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Trip Report: HK, Beijing, Shanghai

Had a great time eating through HK. Thanks Charles Yu and Fourseasons for their recs. Beijing I found pretty disappointing especially after HK. Shanghai was a bit of redemption especially Yang's Dumplings. Ridiculous good.


Day 1-

7am: Landed at airport. Tried Crystal Jade for XLB, dumplings, and la mien. Pretty good for airport food but not much else.

1030am: Victoria City for dim sum #1. Favorites included the excellent flower crab with Hua Tio liquor sauce and noodles to finish. The crab meat was delicious. I'd say I like it better than dungeness but not as much as king crab. The sauce reminded me of Madeira sauce. Delicious. Tried 3 other hua tio liquor sauces on this trip (Lei Garden IFC at dinner and Loaf An) and this was easily the best version. Thank you FourSeasons. Another favorite was the squab. The skin was perfect, the meat tender and juicy. Like roast duck but finer. Har gow was also excellent here. We also had sticky rice in lotus leaves, sharkfin dumplings, XLB dumplings with crab juice, steamed shrimp and vegetable dimplings. While good, I liked the dumplings at Lei Garden better.

2pm: Lei Garden IFC. The dumplings here are stelllar. The XLB dumpings with soup are now my gold standard.. Better than Victoria or Crystal Jade. The shiu mai was so delicate and easily the best shiu mai I've had. Seasonal shrimp wonton dumplings in chicken broth, bean curd rolls in soup, and these large crab and meat dumplings in soup were also excellent. The har gow here had less shrimp filling than Victoria but the wrapper was a touch more chewy which I liked.

We all took a nap after lunch and didn't wake up until midnight. Jetlag bigtime!

Day 2-

9am: Law Fu Kee (144 Queens Rd). We were directed here by our cab driver because it was 9am and Mak An Kee wasn't open yet. Anyways it was pretty busy at 9am and there were 3 people wrapping shrimp wonton and dumplings in the middle of the room which was a good sign. The noodles I thought were just as thin and chewy as the ones at Tasty (IFC) and I actually like the wonton a bit more than Tasty because it was larger and filled with more shrimp. The quality of the shrimp fillings was equal from what I could tell (had them 4 hours apart). The dumplings are also very good there and filled with pork, tofu, woodear mushrooms.

1130am: Had the goose at Yat Lok. It was indeed delicious but like trueblu, I also liked the roast pork (not char siu) even better. And as good as the goose was, I found the roast squab at Victoria so much better. The skin was even crispier and there was less fat but the meat was also more flavorful and juicier.

130pm: Sliced abalone and tender chicken congee at tasty. Delicious. shrimp wonton and noodles which as I mentioned above, I actually like better at Law Fu Kee.

830pm: dinner at Lei Garden IFC. The braised fresh Australian abalone was excellent and everyone's favorite dish of the night. We all enjoyed it much more than the sharkfin, especially since we could have had 2 abalones for each sharkfin order. The roast goose was also excellent and had more meat, more flavor, and less fat than the one at Yat Lok. I tried to order mantis prawns in Hua Tio liquor sauce but they just gave us jumbo prawns due to a misunderstanding. The liquor sauce is no where near the quality of the Victoria version. Not even close. We saw a neighbor order a fried crab dish in casserole on top of vermicelli noodles so we had to order one too. That was also delicious. Of course we also had an order of one of their simmered medicinal soups which we loved.

Day 3-

11am: Tasty IFC again for congee and the steamed chicken. Also ordered some beancurd wrapped shrimp/shrimp roe and some other misc dim sum items. Pretty good but Lei Garden next door is much better for these things.

630pm: Sai Kung. Walked up and down that strip 3 times before we found Loaf An one street back. Thanks to Charles Yu for the rec. They took us to the fish market in the building behind the main strip and took us to one particular vender. Prices were comperable to the prices on the main touristy street. Obviously, if we had known, we would have gone to that market in advance, purchased and gone directly to Loaf An for what probably would have been a better price. We bought some live shrimp, razor clams, abalone, mantis prawns, a black snapper/grouper looking fish, and the large blue crab. The live shrimp were simply boiled, the razor clams steamed with garlic and vermicelli noodles, the abalone steamed with garlic, mantis prawns done salt and pepper style (fried), the fish steamed with ginger and scallions, and the blue crab in hua tio liquor sauce which was more like egg whites flavored with the liquor. All were very good but it's more about the fun experience.

