New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Shanghai doesn’t even sit down, and not just because there is no room.
– Patricia Marx, American humorist/writer
Getting a seat at the New Shanghai restaurant can certainly be a challenge, as foreshadowed in Part 1 of the New Shanghai restaurant review.
Part 1 outlined New Shanghai’s surroundings and service, and 3 entrées.
In this Part 2, you will discover:
♦ 7 (yes, seven) more dishes,
♦ a copy of my bill (cheaper than a yum cha lunch), and
♦ 5 hot insider’s tips, including the best way to nab:
♥ a seat,
♥ the perfect parking spot, and
♥ a bargain.
7 Dishes to Try at the New Shanghai
Dish #1: Braised Dry Bean Curd with Black Mushroom Soaked in Soy Sauce $6.80
ORDER LIKE A PRO: Order this dish and instantly show your street cred. This dish is common, humble Chinese food, something the Japanese would call “B-kyuu gurume”. That translates to “B-grade gourmet”, which is all about the taste of everyday foods – no fancy foams or molecular fetishes here (as clearly explained by Adam Liaw).
You can find this dried bean curd in the unrefrigerated, dried goods section of some Chinese grocers. They look like hard, big-pored sponges. When cooked, their texture becomes like – surprise, surprise – soft sponges. Interesting textures appeal to me, but I can understand how some people might find them odd.
HALLMARKS OF QUALITY:
1. Dried bean curd has thoroughly soaked up the cooking juices.
2. Cooking juices must be tasty, of course. New Shanghai’s version is a very umami mix of shiitake mushroom liquid and soy sauce.
Bite into a piece of bean curd and enjoy squeezing out those savoury juices.
WARNING: A slight shock to my system: New Shanghai served this very chilled. Consider yourself duly warned. If I’d paid more attention, I’d have noticed it being listed in the “Cold Dish” section.
Dish #2: Chinese cabbage in creamy sauce $10.80
Quartered sections of Chinese cabbage cower under the white sauce. Some eateries serve it with slivers of Chinese ham on top.
White sauce? Ham? On Chinese cabbage?!
I like ordering this dish because it’s so atypical of Chinese fare that it’s almost fusion! Except – you know what – it isn’t fusion. It’s traditional cooking.
TALK LIKE A PRO: This dish is regarded as traditional home cooking from the Jiangzhe culinary school, sufficiently wholesome and nutritious to be recommended for women in early stages of pregnancy.
The mild-tasting white vegetable pairs well with the buttery, creamy sauce. Not too outrageous a concept, if you think about cauliflower cheese.
HALLMARKS OF QUALITY:
1. Chinese cabbage not overcooked.
2. Smooth cream sauce with no oily aftertaste.
Dish #3: Duck in plum sauce $18.80
Duck breast can be dry, but the sauce alleviates that nicely. M.O.T.H. (Man Of The House) enjoyed this so much that I wasn’t allowed to recycle the leftovers by deboning them to fry veggies. He declared the leftovers would be eaten as they are.
Dish #4: Deep fried bean curd with salted egg yolk $13.80
ORDER LIKE A PRO: This is the hardcore diner’s alternative to the more popular salt-and-pepper tofu.
EAT LIKE A PRO: This is sensational with plain rice. Silken bean curd softens the rice. Salty egg yolk adds a huge flavour spike.
HALLMARKS OF QUALITY: With a sufficiently high cooking temperature, the bean curd seals and forms a delightful crisp skin, while its interior is steamed and remains clean-tasting. At a low temperature, however, the bean curd just absorbs the oil and becomes a greasy sponge.
Dish #5: Shredded pork with pulled mung bean sheets (Rou si la pi 肉丝拉皮) $11.80 (not pictured, but highly recommended)
Remember this shallot pancake from Part 1, which was the children’s die-die-must-order (DDMO) dish?
Here is a link to what pulled mung bean sheets look like.
New Shanghai’s version is creamy and spicy. The clear, shiny noodles are hardly visible under the sand-coloured sesame sauce harbouring swirls of orangey-red oil.
I think I detect 3 sources of sharpness:
1. Straightforward chili heat from chili oil.
2. Fragrant, slightly numbing, saliva-inducing spiciness…that would be the Szechuan pepper in action.
3. Chopped raw garlic.
Wait. Wait. Don’t reject this dish just because it sounds hot. New Shanghai’s version perfectly balances the layers of heat with cooling cucumber and a creamy sesame sauce. Complex and exquisite.
