Walking past each weekend on our way to do our groceries at Coles, we had never been moved to try ‘Taste of Shanghai’ largely due to the ever-present long lines waiting for a table during peak periods. However after seeing the same long lines for several years, we just had to try it for ourselves to see what the hype was all about. Planning in advance to have a late lunch, we were greeted by polite serving staff and quite quickly shown to a table in between two families (thank goodness the ipad pacifier family was another table down).
Once seated, we were given a glossy menu to self-check our orders. Honestly there were too many choices to choose from, we didn’t really know where to start. We discussed pros and cons of just going all sides and dumpling dishes, but settled on the opposite, placing a check next to 2 mains, a wonton dish and a drink, i.e. Shanghai style smoked fish noodle soup (Exhibit A); wontons in red chilli oil (10 pieces); stir fried rice cakes with shredded pork in wild greens; and a milk tea. And although it was almost 2pm by the time we placed our orders, the food came out quite quickly and piping hot! But in the brief wait time, I assessed their table settings and décor- scoring a 2 star on the napkin test, and the ambience was quite nice with low lighting and distressed wall finishes.
My first impression of the noodle soup was that it was bland and tasteless. However after taking a bite of the smoked fish (which was actually quite sweet and flavoursome) and then coming back to the soup and noodles, due to the sweet and savoury contrast, all of a sudden I was able to taste more of the suttle flavours in the soup.
The wontons were the highlight for us, they were well sized (more than a mouthful), tasty, and the wonton wrapper was nice and chewy (think perfectly cooked aldente pasta). Although what let down the dish was the chilli oil, as it didn’t have a spicy hot kick to it which we’d expected.
The biggest let down was the stir fried rice cakes, as the serving was generous but the shredded pork and veg was very sparse (Exhibit C), and again quite bland and unremarkable, not to mention quite a lot of effort of chewing was required to break down the rice cakes.
However after trying dishes 1-3, and then going back in reverse order, due to the various flavours which had accumulated on my tastebuds, on the second try all dishes tasted a little bit different from the first round and that was a nice surprise. The sweet milk tea also added to the meal, acting as a contrasting flavour thus intensifying the savoury taste when you came back to the food.
Our overall impression was positive, the food was fresh and satisfying enough, and portions were fair and well-priced. And from the amount of mandarin speaking patrons seated around us, it suggested that for them, it tasted enough of Shanghai! And the Mando-pop playlist playing over the PA took me back to memory lane when I was a much younger guy in the late 90s when I was into Canto and Mando-pop, so for that reason alone it was a positive experience.
Although our first Taste of Shanghai was a little bland, we definitely will be back to try more, next time we’ll come with more people so we’ll get to try more tastes of Shanghai!
Taste of Shanghai- Sunday 12 August
PH: (02) 9261 8832
Basement Level, World Square Shopping Centre, 644 George Street, Sydney NSW
Mon-Sun 11am – 10pm