The mark of a good Shanghai restaurant lies within two things for me: the xiao long bao, and the shallot pancake. My two perennial favourites, I order them every time if I see them on the menu, douse both in a mix of chilli and vinegar and savour. So when I saw that I had a discount voucher (25% off) for New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant in my brand spanking new Entertainment Book, I headed off with my significant other in tow to give this place a shot.
Located on Liverpool Road, the busy strip of Ashfield lined with plenty of dumpling restaurants, I have walked past this place for many years but have never visited. Why is that? Because it is located right next door to an old fave - Shanghai Nights (how dodgy is the name!?!) and that is one of our local repeat restaurants. The restaurant in Ashfield is one of a chain, according to their website, they are also located in Chatswood and Bondi, as well as having branches in Shanghai and Singapore.
K and I ordered our usual dishes: xiao long bao and shallot pancake, and then decided to branch out a little and order the pork buns and chilli noodles. The shallot pancake came out first and I was immediately impressed - I love it when it's super crispy and crunchy... the sign of the oil being really hot! It was no time at all until the xiao long bao and the noodles arrived, and I was immediately impressed with the xiao long bao. There was the requisite broth, the meat generous and so succulent and best of all, the pastry of the dumpling was whisper thin. It was not as good as Din Tai Fung, but it was definitely up there.
The noodles weren't exactly to my taste, but they had been the husband's choice anyhow, so after a token tasting, I left the rest to his enjoyment. I was put off by the layer of chilli oil that was floating about the top, but that's perhaps just me!
Service was definitely hit and miss despite there being a good number of wait staff about. We waited for ages for the pork buns to arrive, and even when our dishes were finished and cleared away, no one seemed to realise that we were still missing a dish. We had to ask after it twice before it was finally bought to the table, a good 15 minutes after we finished our last dish. By the time it arrived, our food had settled and we had lost our appetite, and after tasting one, we packed the rest to take home. I found the pork buns to be too much bread, and too heavy for my liking - I'd recommend ordering another serving of the xiao long bao instead!
K and I spent our dinner discussing whether New Shanghai was good enough for us to make a break from Shanghai Nights next door. The xiao long bao that night and the shallot pancake were both exceptional, and we conceded that sometimes Shanghai Nights were a bit hit or miss when it came to the XLB - on a good night, they could be better than Din Tai Fung, but consistency was their issue. However, we had never had an issue with service and we thought that overall, we enjoyed all their dishes too much to break up with our old favourite.
For great dumplings, head to Ashfield - Shanghai Nights or New Shanghai, both are fantastic!