Shanghai Xiao Long Bao Report Card -- an update
I'm just back from another month-long foray into the streets of Shanghai, and while I made a point to not get hung up on tracking down far-flung xiao long bao venues this time, I couldn't resist checking out a couple of very different, but worthy new ones caught wind of.
The first of these, Lin Long Fang Te Se Xiao Long Bao (麟笼坊特色小笼包), or Lin Long Fang for short, had been open for less than a week when I visited it, judging from the earliest reviews of it on dianping.com. It has the look of a Jia Jia Tang Bao Clone; from the layout of the place, the content and pricing of the menu, to the bandana headgear worn by the small army of young women (yes, young women exclusively) making the baozi, it's Jia Jia with a different color scheme, brown in place of red. Even the Jia Jia trademark of steaming the vinegar dish along with the xiao long bao is here. Fortunately, they've succeeded, or very nearly succeeded, in cloning the Jia Jia xiao long bao. They seemed to me to fall faintly short of Jia Jia's mark in wrapper suppleness and flavor intensity of the soup, but otherwise they were very good, perhaps a B+ in my grade book. Lin Long Fang is also conveniently located (10 Jianguo Dong Lu, near Zhaozhou Lu) and is a bright, upbeat venue I'll gladly return to.
The other new (to me) xiao long venue I tried, Fu De Xiao Long was very much the opposite of Lin Long Fang. It was a proverbial hole-in-the-wall in a working class Hongkou neighborhood, and looks like it has been there forever, though judging from the vintage of the earliest dianping.com reviews has only been around for about a year. I'm tempted to say that Fu De is a cross between Fu Chun and De Long Guan, but I won't; it does share the same comfortable, weathered neighborhood ambience of those two, however. Like De Long Guan, the xiao long bao came in a small quantity (six baozi) for a small price, 4 Yuan (about 60 cents). I found the wrappers a little on the heavy duty side, however, and the "soup" at once a bit too sweet and too salty. I'll give Fu De's XLB a "B." An added bonus to a visit to Fu De is the presence, immediately to the east on Dongyuhang Lu, of a very lively, blocks-long street market, where you can fand a seemingly endless array of street foods and wares for sale. You can find Fu De at 862 Dongyuhang Lu, about four blocks south of the Linping Lu Metro Station on the No. 4 line.