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A Taste of Shanghai on Upper Market St. in San Francisco

Angus beef stir-fried with mushrooms at Shanghai restaurant.

Shanghai-native Francis Tsai has had a most eclectic life.

He’s a former ballroom dance instructor. He opened the first discotheque in Hong Kong. He once ran the food division of Pan American Airlines. Years ago, he operated the Wu Kong restaurant in San Francisco’s Rincon Center. His daughter, Melody, who was born deaf, opened her own pizza place in the Mission last year called Mozzeria.

Tsai may be 83 now. But he’s far from ready to retire just yet. In fact, this summer he opened his own restaurant in San Francisco in the former Mecca location — Shanghai.

The 60-seat restaurant, done up in burgundy and beige with roomy banquettes and a commanding bar in the center of the dining room, serves modern Shanghai cuisine. Recently, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, I had a chance to try the creations of Chef Leo Gan, former opening chef of Shanghai 1930 in San Francisco.

The dining room, which looks out on to Market Street.

The stone-topped bar that's the focal point in the center of the room.

The decor is definitely a step up from most Chinese restaurants. The prices are, too, with dishes ranging from $4 for a dumpling dessert to $40 for a special that night of a whole crispy duck with spiced salt and chili.

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