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Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao - best xiao long bao (soup dumplings) in NYC

  • l

I've been meaning to try Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao for a long time, but there is always a pretty serious line and for whatever reason i've never had time to go. I finally got to go on President's day for a late lunch (3pm) with my gf (sort of overboard on Chinese New Year's eating...I went there and then to Lu's for pork chop rice). Nan Xiang is on Prince between 38th and 39th, it doesn't have an english sign and the onning is red (if you look on yelp there is a picture on the onning). A little lesson in food, Nan Xiang is the name of the area where soup dumplings were invented.

It's laid out almost exactly the same as Canton Gourmet, which is next door. You walk in and there are some tables and area where you can see them steaming XLB, on the left there is another doorway which leads into another room that is cramped with tables. While the decor is plain (wooden tables and plain white walls) it was very clean and new looking for chinese restaurant.

The service was generally fine, but the XLB took forever to come out (like 40 mins). I was getting annoyed as was the table next to me who was yelling at the waitress the whole time about how bad the service was etc. I think it had to do with the kitchen not the waitress, so i did feel sort of bad for the waitress who kept apologizing and was being really nice about the whole thing.

The menu is very short consisting of typical taiwanese / shanghaiese breakfast items (sweet and salty soy bean milk, you tiao etc), some cold shanghainese appetizers, soup dumplings, a few noodle and soup dishes. They keep it short and specialize, which is exactly how I like things done.

Anyhow, onto the food:
- scallion oil noodles (cong you ban mian): this is a bowl of thin noodles with a sauce made out of soy sauce and scallion oil I believe; I think the scallions were browned, fermented and put in the oil. This version was much better than the version at Taste of Shanghai (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/647259). The noodles were reasonably al dente, they weren't hand pulled, but they were good; they remind me of ramen. The sauce was very nice and not too salty and had great flavor from the scallion. Both my gf and I both thought it was good. I actually ordered it thinking it would be small (cost $3.50), but it was a big bowl if I had eaten it alone I would've been full. I would definitely get this again
- sweet soy bean milk (tian dou jiang): this was just hot sweet soy bean milk, it was good, not chalky and clean tasting. My gf thought it was a little watery, but we are probably spoiled as the last time I had fresh soy bean milk was in Taipei 2 months ago at Yong He Dou Jiang Wang, which is by far the best taiwanese / shanghainese breakfast I've ever had. Overall, this was good and better than most places in NY
- soup dumplings with crab meat (xie fen xiao long bao): while I like XLB alot, I'm not obsessed with them like alot of people are, so I wasn't like aching for these, but I was pleasantly surprised with the high quality of these XLB as I've sort of trained myself for disappointment in NY. This is the first good batch I've had in NY and having just eaten at Din Tai Fung in Taipei I've got a good comparison to go on. The skins were much better than any of the other places in NY, normally I've found XLB in NY to be too doughy and not tender enough, here they were not too doughy and were tender. They weren't quite as delicate as Din Tai Fung, which has exceptionally delicate skins, but they were good. The filling was what really set them apart from most of the mediocre XLB in NY, all of the places in NY have overly heavy and greasy filling. Not the case here, the filling was very good, the meat was tender and the soup was very flavorful but not greasy and heavy. Overall, we both thought these were very good and I definitely think these are the best XLB in NYC by a long shot.

It was a good meal and while I'll warn people that a) this place usually has a wait and b) be prepared to wait for your XLB if you want XLB this is the place to go in NYC. I also really want to come back for breakfast as their breakfast items looked really good. Highly recommend

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  1. Great review Lau. I've had long waits for XLB there too.

    18 Replies
    1. re: ChiefHDB

      40 minutes? Wow. Do you order them the very second you get to your table? As good as they sound, I think that would be a deal breaker for me.

      1. re: c oliver

        Perhaps the restaurant was very busy that day but I have never waited that long for the dumplings. I also only eaten there on weekdays as I refuse to wait.

        When you sit down, you order the dumplings, the only way to do it, that's what you are there for.

