Chatswood Dumpling Crawl: New Shanghai, Shanghai Stories 1938 and Din Tai Fung

I take things to the extreme. My reactions to things are always over the top (according to my friends anyway…), with some of my favourite exclamations being “That’s RIDICULOUS!” and “That’s INCREDIBLE”. Nothing is ever done by halves…and in this case, I certainly take dumpling eating very seriously as something to be done properly. With the recent opening of Din Tai Fung in Westfield Chatswood, I headed off on a small ‘dumpling crawl’ of Chatswood with five friends.

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We started off at New Shanghai in Chatswood Chase. Prior to the opening of Din Tai Fung, New Shanghai was always my ‘go to’ option for delicious xiao long bao. The six of us ended up waiting around for half an hour for a table at 12pm on a Saturday – which isn’t bad by any means!

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Dishes ordered at New Shanghai, Chatswood Chase

Conscious that we had a few stops to go, we ordered just three dishes between the six of us:

  1. New Shanghai Xiao Long Bao – Steamed mini pork bun (8pcs), $7.80
  2. Deep fried tofu coated with salted egg yolk, $16.80
  3. Prawn wonton tossed with peanut butter, red chilli oil & spice (10pcs), $14.80

The highlights here were the xiao long bao (traditionally the best in Chatswood!), and the tofu with egg yolk. The tofu was just deep fried to perfection, with a crisp skin, and soft centre. The peanut and chilli sauce with the other dumplings was delicious as well.

Conclusion - you can always count on New Shanghai for delicious food at a reasonable price. There’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Chatswood and always has a queue!

New Shanghai Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Our next stop was Shanghai Stories 1938, located in the (semi-)newly developed Chatswood Concourse area on Victoria Avenue. With only a short five minute wait, the six of us were shown up to their only spare table…a round table set for twelve people. Well…if we must sit a bit spread out, we will!

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Dishes ordered at Shanghai Stories 1938, Chatswood Concourse

Completely disregarding our earlier decision to be careful about what we ordered, we went all out here and ordered their recommended four dumpling specials:

  1. Pan fried Pork Bun, $9.80
  2. Pork and Chive Dumpling, $9.80
  3. Shanghai Xiao Long Bao, $9.80
  4. Wonton in Red Chilli Oil Sauce, $9.80
  5. …and just for good measure, we also ordered the Grilled Onion Pancake, $7.80

In hindsight, we ordered too much. Way too much. The highlight here was the pan fried pork buns – the ones with the cute Caution flag stuck in them! With a soft pillowy bun top, and a crispy fried bottom with hot porky soup inside, these pork buns just had everything going for them. The xiao long bao were a little disappointing though, with skin that was much thicker than it should have been.

Conclusion – the rest of the menu at Shanghai Stories 1938 offers a more modern take on Shanghainese food than you will find at New Shanghai (ironically), but in terms of the overall quality of food, New Shanghai still takes the crown. There’s good value for money here though, with most dishes being extremely reasonably priced.

Shanghai Stories 1938 on Urbanspoon

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Our last stop for the day was the new Din Tai Fung in Westfield Chatswood, opened in April 2014. As K and I go to Chatswood every week to do our grocery shopping, we had had plenty of opportunity to check out Din Tai Fung but had bypassed it every time as we were scared off by the mile-long queue! Its popularity hadn’t diminished by the time our group got there, but thankfully as we showed up late in the afternoon, we had managed to miss the worst of the lunch crowds, and beaten the pre-dinner crowds.

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Dishes ordered at Din Tai Fung, Westfield Chatswood

I’d hate to say we went overboard here but we did end up ordering:

  1. Xiao Long Bao, $10.80
  2. Black truffle Xiao Long Bao, $4.80 each
  3. Snake beans with pork mince and chilli, $12.80
  4. Dan-dan noodles
  5. Cold soy milk for everyone
  6. Mango pudding for everyone

The general consensus from everyone around the table was that the black truffle xiao long bao was the mind-blowing dish of the day. It came out quite a bit later than everything else we ordered, but when you consider the care you must need to take in creating a work of art like this, it’s completely understandable. The aroma of the truffles fills the air as soon as you take the lid off the steamer basket, and the earthy and pungent tones that it lends to the pork soup in the xiao long bao is simply sensational. It’s a real treat, and at $4.80 each, is probably one of the cheapest ways of enjoying truffles!

