Shanghai Tang Cafe: Refined Dim Sum

Would it come as a delightful surprise that Shanghai Tang, the Chinese luxury brand founded in Hong Kong, have a cafe in Shanghai where every weekend, you can eat a deliciously sophisticated all-you-can-eat dim sum brunch for less than twenty dollars a head? Shanghai Tang Cafe is sleek and gorgeous, with an interior like a black enamel jewel box and tables set with plates and glassware from Shanghai Tang's own vibrant homewares range, but expensive it isn't. Shanghai is full of great food secrets once you know where to find them. 

Walk past the giant pink rabbits flanking the door (replaced yesterday, I am told, with pink dragons), take your place at a lacquered table by the window, and your waiter will bring you a dim sum menu. Sorry, menu? Philistine that I am, and accustomed to years of cheap and cheerful Cantonese style yum cha in Australia, the concept of ordering dim sum from a menu comes as something of a culture shock. 

Used to feasting with the eyes as the trolleys trundle past, I realised I might need some help with Shanghai Tang Cafe's choice of no less than thirty-six different dim sum dishes. Our waiter helped us decide on a substantial number of them to share between four, adding a level of complexity and balance to the meal I wouldn't have managed by kidnapping whatever looks the most appealing from a trolley. 

Over the next hour the dishes appeared at a leisurely eating pace, meandering from simple Shanghai staples like scallion oil noodles(cōng yóu bàn miàn 葱油拌面)and the famous xiăo lóng bāo (小笼包)to traditional favourites like old-fashioned Shanghai smoked fish (lăo Shànghăi xūn yú 老上海熏鱼)I love this smoked fish - pieces of smoked river fish crisply fried then smothered in a thick, sweet dark soy syrup. Superb with the tangy vinegared cucumber pieces served alongside.

The menu has been designed by chef Jereme Leung, and it shows in the presentation of dishes like these spectacular chryanthemum spring rolls (jú huā zhá chūn juăn 菊花炸春卷), with dozens of fragile crisp petals radiating out from a traditional spring roll filling in the flower's stem. Just brilliant.

We continued with ridiculously delicious crispy garlic shrimp, siu mai dumplings topped with Yunnan ham, steamed pork ribs with a delicate clear plum sauce,  savoury crispy fried long beans, and braised duck breast. They even served my own favourite guilty pleasure - home-style fried radish cake with a salty chili sauce(fēng wèi luóbo gāo 风味萝卜糕)here served in small cubes with gently stir-fried leeks and beansprouts. Classy street food.

Although by now we were all fit to burst, I had saved a tiny, tiny corner for a desert that caught my eye on the menu. Black sesame dumplings in ginger soup (jiāng chá hēi zhī tāngyuán 姜茶黑芝汤圆)tasted as perfect as they looked - sweet soft sticky rice dumplings filled with smooth nutty black sesame paste and served in a hot ginger broth. Even if you manage to eat your way through every dim sum dish on the menu, make sure to save room for this perfect last dish. 

Shanghai Tang Cafe

Levels 2 and 3, 333 Huangpi Nan Lu
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner


Ph +86  21 6377 3333

Dim Sum Brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 11am 
118 yuan ($20) per person, all you can eat.

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