Buoyed by the prospect of pork buns, dumplings and ice-cold beers, the Klaus & Fritz team tackled the crowds of Melbourne’s Emporium on a Saturday afternoon to pay a visit to its latest Asian-inspired addition, the New Shanghai restaurant.
Thinking we would pop in for a quick lunch before hitting Uniqlo and Muji for some retail therapy, well, self-control isn’t our strong point. We eventually left two hours and three delicious courses later, which we can only say is a testament to New Shanghai’s extensive menu and great quality fare.
For a packed restaurant at peak hours in the city centre’s busiest shopping precinct, at no point did New Shanghai feel as manic as the rest of Emporium’s food offerings. Its secluded dining room stretches away from the main food court, offering individual tables for small parties and larger shared tables for bigger groups. The shuttered windows let in just enough daylight, which, let’s face it, is a scarcity in Emporium,while giving the interior that familiar Chinese restaurant vibe, and not once did we see a table rushed by staff to leave (one of our pet hates).
First up were some small, chilled starter dishes—admittedly not what we would usually have ordered (shredded kelp, anyone?) but we were pleasantly surprised by the dry bean curd and mushrooms soaked in a soy dressing. Combining sweet and savoury flavours, it’s an ideal cold nibble to accompany the house’s imported Pearl River Draft beer, which was the perfect thirst-quencher on a warm afternoon.
Rather than opt for our usual dim sim choices, we asked our waiter to recommend a few dishes to try and, under his expert guidance and genuine enthusiasm, we were served the Xiao Long Bao (that’s steamed mini pork buns to most), pan-fried pork buns, prawn wonton with peanut sauce, red chilli oil and fresh shredded ginger, and some steamed vegetable dumplings to keep resident vegetarian Stina happy.
Now, at K&F we’re no strangers to dim sim, having eaten the pick’n’mix dishes as a lunchtime solution, late-night snack and inevitable hangover cure in a number of cities around the world. So we really mean it when we say that the dumplings and buns were good. They are incredibly reasonably priced, even compared to Melbourne’s nearby Chinatown, and the quality and flavour are spot on. Nothing is over-seasoned—the pork and prawn fillings taste like pork and prawn rather than salt and chives—and the casings aren’t overcooked. The table next to us ordered the wonton after hearing our exclamations of joy as we crammed the garnished parcels into our mouths, and the fried pork buns especially had a superb texture; crisped slightly on the outside yet soft on the inside. We literally couldn’t put them down!
Another stand-out is the delicacy of the dressings, particularly the house peanut sauce that is served with the prawn wonton. Don’t believe the menu, which cites it as peanut butter. It’s far lighter, which we discover is the result of the chefs beginning their days at 9am to make all sauces from scratch. If we could have taken a bottle home with us, we would have!
Not that we really needed them—the dim sim portions are generous and filling—we did try some main dishes too, including the rainbow beef (shredded and cooked in sweet and sour sauce), the overnight braised pork belly in soy, and the braised tofu and mushrooms, again in soy. If you are a fan of pork belly, we would definitely recommend leaving room for this one, which was cooked to perfection and arrived in a warmed clay pot.
Lastly, we were cajoled into trying to find space in our stomachs for the fresh mango shaved ice, served with condensed milk ice cream. For us, this was a little on the sweet side but the freshness of the chilled fruit and ice combo was invigorating and came as a welcome deviation away from gelato and frozen yoghurt. We could imagine ordering one of these to go when we’re next in need of a bracing sugar hit.
To be honest, none of the K&F team would usually venture to Emporium on a foodie mission but we all agreed that we would come back to New Shanghai if in need of a convenient refuelling spot. The perfect dumpling fix during a day’s shopping—just make sure you scrimp on breakfast before heading here for lunch!
Remember that the Shanghai style is sweeter than most, so don’t over-order on the dishes in sweet soy and sweet and sour sauces, and if you are a fan of heat and spice, make sure to add some chilli to your dish.
Grab a snack to tide you over before getting here. The portions are mega-generous and so tasty that you’ll regret not being able to finish them!
- Prawn wonton tossed with peanut sauce, red chilli oil and spice, served with fresh ginger
- Xiao Long Bao
- Braised pork belly in sweet soy sauce
Shop 323, Level 3 Emporium, 287 Lonsdale St Melbourne, VIC 3000
+61 3 9994 9386
Sat – Wed / 11am – 7pm
Thu – Fri / 11am – 9pm
Please note that Klaus and Fritz dined as guests of New Shanghai, but all opinions expressed in this article are our own.