Conclusion – Din Tai Fung is really the undisputed king of well-made xiao long bao with absolute precision in the thickness of the skin and the tastiness of the soup. They’ve turned an art into a science. They are on the pricier side though, and if you were to feed a family of four here at Din Tai Fung, you might find yourself walking away with a bill of $100, instead of an equivalent meal costing you only $75 at New Shanghai.

Din Tai Fung on Urbanspoon

In the future, I think I’ll stick with New Shanghai for my regular fix of wallet-friendly xiao long bao and only brave the long queues at Din Tai Fung when I’m in need of ‘special’ xiao long bao with truffles and other cool ingredients!


Launch of Mordeo Bistro & Bar, Sydney

I’m not going to lie – Southern European isn’t generally a cuisine that grabs me and insists that I partake of its delights. I grew up on Chinese food, and other regional variations, and that’s what I naturally gravitate towards. My late mum’s version of a pasta was home-brand spaghetti mixed with some mince and frozen vegetables. Heck, my own current fast version of a pasta is spaghetti with mince and frozen vegetables! I really just haven’t had the opportunity to try Southern European cuisine beyond the usual spaghetti bolognaise and lamb kebabs, so my interest in the region’s cuisine was never really piqued.

With my recent visit to Mordeo Bistro & Bar though, I would say this has all changed! K and I were recently invited to attend the launch of this new restaurant in the heart of the Sydney CBD, and treated to an evening of music, drinks, and delicious food.

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Located in the Assembly of Deutsche bank place, Mordeo is perfectly situated for those after work drinks for anyone working in the city – from suits to creative types. The giant lampshades that mark its presence are eye-catching – you definitely can’t miss it! The space is surprisingly warm as well, despite the open-air location.

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Slow cooked Octopus Carpaccio with split green beans and chorizo sausage

Starting with a slightly healthier option, we try the octopus carpaccio with split green beans and chorizo. The octopus is sliced so thinly that it’s almost translucent, and cooked to perfection. There’s no rubbery octopus served at Mordeo!

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BBQ lamb ribs with Pedro Ximenez

Moving onto a slightly less healthy option, I simply fall upon the BBQ lamb ribs with Pedro Ximenez. The lamb is incredibly tender and simply falls apart almost as soon as you pick up the rib. The sticky sweet marinade is just melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

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Squid ink Gnocchi with truffle salumi

The squid ink gnocchi was extremely simple, and the soft gnocchi texture worked really well with the extremely flavourful truffle notes in the salumi.

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Grilled quail with caramelised red onion salsa

The quail was excellent – I often find it hard to eat quail because it’s so small and fiddly, but this quail was prepared beautifully and grilled to melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

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Chicken Ballotine with pearl barley, spinach and a hazelnut salad

The chicken ballotine was tender and tasty, with the pearl barley adding a special something to the mouthful. The creamy spinach wasn’t bad either!

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Pea risotto with sage and Iberico Jamon

I personally really liked the pea risotto, which I found had a really fresh mouth-feel by itself but an extra salty burst when combined with the jamon. This is something I want to try and replicate at home!

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Catalana

We tried the Catalana, a Spanish-style creme caramel. As K’s favourite dessert is creme caramel, I bet you can expect how wel this went down! We ended up going back for seconds.

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Loukoumadis

My favourite dessert was the Loukoumadis though, a Greek-style donut. Soaked in honey and topped with icing sugar, these little fried doughnuts are dangerously more-ish.

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Trio of cocktails:

Keen to try some of the cocktails listed, K flags down one of the wait staff on the evening who obligingly gives us all three to try.

