It's the first thought that comes in my head when we finally find New Shanghai at Chatswood Chase.
We'd wandered around the shopping centre a little lost at first, taking a wrong turn and hitting a dead end at the supermarket before turning back and heading hesitantly towards the food court.
I'm still unsure as we make our way past hard plastic chairs and tables, coffee chains and fast food outlets until there it is, right down the back, a picturesque upmarket Shanghai cafe straight out of a big budget Hollywood movie.
A bicycle is artistically propped by the entrance, the dining room fitted with wooden tables and curved rectangular stools. Strings of red triangular flags overhead and a heavy wooden door with iron studs at the back are presumably meant to make you feel like you're dining in the courtyard behind an imperial palace.
The bar area is marked by two printed kiosk umbrellas and patterned with a recurring 1930s poster depicting a demure Asian female. However most of the attention is focused on the dumpling kitchen, a brightly illuminated glassed-in prep area where a production line of workers are pleating with white-uniformed non-stop precision.
Dragon's well green tea $3.50
There's an impressive queue of people already waiting, even though it's only Tuesday night. The place is buzzing with a steady stream of diners, many of them families, we notice, grabbing a quick bite to eat with kids still in school uniform, and working parents arriving late, straight from the train station.
The happy rabble and the sharing nature of the menu, means there's plenty of people-watching to be done whilst we nurse our drinks. In addition to offering alcohol and soft drinks, the tea menu is comprehensive, including bi luo chun spiral green tea, white tea, dragon's well green tea, oolong, pu-er, chrysanthemum and jasmine.
Shallot pancake $5.80
We start with the shallot pancake, two golden discs pan-fried and cut in half when served. Whilst not oily, I find them a little heavy, their resounding crunch compromised by a disappointing lack of fluffiness at its core.
New Shanghai Xiao Long Bao $7.00 (8 pieces)
Xiao long bao are much more rewarding. We dip the xia long bao into our saucers of vinegar and soy and then transfer the delicately pleated dumplings onto our spoon. Gently nibbling one corner open, a small flood of sweet and salty broth gushes forth. We savour this slowly, before slurping the rest of the dumpling -- a winning combination of silky pastry skin and soft pork mince -- in one tasty bite.
New Shanghai Crab Meat Xiao Long Bao $9.80 (8 pieces)
Crab meat xiao long bao are the more upmarket version, and I'm pleased to find that the soup-filled dumplings have a noticeable crab flavour, both in the broth and the filling inside.
Hot, spicy and sour soup with shredded pork and bean curd $4.50
Hot, spicy and sour soup is a little saltier than versions I've encountered in the past, the broth more umami in taste and less vinegary. Suspended batons of tofu in the thickened soup make this feel more like a meal than a starter or side.
Deep-fried calamari coated with salted egg yolk $18.80
Salted egg yolk on the menu catches my eye immediately, and upon the recommendation of our waitress, we order it on deep-fried calamari. There are no complaints about the amount of egg yolk provided, but the calamari itself is a little rubbery and oily. I'm thinking that the salted egg yolk on prawn ($22.80) or blue swimmer crab ($29.80) might provide more successful dishes.
Stir fried Chinese rice cake with blue swimmer crab $18.80
Instead we try the blue swimmer crab with stir fried Chinese rice cake, a starch lover's dream with chunky slices of chewy gelatinous rice noodle that is swathed with a sticky garlic crab sauce. The portion of crab is generous too, although this is strictly a hands-on affair, requiring intricate crab picking and noisy finger licking too.
New Shanghai pan fried pork bun $9.20 (8 pieces)
There is far too much food for two people but we cannot leave without trying the pan-fried pork buns. The buns are another winner, steamed white buns pinched together at the top filled with a juicy centre of pork mince and a puddle of sweet soup.
The bottoms are a lust-inducing golden brown, a delightful contrast of crisp base, fluffy bun and sweet and salty pork mince. A dip in vinegar soy and the accompanying tumble of chopped shallots help cut through the richness.
Perfect dinner tv
- Schoolkids at the counter watching the dumpling makers in action
Slow cooked white fungus with papaya $4.80
Slow cooked white fungus with papaya is the ideal dessert for refreshing the palate. The white fungus is perhaps a little too soft for my liking, more soggy than crunchy, although I relish the sweetness of the papaya and the syrup. The cooling effect can be felt immediately, spreading from your stomach and resonating throughout your chest.
Pan-fried pumpkin pastry $8.80
If white fungus soup is the responsible fat-free adult dessert, then pan-fried pumpkin pastry is its antithesis, a deep-fried nugget of chewy deliciousness.
Inside the pumpkin pastry
The panko crumb shell gives way to a stretchy middle that is more like a pumpkin mochi, or chewy rice cake. It's like a glutinous vegetable chewing gum - in a good way, of course.
If this is the new Shanghai, then get outta my way. I've got a plane to catch.
Grab Your Fork and companion dined as guests of New Shanghai.
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Lower Ground Level
Chatswood Chase Food Court
345 Victoria Road, Chatswood, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9412 3358
Monday to Sunday 11am-9pm
(til 9.30pm on Thursday and Saturday)
Ashfield - 273 Liverpool Road, Tel +61 (02) 9797 7284
Chatswood Lemon Grove - 427 Victoria Road, Tel: +61 (02) 9415 3536
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
New Shanghai, Ashfield
New Shanghai, Chatswood - Lemon Grove Shopping Centre
Xia Long Bao - Din Tai Fung, Sydney
Xia Long Bao - New Shanghai, Ashfield
Xia Long Bao - Shanghai Night, Ashfield
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10/03/2010 04:16:00 a.m.