Shanghai Stories 1938
Shop 4 and 6, 405-419 Victoria Ave., Chatswood NSW 2067
When The Concourse opened up recently, new restaurants sprung out like wild mushrooms and created a much livelier atmosphere on the main strip of Chatswood. One of these new breed of restaurants was the Shanghai Stories 1938.
Tables and chairs lined neatly alongside the restaurant for guests who prefer to sit outside. Just as I walked into the vicinity of the outdoor dining area, I saw a unattended podium with menus. Like any other unplanned dining, I waited for an usher to guide me into the restaurant, but there was no one to be seen. Some of the outdoor dining guests were just chilling out on a nice evening with a glass of wine in their hands as they savor the small servings of dimsims.
From a distance, a few ushers, standing on the back of another podium, caught my eye as they gestured me to walk towards them. I found it confusing that I had to walk past the outdoor dining guests to arrive at this other podium, placed right at the main entrance to the restaurant building. One would expect a standard courtesy of an usher to greet their guests at the door and show them to their seats.
What did I have and enjoyed
Shanghai Stories 1938 offers a selection of dimsims and also an ala carte style menu, featuring a dish range from elaborate seafood and meat to simple stir-fry noodles. Lily and I opted for the dimsim menu as I was keen to try their Xiao Long Bao (a very typical Shanghainese dish) - minced pork mixed and broth, wrapped like a bun for steaming.
We ordered the following dishes:
- Xiao Long Bao
- Pan-fried Pork Bun, which is a pan-fried version of the steamed Xiao Long Baos
- Braised Bean Curd with Mushrooms (ordered from their ala carte menu); and
- a serving of the Shanghai Style Stir Fried Noodles.
The Xiao Long Bao, served in a bamboo steaming basket, tasted satisfactory. Unfortunately, the amount of broth in each baos were not consistent - the ones with the little broth rendered the dough texture hard. A Chinese friend once taught me to always start at the “tip” of the bao to save my tongue from the scorching hot broth. The ”tip” leaves a lasting first impressions for me. It should not be hard and dry. The Xiao Long Bao served here was a hit-and-miss for me.
The Pan Fried Pork Bun, was also a hit-and-miss for me. The base of the buns are pan-fried at high heat, creating the Maillard reaction for added complexity of smokiness. Some of the buns’ base had some extensive charring, which tasted bitter.
On the other hand, I loved the Braised Bean Curd with Mushrooms. After the mushrooms and carrots were stir fried, they were wrapped with a thin layer of bean curd sheets and then deep-fried to perfection. The flavors of the mushrooms stood out, alongside with the crunch from the julienned carrots and deep fried bean curd sheets.
The Shanghai Style Stir Fried Noodles was generally palatable and had a good balance of umami flavors in the whole dish but I wish it was a little less oily.
We stayed on for the evening to sample their desserts after we finished our last dinner dish. We ordered the following dishes:
- Sweet-scented Osmanthus Cake
- China Panda Bun
The jelly-like dough texture was smooth, and had a touch of floral sweetness on each bite. It had to be from the essence of the Osmanthus flower. I do enjoy the floral flavors, but I was not sure if this was the best combination.
The China Panda Bun was cute and was filled with red bean paste. While I had better red-bean paste filled bun elsewhere, I appreciated the novelty.