  1. Red wolf – white wolf cream ale with Campari, Antica formula red vermouth and a blood orange foam
  2. Jamon and chargrilled pineapple sazerac with a jamon and sage crisp – Jamon and Pedro Ximenez butter washed Hennessey vsop with a chargrilled pineapple shrub and pechauds bitters
  3. Cold drip spiced rum old fashioned – Kracken spiced rum, cold drip single origin coffee, cold drip syrup, angostura bitters with a twist of orange

I’m not drinking very much at the moment, but I’d say that my personal favourite was the red wolf – the blood orange foam really topped off the drink. K preferred the smokiness of the pineapple and jamon cocktail…can you blame him?!

We’ll certainly be back to Mordeo – and in fact, their weekly Friday banquets caught my eye! For only $35 per person, you can have a “Chefs Pick” all you can eat feast…now that’s the type of dining experience that convinces me to give Southern European cuisine a try!

Mordeo Bistro and Bar on Urbanspoon

Gourmanda attended the official launch of Mordeo Bistro and Bar as a guest of Pendulum Communications.


Unblogged Files: April to June 2014

This is actually a short-ish round-up post for unblogged food between April and June, the main reason being that I was overseas for a third of this time! You can read my roundup posts on my eating adventures in Hong Kong, China, Seoul (x2) for more yummy food shots!

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I went to the opera for the first time last year and loved it so much that I decided to volunteer my time at the annual Opera on the Harbour held by Opera Australia, so that I could experience more of the magic of opera. This year’s production was Madama Butterfly, and I was lucky enough to experience the heart-wrenching sorrow of Cio-Cio San night after night.Volunteering at the Opera is an amazing experience, and I will definitely be back next year.

Volunteers were also lucky enough to receive two tickets for a performance as well, so that we could go to the Opera as patrons to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the restaurants and bars. With the whole site at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair themed in a Japanese-style (sitting areas in a faux Japanese garden etc), all the food offerings were similarly Japanese in style. On the night that K and I used my two free tickets, we ordered a salmon teriyaki salad and a chicken katsu burger, and sat on the terrace enjoying the sun as it set over Sydney Harbour.

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As many of you will know, I’ve been on a diet and exercise regime. I’m excited to say that since I posted that entry in February, I’ve lost over 16kgs! It’s been a very big effort of diligently tracking all my food and exercise in myfitnesspal, as well as generally learning how to make small changes to my lifestyle to ensure that I can keep these kilos off well into the future. I’m still hoping to lose a little bit more before our wedding in November, at which point I’ll probably move onto a maintenance regime rather than running at a deficit.

One of the best food items I’ve found that helps me with my weight loss journey is Aeroplane Jellylite. It sounds really stupid – who still eats jelly other than toddlers right? However, I have such a sweet tooth that I find I need to have something sweet most evenings after dinner – I just really need a dessert! At only 29 kilojoules, Jellylite gives me that sweet hit at only 1/15th the kilojoules of a single Tim Tam. To be clear though – I’m still having Tim Tams and other desserts as well, I’m just making sure that I only have them on days that I go to the gym!

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Can you believe that despite spending a week in Korea, K and I never once went to one of those Chinese-Korean restaurants that seem to be everywhere? We had every intention of going to one especially as K wanted jyajangmyeon, but we just ran out of time. So when we got back from holiday, our first mission was to find somewhere for K to have his jyajangmyeon – Arisun in Haymarket answered the bill.

We ordered three dishes to share – the jyajangmyeon, a spicy seafood soup with rice, and a chicken/capsicum stirfry served with soft white mantou. The servings were incredibly generous and we ended up taking the stirfry home with us in a doggy bag as we barely touched it. The spicy seafood soup was perfect for the cold autumn night, and K just fell into raptures over the jyajangmyeon. We’ll be back soon – next time to try their fried chicken!

Arisun on Urbanspoon

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VN Fresh Salad

This was one of the most disappointing meals I’ve had in a while. In search of a quick meal before the Michael Buble concert at Allphones Arena, K and I dropped into VN Fresh at Sydney Olympic Park. They were doing a bustling trade thanks to the concert crowds, and the football fans who were there for a rugby league game of some description (don’t ask me for details, I know nothing about sport!), and we thought that that was an indication of the quality of the food. Were we ever wrong!

