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Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (Flushing)....Any Better Successors?

When Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao (aka Noodle House a.k.a. Nan Shan Crab Soup Bun), at 38-12 Prince St, first opened, it was instantly considered the go-to place for XLB. I went shortly after the opening, and they were great. At each subsequent visit, I've liked them just a little less.

Any updated opinions on the place? Does anyone know a better place for XLB these days?

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    1. re: scoopG

      Thanks, will try. FWIW: 59-16 Main St; (718) 661-2882

      The thread you linked to is a year old; lots of good updates at the bottom, though.

      1. re: Jim Leff

        Kung Fu still great, was just there. But I still like the pork xlb better than their seafood one.

        1. re: foodwhisperer

          "Great" is a strong word. Went the other day for first time. They were pretty good. Thinner skin, more delicate than other places. They don't really pop with porky taste though, but yeah, pretty good. Thought the seafood ones were pretty good as well. At least they don't taste like fish- as some other places do.

          Went to bbq place next door afterwards. Crappy pork and duck. The flies seemed happy though.

          1. re: Silverjay

            Has anyone tried the fried XLB at Kung Fu? They looked good but take 25 minutes from time you order them.

            1. re: Silverjay

              Peter Cuce has recommended this place on several threads.

              1. re: wewwew

                On one of those threads someone had pretty much the same opinion my dining partner and I had regarding the XLB.

              2. re: Silverjay

                I think they're pretty good here, but, a question:

                I assume what we're talking about are "shengjian bao," and I have searched in vain to find anything in NYC as good as Yang's Fry Dumpling in Shanghai. Those wonderful dumplings in Shanghai had a thinner, lighter dough, almost crispy. (I'm talking about Yang's dumplings, not the larger mantou sold everywhere on the street, which are also wonderful and "soupy").

                But everywhere in NYC I've tried them, the dough is thick, bready, and overly sweet. The ones at Kung Fu are a tad lighter, and more soupy than most, but still not what I yearn for.

                Also, a question: someone mentioned that they were bothered by the lack of cabbage underneath the XLB at Kung Fu. Instead, here they use some sort of cloth that seems to make the dumplings easier to pick up and transfer to your spoon without breaking the skin. Is this cheating? Is the cabbage supposed to impart some flavor, or what is the purist thinking on this?

                1. re: BTaylor

                  Strangely enough, the best shengjian bao's in NY IMHO are at 456. Not the XLB's, however!

                  1. re: swannee

                    Oo, l haven't tried them at 456...have you had the ones at Old Sichuan? Made with chicken, but very, very good.

                    1. re: howdini

                      yah i like the ones at old sichuan, its a been a while since i've had them but they are def good

                      http://www.lauhound.com/old-sichuan-g...

                      The ones at 456 are a bit big, but they're pretty decent as well

                        1. re: Lau

                          Yeah, you turned me on to them...thanks again! Their xlb aren't too shabby, either.

                          1. re: Lau

                            Have the xlb @ 456 increased in size? I only had them once a couple of years ago and they were very similar in size to those at Din Tai Fung (which tend to be smaller compared to XLB you would find in NYC).

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              idk ive had them twice and they were always the same size, i mean they're not like massive but they're on the big side

                              1. re: Lau

                                These are the XLB at 456; hoping they are still the same size...

                                 
                                1. re: scoopG

                                  sorry i got confused, i meant the sheng jian bao. the SJB are kind of big

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    Yes you meant the sheng jian bao which are big and a bit unwieldy at 456, but also delicious. They are much smaller, but not as good at Shanghai Cafe, where I lunched today. The mao dou xue zai bai ye (edamame with pickled vegetable and bean curd skin) however, was excellent, some of the best I have eaten.

                                    1. re: swannee

                                      Yes, l love that dish too, with or without pork.

                                      1. re: swannee

                                        yah they do make that well...i agree

                        2. re: BTaylor

                          The flavor and aroma of chinese cabbage is very subtle, I like it because it's sweet and juicy and complements the flavor of the xlb (I always eat the cabbage), not because it imparts flavor to the bottom of the buns.

