I've found a secret portal to Shanghai, right here in Sydney! Enter New Shanghai and you will find yourself traversing on brick roads through a festive restaurant serving dumplings, with the magic quality you won't find elsewhere – flavours from an ancient Shanghai recipe passed down from generations to generations.
The reason why I can't stop going back there every time is because of nostalgia. Every day is a festival at the restaurant; paper pennants, posters and parasols decorate the place, donning the traditional colour red. My dad used to tell me stories about the colour: how an evil dragon wanted to raze a village but the doors were painted red to keep him away. It's the colour for luck, good fortune and happiness. The lighting is atmospheric, mimicking a festival taking place at night.
Live Dumpling Making Theatre - Chatswood Chase restaurant. (courtesy of newshanghai.com.au
The live dumpling making theatre imitates the experience one gets when really in Shanghai: food stall vendors at street markets frying hand-crafted delicacy. The best part about food in Shanghai is the fact that the food served at street prices is probably the best cuisine I've ever had.
And New Shanghai presents that experience, from the romanticism of the food's taste right down to the prices of their food. My friends and I would sit around one wooden table with quickly served food. I was judiciously full after five or six shared dishes, surprised that I only had to pay $7 at such a popular restaurant, (if you don't book, you risk waiting for more than 45 minutes).
Xiao Long Bao (steamed mini pork bun) is an imperative Dim Sim to at least try once in your lifetime. The white dough casing is pleated like a wedding dress, cocooning a gingery-sweet soup and delicate dollop of pork filling. The trick is to place it in your mouth whole – then bite in. The flavours hit you all at once, each standing out in intensity yet dancing together in an immaculate burst of deliciousness. These are served in a bamboo steamer basket which cooks without dehydrating, leaving the juices in the meal for your tastebuds to have. It is for you meat lovers, you soup lovers and connoisseurs.
Shallot pancakes are golden disks of crunchiness on the surface, yet shallot-laden softness on the inside. The fried rice cakes is a special kind of noodle-dish my mum cooks real well occasionally, and I'm glad the restaurant could extrapolate that sweet homeliness into the public. Lastly, the pan fried dumpling is evidence that creativity is limitless: there are so many types of Dim Sim invented; there is literally no asymptote for the number of cooking styles, meat fillings, construction of the dough casing, soup and flavours.
New Shanghai Restaurants are located at Chatswood (Lemon Grove Plaza, and Chatswood Chase), Ashfield, Bondi Junction (Westfield) and Charlestown (Charlestown Square). These are the five portals to only a snippet of Shanghai life.
The New Shanghai Restaurants are an experience for the eyes, the olfactory senses and the taste buds. It is a walk down memory lane for some (me), and a historical and cultural experience for others.