We ended up waiting nearly forty-five minutes before our food came out – fine when you’re out for a leisurely meal, but not so fine when you’re rushing to get to a concert. The dish pictured above is the “VN Fresh Salad” ($12.50), described as being “Grilled Chicken Mixed Dressing Cabbage, Herb & Salad”. Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of a salad, I don’t picture a pile of grilled chicken with a few pickles and cabbage thrown together as a second thought. Talk about false advertising!

We won’t be back to VN Fresh – next time we’re in Sydney Olympic Park for a quick meal pre-concert, we’ll be going elsewhere!

VN Fresh on Urbanspoon

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We celebrated a friend’s 30th in May, one of the first in the group to turn 30. As his nickname is Chop, we fittingly held a surprise dinner at Chophouse in Bligh Street. The meal was – to put it simply – a delicious meatfest. It’s the type of place where it pays off to liaise with the waitstaff and pay attention to the specials of the day. Six of the eight of us ended up ordering one of the daily specials, and everyone was in raptures over their chosen meals. From tender steaks with truffled butter, to a full pork tomahawk with superb crackling and even a tangy gazpacho with salads and delicious deep-fried sides to share, Chophouse really delivered the goods.

Chophouse isn’t a cheap visit by any means – by the time we added everything up with food and numerous drinks, it ended up being around $150 per person. To be fair, most people had one fancy drink each (see above cocktails – though I stuck with mocktails and soft drinks during the night), and the boys had a number of beers each as well. Considering it was a special occasion, it was money well spent!

Chophouse on Urbanspoon

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I made my way back to Melbourne for a few days in May and went out for a pho lunch with a colleague in Footscray. On the way back to the office, we dropped by the iconic mum-and-pop shop T. Cavallaro & Sons Pasticceria for a treat to take back to the office for afternoon tea. I chose this amazing frangipani tart with melt-in-your-mouth pastry and a honeyed sweet glaze. Pure decadence.

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Being back in Melbourne also means that I do a few chores and run a few errands for Dad. Some of these chores are entirely mundane and boring, like calling up utility companies, paying bills, and mowing the lawn. Others are entirely self-motivated with an ulterior motive, like going grocery shopping with Dad to pick out my favourite foods so that he can cook a delicious dinner for me. We do our grocery shopping in Springvale, which is full of Asian immigrants and correspondingly, full with excellent grocery stores and restaurants. I definitely couldn’t buy the delicious c ingredients that you see above at my local Coles on Sydney’s North Shore!

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Speaking of delicious dinners, here’s a typical dinner that Dad would cook for me – with a healthy twist! Pictured:

  1. Steamed scallops with vermicelli and a black bean sauce
  2. Tofu pods stir fried with bean shoots
  3. Mapo tofu
  4. Fish and coriander soup

He’s trying to be supportive of my new diet and exercise regime, so he’s refraining from cooking some of the meals that he would normally cook for himself and my brother – things like grilled pork chops, meatballs, sticky ribs…I love my Dad and how supportive he’s being!

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Quinoa & roast cauliflower salad, $15

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Steamed brown ale pudding, $14

Back to work in Footscray, and my colleague and I go out again for lunch at the Plough Hotel. I order the quinoa and roast cauliflower salad, substituting the usual goats cheese with a hard-boiled egg. I generally tend to find that salads don’t fill me up for long enough – unless it’s a giant salad, I find myself hungry again by 3pm. I didn’t have this issue with this quinoa salad though – the healthy amount of quinoa and the slightly smokey roast cauliflower was incredibly filling. Occasional bursts of currants and nuts added some textural interest to the salad as well.

I avoided ordering a dessert, settling for a tea instead, but my colleague went ahead and ordered the steamed brown ale pudding upon recommendation by our waitress. She. Loved. It. I swear she was literally having a mouth-gasm right there at the table. I tried a tiny mouthful as well, and I nearly peed in my pants right then and there as well – it was that good. The sweet syrup combined with the thick cream and spongy pudding is simply heavenly.

