Our suburb, Ashfield, is one of the leading lights for Chinese food in Sydney. We are spoilt for choice with Xin Jiang (whose handmade noodles match perfectly in their plain yet refreshing soup); Taste of Shanghai, Shanghai Nights, Yummy Chinese BBQ, Sky Mountain, the best named Taste Tetrahedron (whose chilli pork dish is spectacular) and many others. Dumplings of all types abound in Ashfield, and we’ve made it a family mission to taste test every restaurant in our suburb.
This week, we visited New Shanghai. It’s the restaurant on the main street that has the flashiest frontage. It was renovated a couple of years ago when it was integrated into a larger chain of restaurants and this is the first time we’ve managed to get a seat. Inside was still quite busy, even for a Monday lunchtime, but we were seated quickly without having to line up.
Ashfield main street
We ordered Xiao Long Bao, Noodle Soup, Beef Dumplings, and Pork Pan Fried Dumplings (Pot Stickers). All up, it cost $42 for four of us which included $3.80 for one glass of tea. I’m used to paying $2 or $3 for a re-fillable pot, so that seemed quite steep, but they did have a choice of different teas which was different to most other Ashfield restaurants.
Xiao Long Bao is a family favourite, and these ones were excellent. The broth was meaty, strong, and hot with the right mix of fat from the filling and juicy water. They came out to the table first and were devoured quickly.
Xiao long bao
The other two types of dumplings that we ordered were very different to each other. The beef and coriander dumplings came out on a plain plate, rather than in a steamer, and were quite bland. They would have been quite good with XO sauce, but in the rush of starving children and the joy of being seated straight away, I forgot to ask for some. As we were put down in the back room, the wait staff didn’t come past very often, so we missed our chance to catch their eye and get some sauce. Of the 12, we only ate four, but the rest came home in a free leftovers box. Yah for free box, normally we pay 20c per container in other Ashfield restaurants. The beef dumplings made a good lunch for the next day, with XO sauce at home!
The other dumplings we ordered were pot stickers – pan fried pork dumplings and these were great. They had the right balance of crispy base and soft top, with a juicy filling that oozed out as you bit into it. Very good and again, would have been fabulous with a touch of XO sauce. Oops.
The dumpling factory
The highlight of the lunch was the pork noodle soup with pickled vegetables. It didn’t look like much, just a bowl of noodles in broth. Wow, it made up for its boring looks in flavour! There was a good balance of noodles and white bean sprouts with very thin fingers of pork. The broth was full of flavour, rich yet refreshingly homely. If I was going to be really picky, then the noodles themselves are not quite as good as those at Xin Jiang. The broth was better than Xin Jiang’s version though. The item that really made this soup stand out were the pickled vegetables. Cut into long noodle shaped strips, they did nothing to enhance the look of the dish – all that long white similarity – yet they did everything to enhance the flavour. The wholesome tasty broth was punctuated by sharp tangy pieces of pickled vegetable, a superb combination.
We couldn’t make it through all the soup, so we took some home in the (free!) leftover container. Again, good for lunch the next day, and a dish where the flavours improve overnight, so really well suited.
As we were paying and leaving, one of the staff members gave the two smallest children a lollipop. I would normally say no thanks to lollies, but they managed to slip this one past me while I was paying the bill and the kids, being opportunists, ripped into the wrappers before I could stop them! It was too late to intervene, then No2 saw them with a lollipop each and realized he had missed out. I told him to go and ask nicely for one, and he entered an awkward conversation with the waitress who thought he was too old for a lollipop. He had to protest politely and eventually talked himself into getting one, probably with more persistence than charm.
We will definitely go there again. The service was good, very fast and even though we were in a room out the back, there were still staff coming through often enough that we didn’t really miss out on any service. Only the XO sauce, which was largely my own fault for forgetting to ask for it. The menu has a wide range of different items and we could probably visit several times before trying most of their range. We didn’t venture into any of the spicier items today as it was just myself and three of the children, so there is definitely room to explore further.
The noodle broth was better than it looked. Lovely balance of flavours and enough leftovers for lunch the next day.