        1. re: Pookipichu

          On an occasion or two, I've had to wait that long for the xlb (after an hour long wait to get seated). It's just 2 or 3 ladies making them to order in assembly line style. There are a limited number of steamers and each takes ~10 minutes to cook. Full house = long wait. I've seen them run out of the crab filling and wait for someone to go fetch some more from some distant land.

          Make sure to order some other dishes to get you through the wait (I like the scallion noodles and turnip cakes). They usually forget to serve an item but still list it on the bill. I keep returning cuz they are the best xlb in town.

          -----
          Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao
          38-12 Prince St, Queens, NY 11354

          1. re: Pookipichu

            yah i ordered as soon as i got down, the other food came fairly quickly like within 5 minutes. As Joe MacBu said I think its b/c of the kitchen that the food took so long. The restaurant was close to full although not 100% full. I think one of the issues was there was a table of 8 that each ordered 1 order per person, like two ladies came out with all these XLB and we were like oh here it is and then they brought it all to one table and i was like omg i'm going to go over there and steal an order from them wth

            That said again, I'd def go back as the XLB is literally the only good place i've had in NY...i know people really like XLB on this board and like places like joe's shanghai which in my opinion is mediocre, i think they'll be surprised at how much better a good batch is

            1. re: Lau

              Dammit, you guys are making me hungry for XLB. It's funny, this is literally the only place I've ever had good XLB. I'm from Ohio, so no good XLB there, and the places I've been to in Manhattan have been terrible. I heard of some good places in Atlanta when I lived down there, but it was so hard to pull myself away from all the unbelievable Latin American food.

              I may have to go back to Nan Xiang today.

              Check out our flickr set from the last time I went for delicious food porn: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lawandfo...

              1. re: ChiefHDB

                PICS ATTACHED

                went today, had XLB and scallion pancake with sliced beef.... outstanding

                 
                 
                1. re: chefjellynow

                  ohh i forogt they had those...i really like those if you make them correctly...will have to try next time

                  1. re: chefjellynow

                    You know the XLB are good when they're a bit slouchy like the ones in the picture. Skins muct be nice and thin.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      "Slouchy" is the perfect word. If they stand up too straight, the skins are going to be too thick, aren't they?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Slouchy indeed, and with the freshest, cleanest tasting soup inside (not gummy like some), and so much soup packed into each one. The scallion pancakes with beef were great too, just the right amount of hoisin sauce and not at all greasy. We got there at 11:15 on Saturday and were seated right away, but when we left there was a line out the door.

                        http://petercherches.blogspot.com

                        1. re: Peter Cherches

                          Oh, goody, glad you checked them out. Can't wait to get there.

                          1. re: Peter Cherches

                            ahh glad you enjoyed...i really want to try the scallion pancakes w/ beef those are really good if done right...cant wait to try them

                            1. re: Lau

                              I've only had the non-filled scallion pancakes there, which seems idiotic in retrospect.

                      2. re: chefjellynow

                        My favorite two things to get there too. I love those panckaces. They have such a great crust on them.

                        I too waited 1 hr after ordering. Too long for lunch.

                2. re: c oliver

                  I've been there around prime lunchtime during a weekday and didn't have to wait. The XLB were brought out in about 10 minutes. The place is crazy on weekends.

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    they only took 10 min or so today and were very thin as you all guessed by its slouchy-ness

                    hehe

                  2. re: c oliver

                    you gotta order them right as you are putting your coats on the backs of the chairs.

