In Short: New Shanghai is ironically one of the original and best Shanghai inspired restaurants in Ashfield where dumplings rule supreme, with a nice variety of rice and noodle dishes to complement. Our tip: Dine early and avoid the lunch rush and especially long queues from 6:30pm onwards for dinner.
If you should ever have a craving for dumplings or authentic Shanghai food in Sydney, there are many places that you can go to satisfy your urge, but really, the best place to easily find good Shanghainese food is in Ashfield. This inner western suburb has a long standing reputation for being Sydney’s “Little Shanghai” as it has many fine dumpling houses along Liverpool Road. You could make your choice of restaurant based on the length of the queue which usually equates to popularity, or you could go with the older kid on the block, where experience equates to flavor.
Whichever restaurant you chose, it is hard to ignore the presence of New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant (新上海), which is an institution for Shanghai cuisine in Sydney. While it might has been a mainstay throughout the years, it underwent a bout of expansion and refurbishment and it now has a glass frontage, solid dark-wood tables, Chinese curved stools and ornate traditional wood carved window shutters hanging on exposed-brick walls. The overall effect is an ambience that invokes that traditional Chinese restaurant feel that is at the same time cosy and comfortable. It’s open concept kitchen also gives you a clear view of what the chefs are whipping up.
We can’t say that we have been to New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant and not triedtheir signature Crab Meat Xiao Long Bao (蟹肉小龙包). With its loose, thin pastry skin, rich filling that is a blissful blend of pork and crab flavours, and the quintessential piping hot broth encased inside that’s created during the steam cooking process, their crab meat and pork dumpling ticks all the right boxes for a good xiao long bao dumpling.
When we were ordering from the menus, Coco and Viner Sacha specifically pointed out to me that I had forgotten to order one of his favourite buns, the Shen Jian Bao (生煎包). Shen Jian Baos have a similar exterior to steam buns, but the bun is initially pan fried to give a golden crispy brown bottom. Then the lid goes on the pan to create a steam effect to cook the rest of the bun. This gives the bun a Ying Yang effect, as with each mouthful, you get the bottom’s crispy textures combined with top’s pillowy softness . The pork meat filling is also delicate and light with a soupy centre. The final sprinkling of black sesame seeds an additional colour contrast as well as a different texture to the dish. The final product is a plump bun with a rich moist filling that you just can’t help going back for seconds.
Of all the dumplings, I like Pot Stickers (锅贴) the most. Perhaps it’s the fact that like Shen Jian Baos, they are first pan fried then steamed, giving the dumplings a the classic crispy brown bottom with a soft glistening yellow top. Or maybe it’s the alluring curved shape of the dumplings with traditional pork and white cabbage filling. New Shanghai’s pot stickers definitely delivered in flavour and appearance with the hallmark soupy interior as the topper.
After rice, the second most popular staple ingredient in Asian Cuisine are noodles. When I saw that New Shanghai has Zha Jian Mian (炸酱面), I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The name, Zha Jian Mian, literally translates to mean mixed sauce noodles. That means there’s a lot riding on the flavour balance of the sauce for flavour. The sauce used in most Zha Jian Mian is known as Tian Mian Jiang (甜面浆), made from salty fermented soya beans. Combined with minced meat, the sauce is then drizzled on top of a combination of soft noodles and fine slices of crunchy cucumber slices. Before eating, you will need to mix the ingredients together so that each mouthful of noodle is evenly coated with the meat sauce while the cucumber gives the dish a crunchy, fresh flavour. It was so yummy that I found myself eating the sauce by itself even after we had finished all the noodles.
Our visit reaffirmed that New Shanghai Chinese restaurant, with it’s nice new fit-out hasn’t wavered in delivering dumplings and noodles of the highest order. Ambience and flavours aside, the food portions are generous and reasonably priced. If you’re like us, and can’t get through all that yummy food in one sitting, they’ll pop it into takeaway container for a small price, which definitely beats wasting food, especially when its food as good as this! Service at New Shanghai is also swift and pleasant when we were there. One final word of advice, if you want to avoid the long queues, avoid peak hours and go early.