup, the cod with spicy schzechuan sauce, and the special Shin Shin chicken. Our sizzling rice soup was a clear broth with shrimp, mushrooms, water chestnuts and the sizzling rice. It was a fairly solid dish, if a little bland. I did think it would be perfect food for a cold. Warm and a little salty.

Things REALLY looked up once the entrees came. The fish came in batter-fried pieces with a spicy sauce. The sauce was bright, spicy and savory without being tooth-achingly sweet the way a General Tso’s sauce would be. The fish tasted great and the sauce really complimented the flavor of the fish. The little Shin Shin Chicken was also a solid dish. A kind of spicier, less oppressive version of Kung Pao chicken, this dish didn’t have the usual filler of celery and carrots. It was all chicken.

While probably not the most innovative or “authentic” Chinese restaurant in Oakland, Little Shin Shin is really solid in what it does. This isn’t damning with faint praise, I’d go there again and again to get a good meal. And besides, isn’t it fun to say “Little Shin Shin?”

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