                        1. re: Peter Cuce

                          I don't have any particular place in mind.

                        2. re: Silverjay

                          Great may be a strong word. But so is Excellent. I think Kung Fu Xlb has perfect skins, right amount of broth, and quite flavorful. They do vary in flavorfulness each time. One time the seafood one wasn't all that great, the last time I tried them they were really good. I liked the XLB on St Marks at The Bao, but didn't realize they were owned by Kung Fu. I didn't read it on this board, so I thought I had big news. But Pookipichu mentioned that here on this thread.
                          I enjoy Kung Fu's Xlb more than 456, although Shanghainese people I eat with like 456 quite a bit.
                          Kung Fu's Lion Head meatballs are worth trying.
                          Also, the Taiwanese place next to the BBQ place is worth trying.

                          1. re: foodwhisperer

                            How are the fried XLB at Kung Fu? Have you had them?

                            1. re: Silverjay

                              Never had them, didn't know they had those. I'll try them.Sounds interesting.
                              The rice cake dish and the Lion Head Meatball are a couple of my favorite dishes there.

                              1. re: Silverjay

                                Fried xlb?!?!? What sorcery is this?!

                                1. re: howdini

                                  Strange, but common in Shanghai,.

                                  1. re: swannee

                                    when you say "fried xiao long bao" are you referring to sheng jian bao?

                                    sheng jian bao are a bit different than XLB, they doughly buns as opposed to dumplings skins. i actually like them better than XLB, but they're a bit heavier

                                    1. re: Lau

                                      I also like 生煎包 (SJB) more than 小籠包 (XLB). What I got in Shanghai was called 炸小籠包---so deep fried XLB. A weird idea, but good. Where do you the best SJB are in NY? I agree that the ones at 456 are too big---but they are delicious.

                                      1. re: swannee

                                        hmm the place i liked the best closed a while ago, i havent found one that is outstanding but ive found a decent amount of competent versions. its been a while but you might to try those chicken ones at old sichuan, they were actually quite good

                                        1. re: swannee

                                          My friends told me the ones at Shanghai Tide (flushing) and Kung Fu Little Steamed Buns Ramen (Hell's Kitchen) are pretty good, but I haven't got the chance to try them yet. Man, I sure miss the SJB from Xiao Yang in Shanghai...that first bite with the sweet broth oozing out....Hnnnnng

                                        2. re: Lau

                                          I first saw these at the night markets in Taiwan. It is as awesome as it sounds... They are basically XLB that are panfried so you get the amazing crust like on a well executed guo tie. now mind you, the ones i had weren't eh hghtsest quality XLB, but still decently thin skins, good juice and nice filling. couple that with the crust and its truly one of the better night market items i've ever had.

                              2. re: foodwhisperer

                                I haven't eaten at Kung Fu XLB but I've eaten at their sister restaurant Bao several times now. I prefer the pork to the crab xlb at Bao because while both are thin skinned, skillfully made and cooked, and while the crab xlb has a clean flavor, there's not enough of it. The best xlb places make a very rich gelatin stock with the crab shells and the xlb at Bao are lacking that depth of flavor. Likewise, the regular xlb is not particularly "pork-y" but it's not a deal breaker for me. My only other quibble is that the steamer isn't lined with Chinese cabbage.

                                The crab xlb at Nan Xiang have a richer crab flavor, but I have found that the quality is inconsistent, sometimes good-great, sometimes acceptable.

                                1. re: Pookipichu

                                  Are you talking about Bao on St. Marks? l was thinking the same thing: good skin, "clean" broth, but not as flavorful as, say, Shanghai Asian Manor or Shanghai Cafe. lt does enjoy the distinct advantage of being on St. Marks, tho.

                                  1. re: howdini

                                    Yes Bao on St. Marks. I think they're being too subtle with their broths, it wouldn't hurt for them to cook it down more until it's more pork-y.

