I have been going to New Shanghai at Ashfield (and the neighbouring Shanghai Night) to get my dumpling fix for years. They're perfect for many occasions - when I'm too lazy to put on make-up, when I'm not in a mood to talk to waitstaff or when I just want a quick dirt-cheap feed. The New Shanghai at Chatswood Chase is far from that.
You see, it was the first of the 'new generation' New Shanghai restaurants; launched by John Chen, the son of the owners of the first two New Shanghai restaurants (in Ashfield & Lemon Grove). It offers a more glamorous, full Shanghai dining experience rather than just indulgent Shanghai-style food that had made the first restaurants so popular. The decor is based on a Longtang street theme reminiscent of 1930's Shanghai, and being the vintage lover that i am, I think this dining space is totally awesome.
I was intrigued to find out more about the man behind it and learned that John actually has a background in software engineering but is now equipped with a MBA. His inspiration stems from a childhood in Shanghai where he was exposed to the vibrant culinary culture. Although only a teenager at school at the time the Chen family migrated to Australia, John watched and gained an in-depth understanding of the business and eventually begun helping his parents' two New Shanghai restaurants by acting as a Marketing Advisor. Clearly passionate about spreading the authentic dumpling experience, not long later, John began to canvass the options for expansion and development, with the desire of opening his own New Shanghai restaurants.
Good on him for recognising the demand and for executing the concept so well! Saying that I love it would be an understatement.
Here's my recent experience at the Chatswood Chase venue:
Situated in the most unlikeliest location, we rock up to the lower ground floor food court in Chatswood Chase shopping centre. The decor is clean, sleek and rather striking - the paved cobblestone flooring and the antique-looking bicycle at the front definitely completes the 1930's Shanghai alleyway/street scene. The trend of open-kitchen theatres seems to be catching on, although I do give New Shanghai credit, as from memory, there had always been one at the Ashfield restaurant, even before Din Tai Fung's arrival in Sydney. (Please correct me if i'm wrong!)
We start with a pot of oolong tea ($4.80) and a plate of drunken chicken ($9).
The drunken chicken is served minutes after placing our order. It is chilled and gelatinous, aromatically soaked in Chinese wine with herbs and spices.
Then we have the xiao long bao (steamed mini pork buns / soup dumplings, $7) and stir fried string beans with dried shrimps and soy sauce ($11.80). The xiao long bao have less soup than usual but it is still filled with a gingery pork goodness.
The stir-fried string beans are perfectly blistered and the dried shrimps add a gorgeous fragrance. They're very well seasoned and it's the first thing we demolish.
Next is the tasty deep fried blue-swimmer crab coated with salted egg yolk ($29.80) which has always been my secret indulgence at New Shanghai in Ashfield. The crumbly salted egg yolk batter is so addictive and it's so pleasant that the crab shell is easy to tackle without getting all my fingers involved.
I spot the shepherd's purse and pork wonton ($9.80) which I've never seen on the Ashfield menu before so it becomes an instant must order. Shepherd's Purse is a weed-looking herb known to have medicinal and healing properties. Cooked shepherd's purse looks like spinach but tastes slightly more peppery, and has its own distinctive flavour. These wontons are deliciously complemented with a rich sesame butter with red chilli oil and fresh cucumber batons.
Of course we couldn't leave without an order of their signature pan fried crab meat and pork buns ($12.80). Traditionally, these buns are known as shengjian mantou and can be distinguished by its crisp pan-fried base and juicy soup-filled innards. Whatever you do, don't leave without eating these!
And the New Shanghai empire is still growing. I mean, what's there not to love about fantastically priced comfort food served in a visually pleasing environment? Since the launch of this first 'new generation' restaurant mid last year, others have popped up in
Charlestown, Bondi Junction, Singapore
and Shanghai itself!
I think it's really exciting to see the next generation of restaurateurs shake up the Sydney dining scene. I wonder which other restaurants will follow in the successful footsteps of New Shanghai...
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Lower Ground Floor, Chatswood Chase
345 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood NSW
Phone: (02) 9412 3358
JENIUS dined as guests of Wasamedia and New Shanghai