Shanghai Lane

About

I was a bit uncertain about Shanghai Lane as we walked in. The large black and white photos of Old Shanghai, the neat soy sauce pots on each table, and the smartly uniformed waiters all felt very packaged. I imagined other identical restaurants being set up by the company across the city and feared the food would taste equally indistinct. Overall though, while not that remarkable, the restaurant offered solid Shanghai food at lower prices.

The ‘braised pork belly with bean curd knots’ (HK$50) had fatty cubes of meat that were pleasingly tender, but didn’t melt sumptuously in your mouth like the best braised pork can. The meat was soaked in a sauce which felt a little thin, potent with Chinese rice wine but lacking more subtle flavours. In comparison the dark sauce of Xiao Nan Guo’s ‘red braised pork’ is thicker and loaded with hints of liquorish and cinnamon that it has absorbed through the long cooking process and make it really exciting to eat. The dish is twice the price at Xiao Nan Guo, but I’d probably rather pay the extra for these more stimulating flavours that really enhance the meat.

I was hesitant to pay HK$68 for fried noodles when some you can get them for half the price elsewhere. Shanghai Lane’s ‘fried noodles with shrimp, chicken and ham’ warranted the higher price though, reminding me more of pasta dishes in finer Italian restaurants than the oily ‘chau mihn’ of a lot of local cha chaan tengs. The noodles were just lightly brushed with oil, which enhanced rather than smothered their own fresh, slightly floury taste. The shrimp and chicken had also been handled delicately so the frying just lightly cooked them and brought out the strong seafood and tender white meats flavours. Together the noodles and shrimp offered really soft, yet enticing tones that were very enjoyable.

The siu lung bau (dumplings with pork and soup inside) followed the trend of being good whilst not really blowing me away. The dumpling wrapper was thin and tasted fairly freshly made, free from that chewy, micro-waved texture that often marks cheap dumplings. But the wrapper still didn’t have the homemade texture of the best dumplings, and the soup inside was a little bland, lacking those soothing brothy flavours which explode out of the best siu lung bao. Again, Xia Nan Guo offers better dumplings, as do many of the higher end dim sum places in Hong Kong.

If you’re hungry and looking for decent Shanghai food at a low price then Shanghai Lane is definitely worth a visit. Some of the more special braised dishes like the ‘sea cucumber’ or ‘pigs trotter’ might also offer something a bit more special, though I’m yet to try these. If you want more stimulating Shanghai food though, it’s probably worth paying a little bit more to head over to Xiao Nan Guo or somewhere else.

Directions

35-37 Gough Street, Central, Hong Kong Tel: 2850 7788

Notes

Open from 11:30 a.m. until 11 p.m.

Cost

Around HK$50 a dish, Dumplings HK$15-35 with some ‘chef’s recommendations’ for up to $200

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Hometown Dumpling

About

There are a few places dotted around Hong Kong Island doing good homemade noodles and dumplings, particularly Wang Fu in Soho, the two different Dumpling Yuan’s in Soho and Sheung Wan, and a place in Sai Ying Pun near the Chong Yip shopping centre.

You see them with all with trays laid out in the evening, rapidly stuffing filling into neat dumpling and lining them up row after row. All of these places are good basic fare rather than anything fancy, with prices to match.

Hometown has a better range of dumplings than most , with a lot of steamed buns and xiao lung bao on offer too.  Unlike Dumpling Yuan or Wang Fu, its menu is fairly limited to dumpling and a few different types of noodles though. If you’re not looking for either of these then you should probably go elsewhere.

Based on quality of dumplings alone, I’d say Hometown places near the top of the list. The Beijing lamb dumplings I had melted in my mouth with wrappers that were wonderfully buttery. The lamb stuffing had a really distinctive earthy flavour, and oozed succulent juice. 

The whole package tasted really freshly made, and massively better than the defrosted dumplings you get in so many places now.  

Directions

102 Caine Road, Mid Levels, Hong Kong

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Price

About $30 for bowl of dumplings and noodles, $30 for 12 dumplings, $10 for a steamed bun, $10 for plain noodles.

Wang Fu

 

About

Excellent, authentic and cheap Beijing food.  One of my favorite places in HK. Really good, hearty, home-cooked-style food. No peking duck here, but the jing jiang rou si is probably the best I´ve ever had in either China or HK. Its doesn’t come with many pancakes so ask for more beng if necessary. 

The hot and sour soup is also excellent, a really thick mix of mushrooms and other chinese vegetables with just a hint of spice to it. It may however seem a bit strange to pallets that are not used to this dish.

Also recommended are the dumplings, which as freshly made by the restaurant each day. They sometimes also offer some special dumplings, so look out for those. 

The vegetables taste beautifully fresh here and are not smothered with soy sauce and garlic in the way that some places do. 

I have never ordered anything here that was not delicious. They dumplings are all handmade, fresh, and tasty. If you have a sweet tooth, try the banana fritters (pulled silk bananas) for dessert, a specialty Beijing dish.

Directions

On Wellington Street in Soho. Go up escalator and look out on your left hand side. Early on is a street with a yellow sign for ‘curry’ – Wang Fu is near to this place. It has a red sign on the front with three chinese characters. 

Cost

Around HK $60-80 a dish

Time and Notes

Closes at 9:30