Shanghai Social Club: A toast to American Chinese restaurants

XO scallops (left) and steamed bun filled with hoisin scallion duck (below) at Shanghai Social Club in Allston.
XO scallops (left) and steamed bun filled with hoisin scallion duck (below) at Shanghai Social Club in Allston.Photos by Lane Turner/Globe Staff

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SHANGHAI SOCIAL CLUB

There is something perverse about ordering lion’s head meatballs at Shanghai Social Club. The Chinese-themed nightspot, which opened this summer, is located within chopsticks’ distance of longtime Chinese restaurant Shanghai Gate, where these pork meatballs are a specialty. In the matter of this dish, there is no contest. Shanghai Gate’s lion’s head reigns supreme.

Shanghai Social Club’s version is hit-or-miss. One night, in a bowl of soup with noodles, the meatballs are dense as matzo balls at a bad diner. On another visit, they are great, served folded into puffy white steamed buns with bok choy to make spicy, satisfying little sandwiches. But that’s not the point. Shanghai Gate is about the meal. Shanghai Social Club is about the night out.

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