                3. We back here the other day, got a few more dishes:
                  - soup dumplings with crab meat (xie fen xiao long bao): same as last time, very good
                  - scallion oil noodles (cong you ban mian): i really like this dish and it tasted the same as last time
                  - beef in scallion pancake (niu rou jia cong bing): this was pretty good, its a scallion pancake that is brushed with hoisin sauce and sliced beef is put in it and its rolled up. This is always a favorite dish of mine if made correctly. Their scallion pancake is a bit too greasy, but its very tasty and very crispy which i like. They put a bit too much hoisin on it too. But overall, i liked this and I'd definitely order it again.
                  - fried buns (sheng jian bao): these were decent, but not amazing. The bread part was too thin, i prefer it a little thicker and there wasn't enough soup in the middle, the filling was good though. Overall, not a bad rendition, but not an amazing one either
                  - fried dumplings (guo tie): these were fine, but nothing to write home about. The were cooked well albeit a bit on the greasy side (crispy on the bottom soft on top). The filing was decent, but nothing like blew me away about them
                  - pork and shitake mushroom rice cakes: I'm not a huge fan of nian gao (prefer noodles), but my friends wanted this, so i ordered it. It had pork strips, sliced shitake mushrooms, scallions and a bunch of seafood (fish, shrimp, squid) stir fried together, decent wok flavor and not too greasy. The niao gao was pretty decent although I like mine cooked just a little more. Overall, it was pretty good especially once you got a little chili oil on it.

                  Pretty solid albeit heavy and a bit more mixed than last time. Overall though this is definitely still the best place for XLB in NY. I plan on getting breakfast next time as alot of people had breakfast and it looked pretty damn good

                  Btw this time, it was weird, XLB came out in 5-10 mins, other food came out in spurts, but some of it mainly the scallion beef pancake took forever (like 35 mins)...totally weird service here

                  13 Replies
                  1. re: Lau

                    The best sheng jian bao we've had in ages believe it or not were at the old Yeah Shanghai in Manhattan Chinatown - now Old Sichuan - theirs are more bready outside, and very juicy inside (chicken filling), and cheap - 8 to an order.

                    1. re: buttertart

                      unfortunately, moon house had the best (like asia good), but they shutdown blehh

                      1. re: Lau

                        Seriously, try these. Would be interested to know what you think. (Miss those Taipei beef ones though.)

                        1. re: buttertart

                          so Old Sichuan still serves sheng jian bao?

                          1. re: Lau

                            Yes at least as of 2-3 weeks ago (I wouldn't have recommended it if they didn't). Xiaolong tangbao too, they seem to have kept their dumpling maker. XLB are better some times than others.

                    2. re: Lau

                      Their breakfast is great - got to early there - say by 10:15 am just after they open and before they get swamped.

                        1. re: buttertart

                          no they've got typical shanghai / taiwan breakfast. xian dou jiang, tian dou jiang, shao bing, you tiao, fan tuan etc

                          1. re: buttertart

                            Salty Soy Bean Milk, Crispy Dough (You Tiao,) Spicy Bamboo Shoots and XLB makes for a complete breakfast there! Not every cold dish appetizer is always available at 10:00 am.

                            1. re: scoopG

                              Youtiao shao bing, xian doujiang...sigh...

                        2. re: Lau

                          The Sheng Jian Bao are nothing to write home about, I would imagine for a first timer, though, they are pretty decent right? The problem is I've been spoiled by the 100+ I ate in Shanghai at Xiao Yang's.

                          1. re: NewYorkNewHaven

                            agreed, i tried them last time and i thought they were whatever

                            xiao yang in shanghai is amazing...best ive ever had

                            1. re: Lau

                              second on xiao yang's. and jia jia across the street!

                        3. After a long tour of Flushing (Best North Dumplings, Shandong Dumpling, Wang-Zheng's Halal Snacks, Old Wang Ji, duck buns at the Corner 28 window) we stopped in at 4pm (no line!).

                          Two orders of pork soup dumplings (really good as usual, broth was maybe a little greasier than before). Seem almost too slouchy for the soup spoons! Also had the scallion pancake with beef (very good as well). Pancake could have been a little flakier, but I didn't mind.

                          -----
                          Corner 28
                          40-28 Main St, Queens, NY 11354

                          23 Replies
                          1. re: kathryn

                            great itinerary, where's the official thread/review? SE or, personal site?

                              1. re: c oliver

                                Ha, I kind of broke it up:

                                Best North
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/738176

                                Shandong Dumpling, Wang-Zheng's Halal Snacks, Old Wang Ji
                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6672...

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  We haven't been to NYC in over a year but are planning one in 2011. A Flushing-Crawl is on my short list. Thank you for your always cogent and calm posts.