Below are pics of the squab and flower crab from Victoria City

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  1. Shanghai-

    Biggest disappointment was Nanxiang Mantou in old town. They had 2 lines. One you had to wait for to order a la carte and an express lane where they charge tourists 150RMB each for a "set menu" consisting of 3 meat and crab XLB, 3 matsutake XLB, 1 large soup bun, 1 matsutake soup, and a couple of fried and sweet dishes to basically rip you off. We didn't want to wait so we paid the express lane fee. The skin on the XLB where thick and a little wet. The meat filling was a bit hard. I guess this place is now just a tourist trap.

    Old Jesse. Excellent. I had the concierge order the braised fish head with scallions in advance. We showed up at 1000 for our 930 reservations and was initially told they had cancelled our order. After some convincing, they decided to cook it for us. It was stellar. I'm not sure what kind of fish it was but the meat was very white in color, rich, and tender. Tasted like black cod or even chillean sea bass. Wonderful dish. We also ordered the sauteed rice cakes with yee vegetable. This was very light and very different from the versions with soy sauce we get here in LA. Also ordered the braised pork shoulder with bamboo shoots. The pork was a bit sweet but the flavor was wonderful. Sauteed loofa squash was excellent and we saw everyone order a soup made from carp, hairy crab (probably frozen), and clams. The broth was milky white and we were only served the soup. The soup was delicious. Everything else we left behind. We didn't notice anyone else eat the fish or crab either so maybe the ingredients were just used to make the rich broth. Service was excellent and our waiter delivered the nicest service we had in China. Highly recommended.

    Yang's Dumplings. 4 huge shenjianbao for 6RMB. Insane. We ordered 4 orders for 3 people just to try it out ( cautious after our huge disappointment at Nanxiang Mantou). They were so good we got back in the long line for 2 more orders and the vermicelli noodles with beef in curry broth. I was actually trying to get the one with oxtail that I saw my neighbor order but missed. The skin on the top unfried portion was thin and more elastic and much more impressive than the clumsy skin at Nanxiang Mantou (I know we're comparing XLB to shenjianbao but still) and the inside filling was filled with so much delicious juice and the meat filling was tender and flavorful. One of the best things eaten in China. This is a true must. Pass on Nanxiang Mantou.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Porthos

      Yang's is truly a must. There is more than one location. The one around the corner form the Park Hotel has the advantage of being right across the street from Jia Jia Tang Bao, so a fantastic place to try both of these quintessential Shanghainese foods.

      Good to hear that Jesse continues to be a gem. You ate very, very well.

      1. re: Porthos

        Just stumbling across this post, Porthos... Our 2011 Shanghai food excursion was remarkably similar to yours! Old Jesse is among the best Chinese food I've ever tasted. Yang's shenjianbao reinforces the notion that street food can be just as transcendent as any fine dining.

      2. Forgot to add Mak An Kee at 11am on Day 3 which puts Tasty IFC at 1130-ish. The wonton was delicious and splitting hairs, probably better than Law Fu Kee. Noodles were about the same. I liked the broth better at Law Fu Kee since the one at Mak An Kee had a strong dried squid smell.

        1. Glad you have a wonderful time! Now, reading your post makes me homesick and HUNGRY!!!

            1. re: FourSeasons

              Mods deleted for mentioning I got ill from a restaurant I did not name in the report. I deleted my notes after I posted so I don't recall enough to make reposting worthwhile.

              The gist is I found things to like about both Made in China and Da Dong.

              Instead of eating at Great Wall, we ate near summer palace at a food court across from Xiyuan station. Good authentic cuisine, no tourists. Highly recommended.

              Had interesting Yunan cuisine at a restaurant in the Yunan embassy.

              1. re: Porthos

                We sent a copy of the post back to you in our email -- if you need another copy, please let us know at moderators@chowhound.com

                1. re: Porthos

                  We liked Da Dong -- awesome duck and a very welcoming atmosphere. We also ate at Duck de Chine, which we liked less (and where we were charged $45 for two bottles of water and a pitcher od iced tea). Also highly recommend Chuan Ban for Sichuan food from heaven.

              2. Beijing- Gotta say, I wasn't impressed with the food here. We did both Da Dong and Made in China. We liked the skin at Da Dong better and the other dishes on the menu at Da Dong better. Napa cabbage with chestnuts and saffron was delicious as was brasied oxtail with chestnuts and honey.The meat at Made in China seemed more moist but the skin was also fattier. The stir fried bones at Made in Chinag were better than the soup made from the bones at Da Dong.

