Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao – There is More Than The Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)

When I originally reviewed Nan Xiang I proclaimed it the best xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in NYC () and I still stick to that claim.  However, on my latest trip I found that they have some cold appetizers that they really excel at and I’d like to highlight some of those in this review as they are really worth trying.

As I wrote in my other review, the décor is fairly simple and it is a little cramped in the restaurant, but everything is clean and fairly new looking.  The service is very brisk, but generally fine.  Be prepared for a wait as there is almost always a wait on a weekend.  I generally think going either early or later in the afternoon is better as the prime time lunch and dinner crowd can be kind of a pain.

Here’s a picture of the cold appetizer station, which was the basis of me writing this review:

Since I described the restaurant in more detail last time, I’ll get straight into the food:

Fried Bean Gluten (Si Xian Kau Fu):

If you’ve never had wheat gluten before it looks similar to fried tofu, the texture is a spongy and by itself it tastes fairly plain.  Here’s a Wikipedia article about wheat gluten (  At Nan Xiang their preparation is a typical preparation of this cold fried wheat gluten appetizer.  The wheat gluten has been fried and cooked with sliced wood ear mushrooms, shitake mushrooms and onions; all of the ingredients including the wheat gluten have been marinated in a semi-sweet soy sauce.  The result is great, the semi sweet sauce goes really well with everything and it tastes great.  The version here is very good and pretty similar to what you get in Asia. 8/10

Cold Smoked Tofu (Dou Gan Si):

This is another appetizer that is pretty common in places like Shanghai and Taiwan.  It is a smoked tofu that kind of looks like a block of cheese if you didn’t know what it was as it is brown on the outside and a creamy off white color inside.  They slice it into thin slices then toss it with sesame oil, chopped cilantro and some salt.  While it sounds plain, it’s actually delicious and flavorful.   I love the texture and simple flavor of dou gan (smoked tofu).  The version here is done nicely.  7.75/10

Sliced Dried Pig Ear in Red Oil (Er Duo):

While pig ear sounds kind of gross, it’s actually very mild tasting and delicious when done right.  The problem with pig ear is that if you prepare it wrong the texture is too hard and chewy, however they do it correctly at Nan Xiang.  The pig ear is cut into thin slices and then tossed in slightly spicy red oil and chopped cilantro.  The slices have the perfect texture of being somewhat firm, but easy to bite; it’s sort of hard to explain, but if you try it you’ll see what I mean.  This was really good and close to what you’d get in Asia.  This hands down beat any other place in NY for the best version I’ve had in NY.   8.25/10

Spicy Bamboo Shoot:

This is another common cold appetizer dish that is sliced bamboo shoots tossed in slightly spicy red oil.  While not quite as good as the previous appetizers I mentioned it was tasty.  The bamboo was nice and the red oil complimented it nicely. 7.25/10

Noodle With Scallion Sauce (Cong You Ban Mian):

This is a bowl of thin noodles with a sauce made out of soy sauce and scallion oil.  The scallions were browned, fermented and put in the oil.  The noodles were reasonably al dente, they weren’t hand pulled, but they were good and as I said in my former post they remind me of ramen. The sauce is what makes the dish and the scallion oil and soy combination is really good.  7.75/10

Steamed Pork Buns (Xiao Long Bao):

I’ll stick to what my review said last time as they tasted exactly the same.  The skins were much better than any of the other places in NY, normally I’ve found XLB in NY to be too doughy and not tender enough. The filling was what really set them apart from most of the mediocre XLB in NY, all of the other places in NY have overly heavy and greasy filling. Not the case here, the filling was very good, the meat was tender and the soup was very flavorful but not greasy and heavy.  7.75/10

Steamed Crab Meat & Pork Buns (Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao):

This was actually almost exactly the same except with a little bit of crab meat and orange crab roe.  I prefer these generally although at Nan Xiang I don’t feel like there is much difference.  7.75/10

Sweet Soy bean Milk (Tian Dou Jiang):

This was cold sweet soy bean milk, it was good, not chalky and clean tasting. It was better than last time I was here and probably on par with the flower shop lady on Roosevelt.  Overall, this was quite good.  7.75/10

I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food at this meal especially the four cold appetizers I got.  I’d probably get every single one of their cold appetizers if I was with enough people.  I’d definitely recommend coming here to check it out as it’s probably one of the better restaurants in Flushing Chinatown.

38-12 Prince St
Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 321-3838

Xin Da Lu China Kitchen – Good Upscale Peking Duck Restaurant in Shanghai

新大陆中国厨房 Xin Da Lu China Kitchen is located at the Hyatt on the Bund.  The Hyatt is a very nice hotel on the Bund in Shanghai (check out their rooftop bar, it has a great view of Shanghai at night).  Unlike most of the restaurants I chose to eat at in Shanghai, Xin Da Lu is very upscale.  It’s got a very sleek, modern design, dim lights and high vaulted ceilings.  The décor looks like an upscale restaurant in NY in fact it’s probably a bit nicer than most.  All of these things would normally scare me away from a Chinese restaurant.  However, I wanted to treat my friends since I’d been staying with them and they’d been taking me everywhere and Xin Da Lu came recommended from some friends as a good place to have good Peking duck in a nice atmosphere (it was also recommended on chowhound).

