What lies behind door No. 2?
Well, more accurately the question ought to be, what lies on Level 2 of the City of Sydney RSL club? Shanghai Wang Wang is the answer – tucked away out of sight is the city branch of Kingsgrove’s Wang Wang Shanghai Silver Star.
Once again on the hunt to uncover a hidden gem in our city, we thought to hit-up SWW to see if it could be added to our slowly expanding list. Doing a bit of pre-work, thinking that I’d bank some more brownie points with the in-laws, I studied SWW’s online menu in great detail drawing up a list of food for the night (a good selection of dumplings and entrées, and a good mix of veg and protein). The aim was to avoid the inevitable drawn-out process of trying to decide as a group, what to order for sharing. The plan was to highlight how forward-thinking I can be, and my taste in selecting just the right dishes……… *Thumbs-up*.
Pretending like we knew where we were going, we made straight for the lift on the ground floor which delivered guests to the second floor, and when the lift doors opened we entered a quiet and spacious dining room (I believe it once used to be an Italian restaurant, but now with the gradual expansion of Chinatown, even the RSL’s bistro has now become a small slice of China).
We were first seated at a table for 4 (on these large wrought iron and wicker chairs which felt a bit like those beaded massage covers which taxi drivers use to drape over their car seats). And as I tried to decide if the chair was going to ease my back pains or make it worse, we compared my list of pre-chosen dishes to SWW’s actual menu. Darn-it! We were disappointed to find that the two menus weren’t the same, and two of the dishes which I had on my list were no longer there, and a few dishes had also gone up in price (it was too good to be true that a serving of shallot pancake could remain $2.50, now $4.90). So after some swapsies we ended up ordering:
**From original list** Pumpkin dumplings filled with red bean paste (4 pieces); Pan-fried pork buns (6 pieces); Steamed pork and chive dumplings (12 pieces); Shallot pancake (1 serving); Stir fried lamb in hotpot chilli; **Last minute inclusions** Eggplant in salty egg yolk; and Shanghai fried noodles.
And after we placed our order, my in-laws asked the waitress if we could be moved to a larger table i.e. a table for 6, as they thought my 4 starters and 3 mains might not all fit onto our existing table. Methinks a subtle hint to let me know that I’d over ordered! D’oh!
The wait for our food wasn’t much of a wait at all, in minutes dishes started to trickle out of the kitchen (which was zinging away with activity and a lot of wok-hei going on). I started with the sweets first, the pumpkin red bean dumpling was deep fried to a crisp- but the orange coloured pastry remained chewy and sticky, with a smooth red bean paste in the centre.
The steamed pork and chive dumplings were solid, on par with any other dumpling found in Chinatown.
The shallot pancake was not what we had expected- instead of being thin and flaky, it was quite thick, more like bread/pan-style pizza base, pan-fried to a crisp on both sides but still nice and fluffy light though.
The noodles had a good chewy texture – but clearly not hand-made.
The eggplant dish was interesting – think of an éclair (a puff filled with cream), but now picture the same light puffy ball, but instead of a cream filled centre, it had a gooey eggplant filling and on the outside it was rolled in a dusting of salty egg yolk. It was quite yum actually. The stand-out dish for the night.
To this point, most of the dishes were…. Well, to be nice I’d say the flavours were ‘subtle’, or someone else might describe it as being ‘bland’ *shrug*. Nothing really exploding with flavour in your mouth, not until I tried the lamb dish. When my father-in-law first commented that it was too chilli for him, I puffed out my chest wondering if I had a higher chilli tolerance than him? Nup, it was too chilli for me as well, as I slumped in my chair rinsing my mouth out with water. And in-fact the rest of the table also agreed that it was too chilli, it was that Szechuan pepper kind of chilli which both numbed and pained your mouth, a real acquired taste not something I’ve ever gotten into. A little bit unfortunate that the only dish which had some flavour and kick to it, was too hot for our liking and was giving us a real good kickin’.
And the last to arrive was the pan-fried pork buns – which were fried to a crisp, but it cried out of being store-bought straight from the freezer section.
In the end we scored Shanghai Wang Wang 3.5 stars (2 from 3 for food; service was good scoring the maximum 0.5 marks from a possible 0 .5; 0 score for atmosphere – it was a little bit too quiet at times while they were flip-flopping with their music playlist so it was too loud and then too soft; while we gave them the full 1 from 1 for Value for money, as it worked out to be around $20 pp – not bad for the CBD.
In the end, it was okay/slightly above average, come check it out if you’ve already tried all the usual Chinatown dumpling places, you might like it? We have pretty high standards for our ‘Hidden Gem’ recommendations, so unfortunately on this dig we did not hit on a hidden gem to add to our gem collection. And at the end of our meal, our table conversation were surrounded on how to make the lamb dish more edible as a mid-week out-of-the-fridge dish. The best suggestion was to rinse it under water and add it to instant noodles, a bit of a shame actually.
Shang Hai Wang Wang- Sunday 9 December (3.5 stars)
PH: (02) 9264 6281
Level 2, 565 George Street, Sydney
Mon-Sun 11.30am – 9.30pm