Shanghai Night, Ashfield: Zha jian mian

Rating: 4 out of 5

Shanghai Night
275 Liverpool Road, Ashfield 2131

shanghai night dumpling making

Ashfield is Sydney’s dumpling hub.  If it’s Shanghai-style dumplings you’re after, whether you’re hungering for the steamed, soupy, flavour burst of xiao long bao, or golden, crisp-bottomed pan-fried dumplings, there are a string of outlets along Liverpool Road to satisfy all your cravings.

Shanghai Night has undergone a bit of a cosmetic freshen up in the last twelve months.  It doesn’t look as dark and moody as the slick joint, New Shanghai, next door, but don’t let its nondescript looks fool you.  This place is renowned for its dumplings, and you can even see them being made behind a glass panel at the back of the dining room.  Deft hands mould and pinch delicate, white skins around the minced fillings to craft identically sized and shaped dumplings, ready for a steamer.  Thankfully, for noodle fiends like myself, there is also a good selection of dishes on the menu that serve bouncy, hand made noodles, la mian.

Zha jian mian is a bit like spaghetti bolognese, Chinese style.  Here, the white, hand-pulled noodle is topped with rich, pork mince and slices of cucumber.

zha jian mian

Mix it all up and you get a wonderful concoction of meaty pork, soft yet toothsome noodle, offset by crunchy, refreshing cucumber.  It’s like a party going on in your mouth.  The sauce also has a delicious hint of chilli, making it difficult to stop until you’ve polished off the entire serving.

It’s worth coming out to Shanghai Night just for this dish, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to have some dumplings on the side either.zha jian mian 2

Shanghai Night on Urbanspoon

New Shanghai, Ashfield: Stir fried la mian with pork and vegetables

Rating: 2 out of 5

New Shanghai
273 Liverpool Road, Ashfield 2131

hand made noodle la mian

One of the most mesmerising experiences one can have is to witness la mian being made.  In Chinese, it means “pulled noodle”, and it’s a fascinating sight seeing the noodle puller repeatedly stretching and pulling a nondescript pile of dough into fresh, springy noodles.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the noodles being made tonight at New Shanghai, as it was a late 8pm weeknight dinner visit.  Despite this, the restaurant was still full of chatty diners, overwhelmingly of Chinese background, which is always a good sign for a Chinese restaurant!  We were seated quickly and served a hot pot of tea, with the waitress coming back within around 30 seconds to take our order.  Eager to please, or get us in and out so that they could go home!

We ordered the stir fried la mian with pork and vegetables, since it was the first item on the noodle menu and presumably the safe choice, but also because the photo illustration at the bottom of the dish looked pretty damn good.  When it arrived, we looked at each other with instant disappointment. The noodles only just covered the bottom of the white rectangular dish, with no whiff of volume or generous proportions.  It certainly looked nothing like the picture on the menu.

The noodles themselves were deliciously springy and not too soft, stir fried in a tasty soy-based sauce with a hint of chilli.  However, the noodles were the only salvation for this dish.  The aforementioned pork was barely existent, with only a few scratchings of marinated meat which were even outnumbered by the small amount of choy sum vegetable.

Overall, the dish was disappointing considering our high hopes.  A paltry serving with very little meat overshadowed the beautiful noodles.  Not a good value proposition at all.

New Shanghai on Urbanspoon