                            1. re: kathryn

                              Thanks for the update. Hope the BIL is holding up to the grueling itinerary!

                              1. re: scoopG

                                He was very disappointed that his hangover prevented Sichuan in Flushing yesterday... so I have a feeling some Szechuan Gourmet (in Manhattan) may be next.

                                Lau's tip on the LIRR is really great for the way back. At 6pm we were on the platform, train came at 6:06pm, we were at Penn Station by 6:30pm, and caught an express train back home. I was sitting on my couch by 6:45pm!

                                -----
                                Szechuan Gourmet
                                135-15 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11354

                                1. re: kathryn

                                  If you go to SG there are two great dishes on the whiteboard (or were Saturday anyway) - chicken (small deepfried cubes) with 3 chilis that is mindblowing, as ma as it is la, the flavor goes on and on in your mouth, and the sliced pork or chicken with (smoked) dried bamboo shoots. Tastes like the best ham ever. Their potstickers are straight out of the Taipei playbook, thin skins, loose filling, my favorites in the city.

                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    Good to hear -- I've ordered from the board before and wasn't 100% satisfied. There was a mediocre goat casserole one time. And $20 pea shoots another time.

                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      Hit and miss, but these are special specials. Yikes, $20 for doumiao? Were they gilded? ;-)

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        ya I been jacked like that before, from Big Wong on Mott St. $18.

                                        1. re: bigjeff

                                          Did you have them in China? If so were they the really fine ones, not the horse fodder you sometimes get here? The fine ones are great. In middle of pic below - at Wang Si, Suzhou (and sometimes you get them finer).

                                           
                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            you can get the fine ones in the states (although i havent seen them in ny) as i've had them in CA at this one restaurant i eat at all the time

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              They probably don't travel well. Where are the vegetables sold in Chinatown largely grown, I wonder - most from CA I think.

                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                thats probably true, most people don't think about CA as a farming state, but it is one of the largest

                                                1. re: Lau

                                                  Try driving up I-5 and that's quite apparent...

                                                  1. re: Lau

                                                    >most people don't think about CA as a farming state, but it is one of the largest

                                                    Hey, we Cali natives know it! Produce we get here in NYC pales in comparison.

                                                      1. re: squid kun

                                                        yeah you guys got it good. one of my favorite vegetables is "lung-xui-cai" or Dragon's Beard Vegetable, aka chayote shoots. yep, chayote!

                                                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/ckgurl/2... [not my photo

                                                        ]

                                                        my parents grow it in their backyard (right from the seed of some chayote that I bought in a mexican market) and it takes quite a lot to harvest a good sized bundle but I was in Cali and they had it in the friggin' supermarket by the bundle!

                                                        1. re: squid kun

                                                          Oh I dunno about that. Most of CA is a desert after all. We have this:

                                                          http://www.huntspoint.com/

                                                          1. re: squid kun

                                                            Produce in the Hudson Valley is fantastic. There were many wonderful farms on Long Island as well before recent suburban sprawl. Vineyards in the Finger Lakes have world class himrod and niagra grapes. There is much more to NY than just NYC.

                                                        2. re: buttertart

                                                          Much of it comes from Hunts Point, the largest food distribution center in the world!
                                                          http://www.huntspoint.com/huntspoint_...

                                                          The key is getting them at the "first cut" stage when they the freshest.

                                                          1. re: scoopG

                                                            You can sometimes find snow pea shoots near the sprouts in the vegetable section at Fairway. They're super-fine - almost like alfalfa sprouts (so fine the stems sometimes get threaded through my teeth). The flavor isn't as developed as the more mature ones, but they're good sauteed with garlic nevertheless.

                                                            A little known fact about Hunts Point - you can buy a day pass and go get some produce without having to go through the middle man. Some vendors will sell small quantities, but most will want you to buy in bulk.

                                                            1. re: Greg

                                                              The ones in Jiangsu are not microgreens, they're shoots but smaller and more tender than the ones commonly served here. As baby spinach is to regular spinach, say.