New Shanghai

Third floor, Emporium Centre
287 Lonsdale St Melbourne, VIC 3000
We’ve been a little spoilt for shopping recently. The hype from the H&M opening had barely died down when Emporium, hot on its heels, opened its doors after years of construction. And whilst Emporium is a pretty swank and shiny shopping complex, I didn’t realise that it also offered an awful lot in the ways of food. So it was almost by accident that I discovered that their food court isn’t so much overpriced take-away as pop-up versions of popular restaurants, including (believe it or not) Jimmy Grants and EARL Canteen
In hindsight, I probably should’ve guessed about the extensive and impressive selection of food on offer when I received an invite to New Shanghai’s launch dinner. What I had originally expected to be an inconspicuous little dim sum shop turned out to be just one arm of an empire, expanding rapidly across Australia from its heart in Sydney. They clearly made an effort to make the place really feel like the bustling streets of old Shanghai, and I have to admit it smelt pretty delicious too. 
Special Blended Grapefruit Green Tea ($4.8)
We were in for an unbelievably extensive banquet, but before we began stuffing our faces, we were encouraged to pick one of the drinks from the selection of Asian drinks, tea, cocktails, beer, and wine. Everyone at my table went for something a little ethnic, and I decided to have a refreshing drink of Special Blended Grapefruit Green Tea ($4.8). There wasn’t much citrus to this drink, but I liked the strong, sweet taste that attested to the use of real tea leaves. 
Drunken Chicken ($9.8)
We started off with some cold dishes to match our drinks, and Drunken Chicken ($9.8) is a classic. This chicken was definitely sloshed, the silken smooth slices fragrant with Chinese rice wine and spices.
Chopped Cucumber Tossed with Fresh Garlic ($4.8)
The Chopped Cucumber Tossed with Fresh Garlic ($4.8) was another classic done well. The bright pieces of cucumber were crunchy and covered generously with garlic mince. You don’t want to be kissing anyone after eating these, but they’re rather tasty.
Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs ($5.8)
The Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs ($5.8) confused me a little; being a dish that I’m used to being served hot and tender, I kept feeling like that these chewy little beer snacks had been sitting out on the bench for too long. However the sweet and malty vinegar marinade was right on the money.  
Xiao Long Bao ($7.8, 8pcs)
Then came a whole slew of dim sum and yumcha snacks, the first of which a ubiquitous steamer of Xiao Long Bao ($7.8, 8pcs). Though these didn’t excel per se, the skin neatly held a mouthful of hot soup and pork mince, and were well-received all round. 
Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings ($9, 8pcs)
The Steamed Vegetarian Dumplings ($9, 8pcs) brought to mind beautifully furled blooms, but that wasn’t the only impressive thing about them. The mixture of chopped vegetables and tofu was clean and fresh, even if it did start falling everywhere after a bite or two. 
Pan Fried Pork Buns ($10.5, 8pcs)
The Pan Fried Pork Buns ($10.5, 8pcs) were sensational. The bun had its bottom burnished to a crispy golden-brown, but the rest was left bready and sweet. Inside was a geyser of flavour, steam, and hot soup, and I ended up with my lips burnt. Still, don’t miss these delicious little grenades, as they were a highlight. 
Shallot Cakes ($6.5, 2pcs)
The Shallot Cakes ($6.5, 2pcs) showed off once again the pan frying skills of the kitchen; the outer layers crackled like old parchment, whilst the inner sheets were soft and moist, chopped shallots hiding in its crevices.  
Shepherd’s Purse and Pork Wonton ($10.5, 10pcs) 
The Shepherd’s Purse and Pork Wonton ($10.5, 10pcs) was a dish that brought back cherished memories from my childhood. Shepherd’s purse, a vegetable that looks like a weed and tastes like a more herbal version of spinach, is often used in dumplings. But when we first got to Australia, we couldn’t find it in any shop – unsurprising, as it’s rarely used in western cooking. So to me, these dumplings tasted like trips with my parents to the outskirts of a small country town, shovels in hand, ready to harvest the abundant crops of wild shepherd’s purse.  Anyone less sentimental would describe these as a light pork dumpling with a distinctive herbal taste, covered with a sensational skin that’s smooth and elastic, topped with a fragrant mixture of fried chillies and peanut butter. 
