All in good time. And good times indeed as Chinese New Year comes rolling around for 2010. Chinatown is, as expected, a hive of festive activity and noise; from the reverberating drum beat accompanying the lion dancers to the startling cracks of firecrackers on the streets to the hungry mouths at the weekend's markets in Belmore Park. The Year of the Tiger is off to growling start, and it's not just my stomach.
The relatively new Taste of Shanghai located at the ground retail level of World Square is decked out sort-of opulently and has a seemingly customary queue out the door - with seating for waiting diners, at least. There's a sense of forced class about the interior that's not necessarily consistent with the feel of the restaurant, but who really cares when there are dumplings on offer.
Although I would be happy with a tabletop covered in dumpling variations, it's not everyone's cup of (complimentary?) tea. A decisive compromise means we land the crab and pork version of xiao long bao after a stomach-testing wait. To me, while the crab addition is clearly visible with its orange hue, I find the flavour rather difficult to discern. Even without the vinegar sauce, it tastes like pork to me - which is fine, but then doesn't justify the crab premium. I adore siphoning out the soup before scoffing the dumpling - it makes the eating process a little more of an adventure.
Prerequisite vegies never looked so good, but then I suppose at home I would never deep fry beans like so. With spices and just enough pork mince so that the vegetables is the key feature, these crunchy, chewy beans pack a textural and flavour punch that I can add to my five daily serves count.
The protein hit comes in the familiar shape and form of crisp skin chicken, although it's not exactly as familiar as a Cantonese style one. The pile of chopped chicken is actually an entire, albeit small, chicken as I find and eagerly devour two wings with seriously crispened skin (not three as I initially thought - that's right, chickens don't have three wings).
The sauce with the chicken is soy based with the slightest touch of tartness, a heavy sprinkle of garlic, a light sprinkle of chilli, and garnished with sprigs of coriander for very unified and impactful flavour. I can only imagine the leftovers will taste even better. The chicken is mostly moist if not a little scrappy, but those giant cleavers do require quite some serious skill.
Bloated and with loved ones - that's what Chinese New Year is supposed to be. It contrasts so very much with new year's eve by the normal calendar, which tends to be full of booze and with a bunch of strangers. It's no wonder I prefer Chinese New Year, and with the ongoing festivities in Sydney, it's going to be enjoyed for a week or two to come; spearheaded by the Twilight Parade, which should be a spectacle for young and old to enjoy. Get thee along and have a Year of the Tiger filled with good luck, health and prosperity. Happy Chinese New Year!