Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An overdue visit to Shanghai Street Dumpling

One of the biggest benefits from waking up early on Saturday mornings is reintroducing lunch into the equation. You know the drill, wake up late, battle with the hoards of breakfast punters for a good half an hour before getting a table, and by the time your degustation-length brunch is eaten it's already 2pm. Cancel lunch, it's too late. Focus on dinner. That makes me pretty sad, because I love to eat and the weekends are my only opportunity to go forth and conquer all the spots I dream about during the working week. More recently, due to my inability to sleep in ("let me sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep" cries Weazelby) I have transformed into one of those people I usually glare at who has arrived before the rush, and is gaily sauntering out into the crisp winter air with all the time in the world to seize the day.

So I did just that and FINALLY popped into the hyped Shanghai Street Dumpling for lunch to see what the hoo-haa was all about. Shanghai Street has been touted as the new champ of Xiao Long Bao in Melbourne, overtaking Hu Tong who have been sitting on the golden pedestal for the last few years. I remember the first time I devoured a Xiao Long Bao at Hu Tong so vividly like some sort of pornographic food wet dream. I couldn't believe it, such thin delicate skin encasing juicy minced pork with melted soupy aspic. Paired with the light spiciness of fresh ginger and vinegar, it was heaven. Don't worry, I promise I don't have some sort of Meg Ryan fauxgasm ( I might if I was eating pastrami on rye) when I am eating these.

Shanghai Street Dumpling
342 Little Bourke Street
Open: Mon-Sat, lunch + dinner (closed 3:30-5:30)
BYO: Hell yeah ! Also sell beer
Shanghai Street Dumpling on Urbanspoon

So... what about Shanghai Street? Weazelby left the ordering up to me, and inside my head I was imagining cascading plates filled with all the juicy buns and wontons and dumplings in the world, but instead I stuck to sensibilities and ordered a plate of the Xiao Long Bao $8.80. for 8 pieces and the Wontons with chilli oil ~$8 for 15 pieces.

The Xiao Long Bao were perfectly formed - the skin was not too thin or thick evading that annoying moment when the underside of the dumpling sticks to the bottom and springs a leak. The filling was flavourful and juicy with a good ratio of soup. To be honest, I wasn't blown away with these, perhaps a consequence of overindulging in Xiao Long Bao wherever I can get them. But to their credit they ticked all the boxes.

Xiao Long Bao $8.80

I loved the chilli oil served on all the tables. It was a fairly mild version but had added fried shallots and anchovies taking the umami up a notch and adding the extra zing to the Xiao Long Bao that I felt they needed.

The wontons were served with crushed peanut, peanut & sesame paste and chilli oil and were pretty interesting, unlike anything I had ever had before. I can't go past ordering a version of chilli wontons, and had read mixed reports about Shanghai Street's version so thought I'd best investigate. The chilli heat was completely missing, a little disappointing however given the quality of the table chilli oil I will forgive that detail. The peanut and sesame gave quite a savoury butteryness to this dish, a little too rich after eating a few, but I can definitely see the appeal to these. The pork filling didn't taste the same as the Xiao Long Bao, perhaps even a little bit plainer but the toppings provided enough punch to carry the dish through. I'd recommend sharing these. (I have actually read on other blogs that these are filled pork and prawn, but I didn't taste any prawn)

Wontons with chilli oil ~$8

What I was most disappointed about was the fact we were too full to try the pan fried juicy buns (Shen Jain Bao) which are similar to the Xiao Long Bao with their soupy filling but encased in a thicker bready skin and pan fried to give a crispy underbelly. I will definitely be back to try these, I couldn't keep my gready beady eyes off plates of these on other peoples tables. I predict another pornographic food dream experience happening, if you know what I mean.

Other notes: We went their around 2pm, and had to queue for about 10 minutes. The turnover is quick - but beware the mid afternoon shut down. We had attempted to lunch a previous weekend at 3:30 only to find it closed between lunch and dinner service. I have heard there is ANOTHER branch open on La Trobe Street now, although yet to clap my eyes on it. Hopefully it's less popular, although probably not for long with Shanghai Street's reputation.

***Update: I have now visited the new location, for my thoughts click here 

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