Funnily enough, as we were settling up the bill, the waitress congratulated me on my pregnancy (!), as she assumed that my avoidance of goats cheese was due to a pregnancy. There was a bit of embarrassment on both sides when I admitted that it was due to dairy avoidance rather than exciting news like a pregnancy! Despite this awkwardness, I think we’ll be going back to the Plough Hotel next time I’m in our Footscray office, and ordering the steamed brown ale pudding again.

Plough Hotel on Urbanspoon

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K is much more of an experimenter in the kitchen than I am. Where I cook solid, dependable food that we can rely upon having on the table within half an hour every day, he’s much more likely to spend hours in the kitchen on the weekend experimenting and testing the science of cooking. One of these experiments was a creme caramel that he made using a Sansaire sous vide machine that he bought a few months ago rather than baking in the oven. It turned out pretty well, but he has grand plans for testing different variations based on different sous vide temperatures, different ratios of ingredients…it’s getting pretty complicated!

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During my recent trip back to Hong Kong, I really got into the habit of having egg tarts every day. Coming back to Sydney, I found it really hard to go without my regular egg tart treat, so a visit to yum cha was in order! The egg tarts at Fook Yuen Seafood Restaurant in Chatswood are quite good, especially when you go early and manage to get them fresh out of the oven! With flaky pastry and smooth custard that’s just a tad on the sweet side, the egg tarts are well worth the occasional early Sunday wakeup for yum cha.

Protip – in my desperation for egg tarts, I also recently bought some fresh egg tarts from Best Taste Dim Sum in Homebush West/Flemington. Disappointingly, the pastry tasted like pork and so affected the tarts that I threw them into the bin after just one bite as they tasted absolutely disgusting. I can only assume that some cross-contamination with pork buns happened either in the preparation or baking process. I won’t be buying egg tarts from there again!

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Winter breakfasts during the work week tends towards microwave oatmeal or ham and capsicum dip toasties – quick easy breakfasts that allow me to get out of the door on time to catch the train to work. It can get a bit same-ish though, so on weekends I like to do something a bit more special, something I can sit down and savour. Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon is one of those fantastic combinations that just works really well, especially when spiced with pepper and chilli.

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There’s something about long weekends that just tells us Australians that it’s time to tackle some home improvement projects. On the recent long weekend, K and I went to Ikea in search of some curtains for our sunroom. Inevitably though, we also managed to walk out of Ikea with ten other things that we had had no intention of buying – one of those things being a box of delicious piping hot cinnamon buns! Honestly, cinnamon buns is the best thing about visiting Ikea…even better than horsemeat meatballs.

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I’ve never been a big meat-eater and naturally tend towards a largely vegetarian lifestyle when I cook at home with a few exceptions – ham, bacon and fried chicken! I’m toying with the idea of being vegetarian at home and only eating meat when I eat out at restaurants, so when Quorn went on sale at Coles I decided to give it a try. I was so pleasantly surprised. As someone who doesn’t normally like mock meat products, I found the Quorn burger patties to be surprisingly tasty and texturally accurate as well. I’m keen to try some of their other products – sausage rolls and chicken tenders in particular.

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I caught up with my friend Sarojini recently – we don’t get to see each other as often these days as she’s moved onto a new job, but we still keep in touch and catch up occasionally. This time we caught up for dinner and a movie at her house – as fans of the former TV series, we’ve both been wanting to watch the new Veronica Mars movie. She made a delicious vegetable hummous pie for dinner – simple, tasty, and healthy!

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Continuing my love of cinnamon buns, I successfully bullied K into baking cinnamon buns! I’m a shoddy and imprecise baker at the best of times, as I seem to have an undiagnosed phobia of following recipes and measuring ingredients. K on the other hand, is an excellent baker who delights in baking fresh loaves of bread for us. I managed to convince him to expand his baking repertoire…and in so doing, expand my own waistline with delicious cinnamon buns!

And there’s my Unblogged Food from April to June. In the next three months, I actually have my eldest cousin’s 10-year-old son coming from Hong Kong to stay with me for three weeks in his summer holidays. I’m hoping to take him around Sydney a bit on weekends, and potentially out of the city for a short getaway as well, so there should be plenty of brand new exciting reviews to come!