May 04, 2009

Shanghai Night

Debbie had been trying to get us to Shanghai Night restaurant in Ashfield for a while. Saturday night we were out running around in the city with our friend Patti and around dinner time were looking for a place to eat, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

I'm on a quest to find the best Xiao Long Bao (aka Shanghai Soup Dumplings) in Sydney. We've tried a few places already, including Din Tai Fung and Golden Century, but I'm always on the lookout for new ones to try. Since Shanghai Night is billed as both Shanghai cuisine and snack food and it was highly recommended it seemed like a perfect opportunity.

We decided that with three of us a cab would be cost effective, so off we went. Ashfield is a new part of town for us, and the ride down Paramatta Road was fun. Eventually we were driving through an area full of Chinese restaurants and soon enough arrived. From the outside the place is completely unremarkable, plain and not particularly inviting. Inside though - it's the same. Plain Formica tables, generic chairs, no particular ornamentation or decoration, completely unremarkable except for the fact that it was packed.

We had heard that the scallion pancakes were good, so we ordered those, Xiao Long Bao, some fried garlic, chive, pork dumplings, and a mixed seafood noodle dish. The food arrived quickly each dish as it was ready, first the noodles, then the Xiao Long Bao, the fried dumplings, and finally the scallion pancake.

The mixed seafood noodles were good if not really remarkable. A few prawns, a few scallops, some nice tender bits of fish, some fish cake, baby corn, and fried wide rice noodles. The year we spent in Bangalore, Debbie tried repeatedly to get fried wide rice noodles in Chinese restaurants to no avail, but here? No problem, she was happy. I thought the dish was slightly bland, so I jazzed it up a little with light soy and tiny bit of black vinegar. Later I asked for chili paste which really improved it.


The Xiao Long Bao were a bit of a disappointment. The skins were a little thick, and most of the dumplings the soup had leaked out. The ones that did still have soup were good, nice savory soup and tender pork. Despite not being perfect they still disappeared quickly. The fried garlic, chive, pork dumplings were exactly what I expected. Very garlicky, nice crunchy texture, rich pork filling - what's  not to like?

The scallion pancakes on the other hand were a surprise. Perhaps it's the difference between Shanghai style and Cantonese style, but instead of being thin and flaky it was thicker and chewier. It felt more like a fried flattened bread dough, which is fine - we love fried dough - but it was different from what I had imagined.


Finally we ordered a couple of desserts, a red bean paste pancake and a sesame crusted fried glutinous rice. I'm not usually a fan of red bean paste desserts, but this one was tasty, and the glutinous rice with sesame was fun, lots of nice toasty crisp sesame flavors around a sweet chewy sticky rice center.

The price was right too, around $30 for all of us for dinner. If we lived in the neighborhood I'm sure we'd visit regularly, but it didn't impress us so much that we'll be making an effort to go to Ashfield just for the opportunity to eat here.

Shanghai Night

275 Liverpool Rd
Ashfield NSW 2131
Phone (02) 9798 8437

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