The service was again pretty poor.  They kept rotating servers and the servers were slow to respond to requests although it was passable service.

Xin Da Lu specializes in Peking duck and they also have a lot of Shanghainese and Hangzhou dishes on their menu as well.

Here’s what we got:

Peking Duck:

This is what Xin Da Lu is famous for along with their Beggar’s chicken (fyi, you need to pre-order either dish).  They had shipped in a big Peking duck oven from Beijing, which you can see in their open kitchen and hired a couple chefs from Beijing to man it, so the duck was supposed to be among the most authentic in Shanghai. The skin was excellent, crispy and very flavorful, thought this was among the better skin I’ve ever had.  The meat was pretty good, but I thought it was a bit on the dry side.  The pancakes were good, but not amazing.  The sauce was great (I believe it was tian mian jiang i.e. sweet bean sauce), I actually had to get more because they barely give you any, but it really complemented the duck in the pancake with the spring onions.  Overall, it was quite good although not transcendent.  8.25/10 (8.75/10 for the skin and sauce, 8/10 for everything else)

Fried Dumplings (Guo Tie):

These were the most beautiful guo tie I’ve ever seen.  There are five of them and they are served together with a sort of web connecting them (see the picture below).  I was concerned they were going to be a complete gimmick because they looked so pretty, but they were surprisingly good.  Nice skin, crispy bottom, good flavorful interior and well made.  8.5/10

Tomato and Pork Rib Soup:

We wanted a soup, so we got this.  It was a light tomato and pork broth soup with chunks of tomato and pork ribs.  The pork ribs were good, not melt in your mouth falling apart ribs, but good nonetheless.  The broth was flavorful although not outstanding.  7.75/10

Snow Pea Leaves (Dou Miao):

These are the smaller and skinnier dou miao that you get in Asia that I like a lot.  This dish was on the soupy side with large chunks of garlic in it with a light sauce that didn’t overpower the dou miao.  It was pretty good.  7.75/10

Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao):

These were surprisingly very good.  The skins were nice and delicate.  The soup was light, not overly oily and the filing was good.  I was very pleasantly surprised because we actually just ordered them because we weren’t sure what to order.  8.25/10

Overall, I thought it was very good although I wasn’t blown away by the food (for comparisons sake if this restaurant was in the US this would be considered an amazing restaurant).  It is however a beautiful restaurant and I would come back if I had the chance.

1/F, Hyatt on the Bund, 199 Huangpu Lu
Phone: 6393-1234 ext. 6318

Shanghai Café – Surprisingly good Shanghainese meal with the off the menu dishes

I’ve been to Shanghai Café many times and it’s been mixed in terms of quality, some dishes are pretty decent and some are mediocre.  However, it is probably the best Shanghainese restaurant in Manhattan.  I recently went back to order off the Chinese menu, which luckily I had a print out of as it wasn’t posted on the wall for some reason (scoopG on Chowhound has a great post of it, which you can find here).  As Shanghai Café is a well-known restaurant, I’ll get straight into the food.

Hundred Leaves Knotted BBQ Meat (Bai Ye Jie Kao Rou /百葉結烤):

This dish consists of knotted tofu skin and pork belly cooked in a brown sauce that is hong shao (red cooking).  Hong shao sauce is made of sugar, garlic, star anise, soy sauce, shaoxing wine and broth.  It’s slightly sweet, but still savory.  The sauce was good and not gloopy or over salted.  The meat was very tender and good.  I really like the knotted tofu skin as it absorbs the flavor of the sauce really well.  Overall, a very solid dish, definitely the best dish of the night. 8/10

Crispy Yellow Croaker (Cui Pi Huang Yu /脆皮黃):

This is a yellow croaker that has been lightly battered and fried.  The sauce is a sweet and sour sauce.  It was surprisingly good; I was concerned it would have that fresh water fish flavor that I don’t like.  A lot of Chinatown restaurants have that flavor because the fish aren’t great quality.  However, there wasn’t any of that flavor in this dish, which was great.  The skin was very good, freshly fried and crispy.  Everyone liked this quite a bit. 7.75/10

Fragrant Shredded Peppers and Beef (Xiao Jiao Xiang Gang Niu Rou Si /小椒香干牛肉):

This is shredded beef, dried tofu and sliced spicy green peppers.  Very simple and self-explanatory, but I always liked this dish and the rendition here is good. 7.75/10

Crab roe soup dumplings (Xie Fen Xiao Long Bao):

I decided to try the XLB here again, but unfortunately they were disappointing again (there are no even decent XLB in the city).  The skins were too thick and a bit over-steamed.  The soup is too heavy and the filling was a bit bland.  Stick to the regular dishes.  6.25/10

Stir Fried String Beans (Gan Shao Si Ji Dou):

I love this dish, but unfortunately it was very mediocre.  It had none of the wok flavor that it should have and it was a bit on the salty side.  Simple dish, but I wouldn’t order it here. 6.25/10

Overall, this was a surprisingly good meal and definitely took Shanghai Café up a notch in my book.  The state of Shanghainese food in NY especially Chinatown is pretty bad and in Chinatown this is definitely the best place although the competition is terrible.  Definitely recommend trying some of the dishes I ordered.  I look forward to trying more of the Chinese menu.

100 Mott St
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-3988