Turnip Cakes ($10.5, 4pcs)
The Turnip Cakes ($10.5, 4pcs) were nothing like the greasy, pan-fried squares of starch you find at yumcha, and whilst we unanimously agreed that we loved the traditional turnip cake as much as the next Asian, it didn’t stop these from being a welcome change. These little footballs of crumbly pastry held a revitalising mesh of bitter, crunchy turnip strips, turning the traditional turnip cake into something at least faintly healthy. 
Pork Belly Braised in Sweet Soy Sauce ($17.5)
Pork Belly Braised in Sweet Soy Sauce ($17.5)
Kicking off our mains was a mystery urn, which turned out to be a sumptuous offering of Pork Belly Braised in Sweet Soy Sauce ($17.5). If we’re very good, sometimes mum makes this dish for us, and this version is every bit as indulgent. The glistening cubes of pork belly melted in the mouth with a burst of flavour, the rich and tender pork having had time to soak up the sweetness of the sauce into the gelatin. And props to the urn having ‘braised pork belly pot’ etched onto it. 
Rainbow Beef ($17.8)
I wasn’t so keen on the Rainbow Beef ($17.8), which despite the exotic name was nothing more than fried beef strips in sweet and sour sauce. 
Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab ($29.8)
The Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab ($29.8) on the other hand was gone within minutes. Succulent nuggets of crab were married with that light, spicy batter normally found on salt and pepper squid, and it was a hit with everyone at the table.  
Crispy Duck with Steamed Bun ($31.8, half duck)
Crispy Duck with Steamed Bun ($31.8, half duck)
Another one of my favourites for the night was the Crispy Duck with Steamed Bun ($31.8, half duck). The little purses of steamed bread were split open, ready to be stuffed with full and made into a sandwich. The bread was fluffy and light, a perfect vehicle for the plump pieces of duck rubbed with pepper and spices, and a drizzle of plum sauce. 
Stir-Fried String Beans ($13.5)
After all the indulgent eating done in the last hour and a half, it was a relief to see some greenery in the form of Stir-Fried String Beans($13.5). Shame the beans were soggy and overcooked, or it would’ve been a lovely dish, enhanced with garlic and dried shrimp. 
Fried Rice with XO Sauce ($11.9)
Stir-Fried Shanghai Noodles ($9.9)
By this point we were all stuffed to the brim, and I had no room in my tummy left, not even for another duck sandwich, and definitely not for two filler dishes – Fried Rice with XO Sauce ($11.9) and Stir-Fried Shanghai Noodles ($9.9). But I did take a bite of each for research purposes, and they were perfectly adequate, the chewy texture of the noodles catching my attention before my stomach said NAY. 
Fresh Mango/Strawberry Shaved Ice ($10.8)
Ok maybe I did have a bit of room left for Fresh Mango/Strawberry Shaved Ice ($10.8). After all, the glittering confection of ice, syrupy fruit, condensed milk, and ice cream proved too good to resist.
I had a good time at New Shanghai; though some of the dishes were definitely better than others, there were some smashing hits like the pork belly, crispy duck, and pan-fried pork buns. If you work nearby, you could definitely do worse when it comes to a quick lunch or a place to meet up with a friend after dinner. But maybe wait until the hype has died down a bit first.
Rating: 13.5/20 – old shanghai.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of New Shanghai.

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  • Reply Laur. 14/07/2014 at 1:00 am

    Great photos! Looking forward to giving this one a go.

    • Reply ming 15/07/2014 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you! I would highly recommend the pan fried pork buns, they’re the best I’ve had without leaving the country. Just careful not to burn your mouth like I did, though you could always get some of the shaved ice if you do haha :p

  • Reply Charlie Daniels 14/07/2014 at 5:26 pm

    That duck looks delicious! It’s a shame it’s small for that price.

    • Reply ming 15/07/2014 at 12:39 pm

      Hi Charlie, thanks for dropping by! The duck is definitely very good; not quite peking duck quality but the meat was juicy and plump. And despite how it may look, the plate was actually quite big; I’d say there’s probably enough there for two moderately hungry people to make a meal out of :)

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