New Shanghai normally serves this with shredded pork, but the kitchen kindly agreed to omit meat for the benefit of our vegetarian friend.
HALLMARKS OF QUALITY: Every aspect described above.
DOGGY-BAG LIKE A PRO: I took the remainder home, comprising 25% noodles and 75% sauce. By tossing in more sliced cucumber, I had myself a restaurant-quality lunch the next day.
Dish #6: Deep fried chicken with special garlic and chilli sauce (Shandong chicken)
Link to picture is here.
Although we didn’t order it this time around, special mention goes to this, which is usually M.O.T.H.’s DDMO dish at New Shanghai.
Don’t be fooled by its prosaic name on the menu – it’s a sterling dish at which New Shanghai excels.
HALLMARKS OF QUALITY:
1. The chicken is crisp and moist at the right parts – similar to Vietnamese crisp-skinned chicken, but New Shanghai’s chook is less oily.
2. The hero of the dish is the black vinegar dipping sauce with its complex, sweet-sour flavours.
~ This sauce separates man-chickens from boy-chickens.
~ I’ve had many a Shandong chicken in my time. From what I’ve tasted elsewhere, it’s no mean feat to concoct the immaculately-balanced sauce a la New Shanghai.
Dish #7: Rainbow beef $14.80
Truth be told, it’s a bit heavy on the stomach. But, more truth be told, that’s possibly because the table and our stomachs were groaning with the numerous other dishes.
HALLMARKS OF QUALITY:
1. Appealingly sticky and crisp.
2. No grease pooling at the bottom.
3. Batter should not be so thick as to make the beef unnoticeable.
Note: The online menu is a little different from the more extensive printed menu at the restaurant. So you won’t see some of the above dishes on the online menu.
5 Hot Insider’s Tips for Eating at New Shanghai
Hot Tip #1
To reduce waiting time (especially on weekends), make a reservation a few days beforehand. After reading Part 1, one enthusiastic FITK follower rang on Thursday to book a Friday dinner, only to be told bookings were full but customers were welcome to wait in line.
Hot Tip #2
For painless parking for an early week-night dinner, get there at 6pm. That’s when the Liverpool Road clearway becomes parking spots, so you’ll probably score a choice spot smack in front of the eateries.
Hot Tip #3
If you’re there for lunch, factor in some time to shop for fresh meat, seafood and Asian groceries. Prices in Ashfield are noticeably lower than in, say, Chinatown, Randwick or Chatswood. Don’t forget to chuck the esky and chiller bricks in the boot.
Hot Tip #4
Many Chinese eateries are fine with customers taking home unfinished food. When I go taste-testing armed with eyes bigger than my stomach, I bring my own takeaway boxes. I don’t need the restaurant’s boxes. Don’t we all have a drawer already overflowing with plastic containers?
Hot Tip #5
Want restaurant-quality dumplings (jiao zi) at home? Some Chinese eateries in Ashfield sell frozen versions of their dumplings you can take home – just pop your head in and ask. Depending on the dumpling flavour, about $5 will get you 20. To cook, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add dumplings straight from the freezer, and fish them out when they float. Don’t thaw them before cooking, otherwise they’ll stick together.
Here is the bill for 4 adults and 3 kids – the equivalent of 6 adults: A$116.10.
♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ That’s VFM (value for money) in spades, considering we ordered w-a-a-a-y too much and doggy-bagged more than half of 4 dishes (the salted egg yolk bean curd, pulled mung bean sheets, plum sauce duck and rainbow beef).
Aided by 3 very receptive pint-sized diners, we carried home in our tummies all 16 wedges of shallot pancake and 36 (!) pork buns.
You know what, this dinner was even cheaper than yum cha. These days, yum cha averages A$20-$25 per person (without ordering things like platters of noodles or sharks’ fin dumplings). Gone are the days when yum cha was considered a cheap meal at $10 per impoverished uni student.
My thinking behind FITK is to tell my readers and food tour guests about a range of dishes, so nobody need order “the usual” yet again (unless they want to). Now go forth and impress your friends by ordering, eating and talking like a pro.
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