                                    1. re: Pookipichu

                                      My sentiments exactly. Have you tried other menu items there?

                                      1. re: howdini

                                        Just posted a quick review of the dishes I've tried at Bao.

                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/990682

                                  2. re: Pookipichu

                                    Although The Bao and Kung Fu are the same owners,I prefer the XLB at Kung Fu. Although , even at Kung Fu I sometimes find inconsistency. I had liked the pork better than the crab.. Lately the crab was better than the pork. Go figure.
                                    At the Bao I like the spicy XLB. My Chinese friend had also complained about the steamer not being cabbage lined. However, I am pleased that an XLB never sticks to the steamer at Kung Fu , regardless of cabbage or paper. At several places they do stick, as does many dumplings at Cantonese dim sum places. I hate that.

                                    1. re: foodwhisperer

                                      Losing the soup due to the dumplings sticking causes me to into [internal] fits of rage.

                                      1. re: howdini

                                        Good places should never have dumplings that stick to the bamboo baskets

                                        1. re: divinebaboon

                                          I'd make a Devil's advocate case for careful transfer from the steamer. If you grab them as if they're potstickers, you should expect one or two catastrophic tear/drainings.

                                          I wouldn't think to blame the kitchen. XLB wrangling is a weighty responsibility and part of the ritual.

                                          1. re: Jim Leff

                                            My patented technique is, using chopsticks or the tongs they provide, to gently roll one into a spoon. Works a charm.

                                            l always get scared when l see them shoulder-to-shoulder, touching each other.

                                            1. re: howdini

                                              I'm probably committing a faux pas, but I use my fingers to get them onto my spoon.

                                              1. re: howdini

                                                I prefer the unpainted lift straight up with chopsticks by the tip of the xlb and gently land it like a helicopter

                                                1. re: foodwhisperer

                                                  That may work under optimal conditions, but I think you're asking for trouble if there's adhesion. To be safe, I execute a low embrace with the chopsticks followed by a slow, coaxing rocking motion prior to the gentle left.

                                                  1. re: Jim Leff

                                                    This thread is gettin' kinda frisky...

                                                    1. re: howdini

                                                      Question is has anyone attempted a double bun slid?

                                2. re: scoopG

                                  Yes, Kung Fu is my current favorite, as well.

                                3. To my taste, all the recs are good from Kung Fu to Joe's Shanghai which no one recommended except me. The sole poor soup dumpling belongs to Lake Pavillion where it is served in an aluminum cup and can't be removed without spillage of the broth because the container serves as its bottom. An unwise move, if it is for economy or any other reason.

                                  1. Diverse Dim Sum's were pretty good last time I had it

                                    1. The XLB in one of the stalls in the giant underground New World Mall food court was really good, they made it fresh to order and it's on par with Shanghai Cafe's in Manhattan. (Unfortunately I forgot the name of it, the next time I go I'll take note)

                                      1. Ok, so I returned to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao, the place on Prince Street. As I said, every time I go, I'm less and less happy and this was no exception. Service was horrendous (there's a very strong not-giving-a-crap vibe, though when they first opened - I was one of their first customers - these guys were fastidious). The crab/pork XLBs were extra crabby, but it was a trashy crabbiness, tasting as much like shell as crab meat. Whatever the opposite of "refined" is, that's what they were. Unfocused, with thick and extra sticky wrappers. Just not real good.

                                        Immediately after, I hit Kung Fu Xiao Long Bao (59-16 Main St). Huge diff. Night and day. There was a cleanliness to the flavor utterly lacking at Nan Xiang. Really true crabmeat flavor, more generous broth, and better textured and flavored wrappers.

