With a no reservations policy, lines that go out the door and a closing time of 8:30pm it's not a carbon copy of the Hu Tong formula.
The last couple of times I have been to Hu Tong the XLBs have been good but everything else a bit meh so if this proves worthy, I could experience a change in heart.
The Tungs join Steve and I on a Tuesday evening and as I turn the corner at 6:30pm there is a small queue. We hang around for about 15 minutes and we get a table inside. It's a pretty small place and can probably seat no more than 30 so that goes part way to explain the queues.
Our table for four is a pretty small square table and it's bit cramped so we can only sit along two sides of it rather than one person per side. We'll be eating and leaving quite quickly as it's not entirely comfortable and the queue waiting for tables never goes right down.
- Steamed xiao long bao - pork
- Pan fried pork dumplings
- Pan fried pork buns
- Shanghai fried rice cakes with pork
- Beef soup with coriander and vermicelli
- Grilled chicken maryland with rice and chilli sauce
The beef soup was cheap and really was just some broth, noodles, coriander and a few slices of beef. Not bad but not good enough to warrant a repeat order.
Chicken maryland was a pleasant surprise. The chicken was tender with a tasty soy glaze. The sweet chilli added another taste dimension. Sweet chilli makes everything taste better though. But as a lunchtime or dinner dish this is a good plate of food - generous serving size and a mound of green veg too for a good price.
We also ordered a hot and sour soup which was again a generous serve and came in a large bowl. I wasn't enamoured with it, nor was Ling but the boys polished it off.
In my opinion Shanghai Street is a contender to Hu Tong because the flavour / taste / quality of the XLBs are at a high enough standard. It becomes a serious contender because of the prices it charges. The price to quality ratio makes it great value. The reason it hasn't overthrown Hu Tong is probably because it's not as pleasant a place to enjoy a meal. There's no lazing and taking time (the queue outside makes you feel too guilty to stay longer than necessary) and is definitely more fast food canteen style casual dining. If it had slightly bigger tables I reckon I'd gladly come here and bring my friends and family over Hu Tong but until it does that this is probably just a place for two.
Also just by way of a mention, Ling suffered severe thirst after the dinner indicating high levels of MSG used in the cooking. Now I'm also usually quite sensitive to this but didn't have such a reaction so whether it was overuse of MSG or not is still unproven. I'd be happy to return and test out some other dishes to see though!