Mama Ho's Shanghainese Restaurant's homely atmosphere and simple decor distinguish it from fancy banquet-style-restaurants. This is in keeping with the food served here, which owner Jessie Lee (
The presentation of the food is simple, giving little indication of the time and effort involved in the preparation. "There is considerable emphasis on preparation in Shanghai cuisine," said Lee, an elegant, motherly figure, who in her traditional Chinese dress, might have just walked off the set of a period drama. This impression is not at all misleading, as Lee worked as an actress in Hong Kong for many years and old black-and-white photos of her silver-screen days adorn the walls.
Brought up in a wealthy family in the Republican era, Lee says she learned to cook as one of the many feminine arts that she was expected to master. Even now she still takes on her share of the kitchen work, but during opening hours, she is on the restaurant's floor seeing to her customers. This personal concern is part of what keeps regular customers coming back. The other thing is the food.
Some of the names are familiar. Sweet and sour fish (
Stewed lion's head (
While Lee says most dishes are authentic, she has developed a few variations of her own. The fried stinky tofu with egg (
Lee says that she goes to the market each morning to buy her ingredients, and sees the restaurant simply as an extension of her social life. This probably accounts for the comfortable feel of the place, where good food rather than a chic atmosphere is what really matters.