On a wet and wild evening, New Shanghai is a welcome shelter of warmth and cosiness. The tables are already mostly full when our group of five arrive, but our focus goes straight to the back of the room featuring a modern glass-walled view into the dumpling-making station.
Stuffing the pastry with pork mince
Dressed in crisp white uniforms and red-and-white checked aprons, the two women on duty turn the lumps of dough and a bowlful of mince into precision-pleated dumplings with their lightning-fast fingers. They chat as they work, barely looking at the dumplings as they feign a sense of casualness despite the intricacy of their efforts. It's a mesmerising sight, and I almost leave a nose-print on the window whilst I watch.
Pleating the dumpling skin closed
Xiao long bao soup dumplings ready for the steamer
Dumplings ready for steaming or pan-frying
Shallot pancake $4.80
Dumpling tv is almost good as pork tv. It's the perfect entertainment whilst we wait for our dishes to arrive. It doesn't long for the shallot pancake to arrive, a thin disc pan-fried to a deep golden hue made even more beautiful by the bubbles that have turned a dark brown.
The pancake is wonderfully and free from any lingering oil aftertaste, the shallots adding a touch of flavour although I ask for a dish of chilli sauce for a spicy baptism.
Pork with chives dumplings, fried $8.80
We crunch past the flaky pastry of the deep-fried dumplings to reveal a generous filling of chopped ham and chives. It's salty and sweet and I love the contrast with the sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Famous New Shanghai steamed mini pork $6.80
Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings are always a treat. We transfer these delicate bundles onto our spoons, taking a small bite first and then slurping up the soupy liquid within. The soup is scalding hot, and perhaps a little under-seasoned for my liking. The skins are a thin and almost slippery casing for the mound of pork mince inside. We dip them into bowls of soy and vinegar, a celebration of sweet pork, salty soy and the welcome astringency of vinegar.
Clanging typo's and spelling mistakes are part and parcel of many Chinese restaurants, and whilst I know I shouldn't throw stones (my knowledge of Chinese is far worse), I have odd visions of the "living fish special cooked" on the specials poster on the wall.
Red, greed with crushed ice
I'm also tempted to order the "red, greed with crushed ice" on the menu - it sounds like my kinda drink!
Pan-fried New Shanghai pork bun $8.80
Pan-fried pork buns are my other weakness. It's all about the joy of the fluffy steamed bun versus the luscious crispy-fried bottoms.
Is there are sight more beautiful than this?
I'm relieved that all the buns have spent sufficient time in the frypan to ensure an even coverage of tan. The buns holds a pork mince interior as well as a sip or two of sweet soup.
Deep-fried crab with yolk of salt egg $33.80
Deep-fried crab with salted egg yolk is the dish that Suze that has been waiting for all night. It's not a dish I would have thought to order otherwise, its presence buried halfway down the seafood listing. It's worth finding.
Two crabs arrive as a jumble of legs and claws, covered in a thin deep-fried batter that is rich with the crumble of salted egg yolk. The egg yolk is buttery and salty and sweet. Its taste is addictive and after nibbling away at the crust, we snap the shells to reveal tender flakes of succulent crab.
Deep-fried bean curd in yolk of salt egg $13.80
Those without the patience for hand-picking crab can order the deep-fried bean curd in salted egg yolk instead. We order both - because you can never have enough salted egg yolk. Admittedly there's not as much flavour on these compared to the crab, but the cubes of tofu are soft and silky beneath the crust of batter and egg. The leftover debris of egg yolk is also fantastic on rice.
Maneki neko lucky cat statue at the counter
Liverpool Road, Ashfield has witnessed a restaurant rejuvenation over the past couple of years with more and more dumpling houses opening and even a new Japanese restaurant. There's no chance of going hungry here, and the prices will keep both your stomach and your wallet well-padded.
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New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant
273 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9797 7284
Open 7 days 10am-10pm
Chatswood Chase - 345 Victoria Road, Tel: +61 (02) 9412 3358
Chatswood Lemon Grove - 427 Victoria Road, Tel: +61 (02) 9415 3536
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10/06/2009 12:24:00 a.m.