Monday, August 31, 2009

A Tale of Two Dumplings

Sorry about the misleading headline, this post isn't just about dumplings but it seemed appropriate given that it is one of the traditional dishes by which a restaurant is judged. And I know it's cheating to review two restaurants together but I am soooo behind in my posts that this is the only way to catch up. I hope you're not disappointed!

I've been to restaurants in shopping centres before (The Kam Fook in Chatswood and Din Tai Fung spring to mind) but that both restaurants were extremely busy on the days that we visited says a lot about the food!

The New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant, Lemongrove, Chatswood

Inspired by many other blogs to try this "in our backyard" dumpling restaurant, our party arrived in Chatswood with great anticipation. The restaurant was so full that in spite our booking in advance, we found ourselves sitting at one of the long food court tables outside the actual restaurant. So I can't speak for the decor or the ambience but we did have a bird's eye view of the window where the aforementioned dumplings are made. Quite similar to the Din Tai Fung restaurants (in the city and in Singapore at least), mostly women in aprons and protective headgear totally focussed on what they're doing.

The menu was a cornucopia of offerings - almost like the Denny's of Shanghai cuisine, the border of the A3 sized menu was helpfully bordered with the restaurant's own photographs of key dishes - the usual northern wheat-based Chinese fare.

And the food was not disappointing. Even though we ate this food almost two months ago, looking at the photos, I can still taste the sauce of each of the dishes.

Vegetarian dish - not my cup of tea but interesting textures!
Pork Chops - yum! Went back for seconds and thirds!

Fried fish?! Don't really remember this one ...
Shredded seaweed salad - spicy!
Cold jellied beef shin - traditional, not specially flavourable...
Short soup - great allergy standby!
Soup infused dumplings - lovely springy not too thick pastry and delicious meatball in soup.
Rice noodle stir fry - good flavour, not too greasy
Silver thread bun - beautifully stringy and great light bread texture.
Shallot pancake - a little thicker than some but good amount of shallot and flavoursome.
Pan fried dumplings - crispy, hot and tasty.
Can't recall the name of these dumplings but they really were the stand-out of the meal. With the bread weight of the silver thread buns and the crispiness of the pan fried dumpling, it was very satisfying. Unfortunately it was also one of the last dishes to arrive so we were struggling to fit any more in. In spite of this, they did vanish quickly.

I would like to say that the fact we ate in the food court didn't colour our enjoyment but it wouldn't be quite true. The air conditioning was on full blast to cater to what would normally be a bustling area but on the weekend, as much as the restaurant's customers filled the tables, it wasn't enough to take the edge off the chill of a winter's day.

Given our location and the busyness of the wait staff, we didn't have high expectations of the service but although it couldn't be called attentive, we were delivered all our dishes without too much of a delay and we had no major complaints.

Flavours of Peking, Castlecrag
To be found in the courtyard of the Castlecrag shopping centre, set back from the street, this popular dining spot was packed on the Saturday night we dined there. It has a private function room and whether the pace of the service was due to it being fairly busy or knowing that a 14 course banquet requires digestion to fit it all in, there was time to savour each dish with a decent break in between.
While the photos from this other shopping centre restaurant are a little more blurred due to low lighting even my camera couldn't cope with, there were some stand-out dishes.
Oh and if anyone takes exception to this, apologies for the photos of food in my bowl, one of the foibles of dining with your family vs other foodies is that they don't always follow the blog rules, i.e., no touching the food until the photographs are taken! Part of this is due to the tradition of serving your elders first.
Not sure of the official name of this dish but it's minced pork and vegetables wrapped in a crispy flaky pastry, not a dish that I had come across before but very tasty.
Stir fried rice noodles - not as filled with greens and containing egg.
Tea smoked duck - the stand-out dish from the night. It was tender, moist, lip-smackingly delicious and we took a doggy bag home and enjoyed it again the next day. Worth the trip to Castlecrag alone!
E-fu (hand made) noodles - traditionally stir fried with cabbage. Flavourful and al dente.

Pan fried dumplings - not as nicely presented but tasty just the same.
Hainan chicken - a good staple, tender but not raw.
Stir fried thick vermicelli with chicken & greens - another stand-out dish - al dente and not too salty.
Silver thread buns - didn't break up satisfyingly unlike the Chatswood version so not as much fun for the kiddies but a very fine bread all the same.
Soup infused dumpling - tasty, fine pastry and a good amount of soup.
That duck again!
Greens, standard but welcome after all that meat!

Shallot pancakes - more like shallot doughnuts than pancakes but an explosion of shallots compared with other versions - innovative but I'm not sure if it's preferable.
Jellied pig's ear - crunchy with a little spice, it's an acquired taste!
So what can we conclude from these two experiences? Good restaurants don't need to have prestigious locations, they just have to have great food!


  1. Greta rnage of dishes you had and I had no idea Castlecrag had XLBs! Ahh so sad that now I've moved so getting there is a bit harder but thanks for lettings us know! :D

  2. haha, XLB - wonderful shorthand! You have to make the effort to head back north and try it! Just for the smoked duck alone which is worth the trip, I promise!

  3. The duck looks wonderful. I like duck EVERY way they make it I think! I'm going to Chatswood today so will also get myself some dumplings today. : )

  4. I feel like I'm getting a bargain from this 2-for-1 blog. And love the photos but they just makes me hungrier for XLB.

  5. i love silver thread buns! i dunno why i just like picking at the innards...