                                        Taste is subjective, but my companion and I thought it was no contest at all. I can't imagine anyone going back-to-back between these two places and prefering Nan Xiang.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Jim Leff

                                          good report, will have to try kung fu

                                        2. This thread was helpful for me in putting together a Great Dumplings of NY tour last weekend. If you're curious, here were the details: http://jimleff.blogspot.com/2014/10/g... )

                                          1. Shanghai 33 (right next the Kung-Fu XLB place) is my new favorite place.

                                            http://www.yelp.com/biz/shanghai-cuis...

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. This is not a recommendation but is one to avoid instead. Went to Nan Bei Ho on 48th Ave Bayside for lunch Saturday. The XLB was the worst I've had in recent memory. The skin was thick and the broth was way too salty. We ended up draining the broth from the dumplings before eating them. Most of the other dishes were passable, and I especially enjoyed this flatbread rollup with eggs (don't know the name for it). It's a shame since I live nearby but I don't think I'll be coming back to this place again.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Robotron

                                                I wouldn't judge the place too harshly on the basis of the bad XLBs. For one thing, the flatbread rollup means they're probably Taiwanese. Like lots of non-Shangahi restaurateurs, they're just offering a dish lots of potential customers have suddenly become interested in, even though the kitchen has no idea how to make it (think of jambalaya made by Vermonters). Consider, for example, Grand Sichuan, which has no business at all making XLBs, yet which offers them as a sort of menu land mine, just because they've been constantly (and naively) requested.

                                                You wouldn't order steak in a diner, and, similarly, ordering XLB in a non-specialist venue is more an ordering error then a negative mark against the restaurant.

                                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                                  You're right, so I guess the lesson here is not order XLBs at non-Shanghai restaurants. In my defense, I've had XLBs at non-Shanghai places before and the ones at Nan Bei Ho were truly bad. I did not choose the restaurant or do the ordering, so I'm gonna pass the blame on other members of the family (and hope they are not reading this). Since I live nearby, I've been here several times before and none of the meals have been memorable. I prefer going to Mama Lee on the next block instead.

                                                  For the record, I like the XLBs at Shanghai Cuisine 33 on Main St.

                                                  1. re: Robotron

                                                    I work a short drive from Nan Bei Ho, which is supposed to be linked to the long-departed Flushing original. It is Taiwanese.

                                                    I've eaten there and/or gotten take-out about half a dozen times since they opened, about three to four years ago. The first dish I had there, a braised sliced fish, showed promise.

                                                    Since then I've had a slew of forgettable Taiwanese specialties, including a rolled beef pancake that was greasy as hell.

                                                    I love this kind of food, and would be going there much more often if these guys did a better job.

                                                    P.

                                              2. Ok, now here's a twist. I was at Kung Fu XLB tonight. I asked the waiter, an affable young dude who understood (perhaps from the way I was swooning over the beef tendon, which was really pretty perfect) that I'm not casual, for crab XLBs. He advised me "not real crab!".

                                                My mind calculated, and I decided he was telling me they're out of crab, or that something else had temporarily gone wrong. He didn't speak a lot of English. I could see that he wanted to say more, but couldn't find the words. He repeated, with some urgency, "not real crab!". I said "But before....real crab! Two weeks ago....real crab!". "No," he answered. "Long time not real crab".

                                                We got the pork XLBs (I've learned never to disregard a waiter, even if I don't quite grok his logic), but I'm still confused. The XLB I've had here twice now in the recent past were consummately crabby! Any thoughts?

                                                In addition to that stupendous connective tissue, we got a cold plate of kao fu, which was near-perfect, and Lion Head, which was consummately soft and the gravy had just the right characteristic touch of anise. We also got "fish sticks" (fried fingers of yellowfish), served wet with sauce. Very, very good, though I prefer the dry version mastered by New Green Bo back in the day.

                                                The menu's so tarted up with Sichuan and Cantonese dishes that you have to thread needles to order fully Shanghainese, but it's worth it.

                                                Also, the skeezy looking Chinese American takeout next door, which you'd normally pay no attention to whatever, has all sorts of real Chinese food on their menu, and the crowd's mostly Chinese.