                The best *find* of the trip was that we found a decent place to eat onthe Great Wall/Summer Palace tour path. We took Trueblu's advice and avoided the Badaling Great Wall portion and went to a food court/foodvillage right across from xiyuan station. Initially I was pretty upset because our driver told us there were asian food options and all I could see was McDonald's, PIzza Hut, Subway, and Starbucks as we pulled up. I even had my sister take a picture of me with my face hiding in my hands in shame. Refusing to eat American fast food inChina, I walked the entire foodcourt and strip until I came to the end of the alley one row back from the fast food wall of shame. Here was a restaurant that was clean, spacious, and packed full of asian tourists/locals. The menu was decent and we ordered an excellent meal of pork ribs soup with preserved mustard greens, pork ribs simmered in medicinal herbs, stir fried eggplant pieces, vegetables, and some other stir fried meat and vegetable dish. There is no english name or english menu and 6 dishes ended up being 180RMB. Ridiculous cheap.

                Below are pictures of the napa cabbage with saffron, duck, and braised oxtails from Da Dong

                8 Replies
                1. re: Porthos

                  Two duck meals in one trip is at least one (if not two) too many. So many other great things to eat in Beijing. Next time leave the BD for folks who are too timid to eat the other delights.

                  1. re: Steve

                    I don't necessarily disagree. The Peking duck at Duck House in Monterey Park here in LA is pretty good. The soup and sautéed duck tongue is as good as anything at Da Dong or Made in China. The soup I actually like better since it has tofu and vegetables in it. I just wanted to hit both of the most highly regarded Peking duck restaurants in Beijing so I could calibrate what "good" Peking duck was.

                    Probably would pick Da Dong if I had to only pick one.

                    1. re: Porthos

                      Thanks for the TR Porthos. I agree that BJ is not comparable to HK in terms of the food scene, although there are excellent meals to be had, but the average place is well below par. I disagree that you shouldn't have had the roast duck in beijing: it's the quintissential beijng dish, and it would be silly not to have it at least once. There are more delicious foods, but it's like going to chicago and not having a decent hot dog...must be done.

                      I actually like roast duck -- although as untrendy as it may seem, really do prefer quanjude -- it's a shame their other dishes are so disappointing.


                      1. re: trueblu

                        I would say zha jiang mian is the quintissential Beijinger dish. And getting a decent version outside of China is unlikely. And if traveling to China is a rarity for you, also 'silly' to miss out on a good Xinjiang restaurant.

                        There are always lots of choices... none of them silly.

                        I guess i'm the lone voice that doesn't agree with the worship of BD.

                        1. re: Steve

                          Really? I thought lamb hot pot was.

                          Anyways, I see merits to both arguments. No one is going to go to Beijing without trying at least 1 duck place. Having had it though you can't argue that there are tastier dishes out there.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            My first trip to Beijing was during the harsh winter of 1999.The streets were full of bicycles & very few vehicles. People were dressed in drab-colored Mao suits & caps: all greys & blues & blacks. The only decent place to "shop" in town was the Friendship Store. I spent 6 weeks there, feeling quite miserable as most buildings (including my hotel room at the SAS Radisson) were poorly-heated.

                            One of the best moments I had during that trip was a meal at Quanjude in Qianmen. I still remembered what I had - a portion of roast duck, a little bowl of duck soup, pancakes, leeks, sauce, all priced separately. I had it on my 6th week in Beijing and, knowing the glutton I am, had already practically eaten my way through Beijing's sparse dining scene by then: from state-owned enterprises like Gongdelin, to pioneering private ventures like the Courtyard restaurant overlooking the eastern gate of the Forbidden City. I ate at every stall of the food street at Donghuamen: scorpions, sea-horses, star-fish, camel-meat, horse-burgers. Some of my favorite restaurants included the Louisiana at the Hilton, the Kebab Kafe in Sanlitun, which I thought was the only spot in town which offered "authentic" tasting German food. Borom Piman at the Holiday Inn was the best Thai restaurant in town. The Moscow restaurant ("Lao Mo") served faux-Russian, Justine's at Jianguo Hotel had the best French and Si He Xuan at Jinglun Hotel offered street snacks in a luxe hotel environment.

                            But that lunch I had at Quanjude, it was the best-tasting meal I thought I'd ever tasted in Beijing in my 6 long weeks' stay there. I'd been back to Beijing a few times since that first trip - the restaurant scene had grown beyond imagining. I liked Da Dong, I adored Made in China (went there 3 times on its first week of opening), etc.
                            But first impressions sometimes stay with you forever, and Quanjude in Qianmen will always be my own special dining spot in Beijing.

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              Nice story and totally agree about the sentimental (and very real) value of a memorable meal.

                              I'm surprised people were still wearing Mao suits only 13 years ago -- certainly by June 1989 on TV there weren't many to be seen.


                              1. re: trueblu

                                By 'June 1989 on TV', you meant during the Tiananmen protest time? *No one* wears those suits in the Beijing summer - have you ever experienced what the Beijing summer's like, with the heat & the yellow dust?

                                Besides, no student protester would want to be seen wearing a Mao suit (and what it stood for) when he was fighting against the establishment.