Shanghainese or Northern Chinese cuisine in Austin?
Having grown up in California, I was spoiled by an abundance of fantastic and authentic Chinese restaurants. When I arrived in Austin a little over a month ago, I really didn't expect much in terms of Chinese food. Yet I have been pleasantly surprised by the likes of T&S and Sichuan Garden. However for the past week or so I've been craving Chinese food that wasn't quite Cantonese or Sichuanese. So I'm wondering if anyone here knew of any Austin area restaurants serving up Shanghainese or Northern Chinese (or anything else Chinese, but not Cantonese or Sichuanese) cuisine?
The only food items on a "dim sum" menu I care about are steamed shrimp dumplings, and Shanghai Restaurant fails miserably in this regard.
I would not eat their steamed shrimp dumplings for free - the outer coating is really just that bad.
I had tried steamed shrimp dumplings at only one place before Shanghai Restaurant: Tien Hong.
I really really adored the shrimp dumplings at Tien Hong on Sunday's with a healthy dose of that chili sauce they have, but unfortunately Tien Hong is no more.
Anyways, the point is this - if you go to Shanghai restaurant, don't waste money on their steamed shrimp dumplings because the coating is terrible. Steamed shrimp dumplings with chili sauce (not really sauce, but rather the chili oil) should be very savory, but the coating ruins it.
This isn't very considerate to your prompting but I'll take any opportunity to endorse Asia Cafe. While firmly located in the bamboo thicket of Sichuan cuisine it's delicious and authentic. Of course, you can expect some cross over dishes with Shanghai cuisine that might get your fix.
I lived in Suzhou in Jiangsu province and the dumplings were evocative of many I had there. The green beans and eggplant are transportative.
That said, I would like to die by being encased in a giant soup dumpling and drowning. I miss them desperately. Other areas of China can't even seem to manage them correctly, so I don't imagine a passable imitation coming to Austin any time soon. But sometimes I think I'd settle for an unpassable with its "adam's apple showing."
Firstly, thank you for your input. We had dim sum at Shanghai Restaurant for lunch today, and dinner at Pao's last night. So here's a short review.
Shanghai Restaurant - We had dim sum, but didn't get to look at their other lunch or dinner menu(s). Though not the absolute best dim sum I've ever had, it was definitely quite good and comparable to what I've had in LA/Shanghai/Hong Kong/etc. The egg tart buns and beef balls were particularly well made. The turnip cake was good as well, but a bit too greasy.
Pao's - Their menu was an eclectic mix of Cantonese, Shanghainese, Sichuanese, Hunanese and Taiwanese cuisine. The waiter informed us that their chef specialized in Sichuanese dishes. With that said, we decided to order some sort of spicy tofu dish cooked in a claypot (very good, delightful texture), spicy boiled beef (flavorful but forgettable), the drunken chicken (excellent, highly recommended), and a whole steamed sea bass (unmemorable). I think next time, we'll stay away from the Cantonese style seafood, and stick to the Sichuanese dishes, as well as try some more of their cold plates.
Thanks for the feedback. Do you know about Chinatown Restaurant yet? It's on the MoPac frontage road at Greystone. It's another place with a wide variety of chinese cuisine. They have an extensive menu and an excellent dim sum on Sat. and Sun. We went on Saturday and it was excellent. The restaurant interior is very nice and peaceful. Their portable griddle for the pan fried items is a great idea. Their menu mentions that some of their selections are Singapore style but I don't know enough to tell you which dishes.
Here's the Chronicles review and a copy of their menu:
Pao's Mandarin House out in Lakeway is run by people from Beijing. They also offer sichuan-style food but have a lot of beijing style and northern dishes. They even have northern-style dim sum/brunch (you-tiao, dou-jiang, shao bing). It may be one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in the area. Make sure you ask for the Chinese menu.
There's a badly named Shanghai Restaurant in Austin that doesn't have any Shanghainese recipes on their menu. Unfortunately I think that's about as close as you'll get in Austin. You might want to explore a road trip to Houston. I should point out that many people consider Shanghai Restaurant their favorite place for dim sum in Austin so you may want to give it a try anyway.