This is a story about a Shanghai Girl and a Malaysian Boy.
Many moons ago, Malaysian Boy met Shanghai Girl through Flickr. It was a love at first sight connection that has bound them together ever since. But one day, Malaysian Boy made a tough decision by leaving things behind, and going anywhere around the world to experience life. This puppy love is inseparable and Shanghai Girl also quit her job months later, packed up her bags to follow her heart and moved to UK to be with Malaysian Boy. And the rest is history...
One and half year later, Malaysian Boy and Shanghai Girl are back in Australia. Time flies, it almost feel like they have just left yesterday. But I am so happy to see them back home again and quickly organised a dinner to catch up with them. Tonight we are having a reunion dinner at New Shanghai restaurant in Chatswood Chase shopping mall. I have also invited Yas (hungry digital elf) and Ellie (Almost Bourdain) to come along for dinner since they are both in the area.
The New Shanghai Chinese restaurant in Chatswood Chase shopping mall is the latest addition to the restaurant chains after the original one in Ashfield, and another one surprisingly is also in Chatswood tucked inside the Lemon Grove arcade. I used to live in Chatswood years ago and knew the layout of the shopping malls like the back of my hands. But the Chatswood Chase had been renovated since with a whole new extension which I am totally not familiar with and found myself lost in the area where the food court used to be. It took me some time to locate the new slick black New Shanghai restaurant not far from the front entrance.
The moody ambiance of the restaurant really makes it stand out among the crowd. The red lacquered wooden chairs are specially striking against the dark wall in the dimly lit dining area. I love the decor inside which is reminiscing the old Shanghai back in 1930s with cast iron wooden gate, tables and stools; reprinted old poster ads along the front bar and on the wall. There is also a cosy private dining room in seductive blood red glow from a luminescent red chandelier hanging above.
The restaurant has a constant flow of customers but not too busy on a Tuesday night. We are seated at the long communal table at the back of the restaurant, not far from the glass tank where all the actions are. Two chefs in clinical uniforms and face masks are in full concentration, pleating dumplings in one repetitive moment. A mesmerising sight that makes me even more hungry.
The waitress presented us with the menu rolled up inside a napkin ring like a parchment which also can be used as the placemat, I love simple ingenius idea like this. Tonight, we are here for the dumplings and we let Shanghai Girl incharged of the menu and orders a few Shanghainese dishes for good measure. We are in good hands.
The dishes come out from the kitchen in lightning fast speed had us in awe. We share a cold dish of drunken chicken as starter. A classic Shanghainese dish of tender chicken fillet with slippery skin, soaked overnight in Chinese Shaoxing wine with herbs and spices. The heavily marinated chicken pieces are aromatic and strong in flavour, but we also find it a little too salty on the palates.
"Are they painted on?" We all questioning at the three perfectly formed diamond-shaped red dots with white borders imprinted on the crab shells. I had to double check by scraping it with a chopstick just to make sure it is actually the natural pattern on the blue swimmer crab and is not painted on just to make it looks pretty. After the initial curiosity wears off, we are soon treated with a deep fried blue swimmer crab with salted egg yolk which tasted just as amazing as its look. The blue swimmer crab is deep fried in light batter then tossed in salted egg yolk for that extra saltiness and sandy texture. While others are enjoying the claws which is more meaty, instead I go for the shell which is heavily coated with egg roes that still clinging underneath it.
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An array of dumplings soon follow after. Eight perfectly pleated Xiao Long Baos are neatly stacked inside the bamboo steamer basket. Like many food bloggers would had compared these dumplings with those from Din Tai Fung, the skin is not as translucent delicate, and the filling is not as soupy the way it should be. It is tasty nonetheless with a dash of vinegar and soy sauce.
Surprisingly, the pan fried pork dumplings are much more enjoyable than the Xiao Long Bao. The dumplings are steamy hot then pan fried to a crispy bottom. The pork mince is moist and juicy while the dangerously hot soup gushes out on each bite which does need to take extra precautions without burning your tongue.
But the highlight for me is the New Shanghai pan fried pork bun (生煎包). The steamed bun is already so fluffy and the pork filling inside is just as sweet and juicy. If that doesn't already win you over, why not give the bottom of the bun a nice golden brown tan and pan fry to an extra indulgence crispness? It is so good that we even ordered a second round of the pan fried pork buns which resulted a 20 minutes wait. So make sure you order two plates right from the beginning to avoid delay.
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New Shanghai is apparently also famous for its noodle dishes. Hence we also ordered two noodle dishes as fillers to go with the dumplings.
I only know the Chinese rice cake or "Nian Gao" is usually a sweet glutinous cake like mochi, but the Shanghainese rice cake is little bit different. Presumably the rice cake comes in long tube then thinly sliced, stir fried with Shepherd's purse and shredded pork. Despite its plain looking presentation, it is actually quite tasty and comforting chewing on the moreish Chinese rice cakes.
Same same but different, the slippery thick Shanghai noodle reminds me of Udon noodle, is stir fried with shredded pork and choy sum in soy sauce which gives it a better flavour than the Chinese rice cakes.
The dinner won't be complete without a round of desserts. We all go for red bean shaved ice with ice cream, Malaysian boy and Shanghai Girl decided to share and go for the green bean (mungbean) option. The refreshing drinks cool down the system after a hot meal, much needed for the summer balmy night we are having here in Sydney.
We also share a plate of red bean paste pastries for sinful indulgence finale. I like the idea of this pastry is actually baked instead of the usual deep fry. It is indeed less oily, and the pastry is still just as crispy and flakey with piping hot sweet red bean paste inside.
We have such great time catching up with so much stories and laughter to share, even Ellie got along so well with Malaysian Boy and Shanghai Girl despite this is her first time meeting them. If I have to describe my perfect dining experience, this will be definitely one of them.
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New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant Lower Ground Level,
Chatswood Chase Food Court
P: (02) 9412 3358