Nancy Qu always wanted to own her own business. She just never imagined it would be a restaurant, having had little prior experience.
But when Westy’s Bar & Grill at 1029 Rosecrans St. became available, she took on the challenge.
“I came here (U.S.) for grad school on a full scholarship,” said Qu, a Chinese native. “I was studying communications, then went to business school before getting a job as a marketing analyst. I’m a bit of an entrepreneur.
“I’m a foodie by nature. I love food. But the only experience I had was working one month one summer as a waitress at an Asian buffet.”
Qu moved to San Diego with her husband where he got a job with Qualcomm. She had been working for three tax seasons at Intuit Turbo Tax when the Westy’s opportunity arose.
“I wanted to buy a business and that one was close to where we lived,” Qu said. “We bought this business and made it Chinese. I know the Point Loma area, and there really isn’t a Chinese restaurant that’s not fast food, isn’t Americanized, and promotes Chinese culture.”
Though the ambiance of Qu’s restaurant, Shanghai Bun, is Chinese, it’s subtle and not overt.
“You can create this ambiance where people can enjoy their food and cocktails and not have it seem like they’re in a Chinese temple,” she said. “My restaurant doesn’t shout out Chinese. I don’t have decorated lanterns or a big Buddha or a big fish tank. I just wanted to bring Chinese food to the Point Loma community.”
Noting there are eight different regionally based Chinese cuisines, Qu decided not to concentrate on any one. But rather, she struck out to find a way to introduce her customers to all of them.
Qu found the answer to accomplishing that goal employing a cross-cultural model.
“Right before I started the business I took a Mediterranean cruise to Europe and I was in Barcelona, Spain,” she said. “They are famous there for their different tapas (small plate appetizers). So I thought, ‘People may not want to come in and order big plates. Why not try Chinese tapas?’”
On its website, shanghaibunsd.com, the eatery’s cuisine is defined as “authentic Chinese cuisine and a fine-dining experience from small-plate tapas, to big-plate regional favorites, to delicious sweet treats.”
Shanghai Bun’s menu offers a wide array of beverage and cocktail selections including a rich wine list and specialty cocktails with an Asian flair. Additionally, 14 craft beers are on tap focusing on local breweries as well as featuring trendy seasonal favorites.
The reasonably priced menu includes a Shanghai Bun sampler, various potstickers, pork, and shrimp dumplings, shrimp and pork shumai, shrimp noodle rolls, wontons, an assortment of egg rolls, scallion pancakes, beef bulgogi tacos, duck and pork sliders, sticky rice with chicken, steamed spareribs and custard buns, among others.
Qu is happy with her career shift.
“It’s definitely the biggest challenge I’ve encountered in my life, and I’ve experienced a lot of changes, she said. “Finding staffing was the biggest challenge. But I’ve built this business and I love working with my staff now of about 10.”
Of being a restaurateur, Qu said it not only complements her personality but fulfills her.
“The customers are really a big draw for me,” she said. “When I used to sit in a corporate office, you don’t get that relationship with your clients. But now I get to talk to people and know their stories and get to know them as people and about their families. You build that relationship. And it really makes you feel good when someone tells you, ‘I love your food.’ That’s really a compliment to me.”
Where: 1029 Rosecrans St.
Contact: shanghaibunsd.com, 619-795-1700.