Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Delongguan's Xiaolongbao - Quality Over Ambience

Continuing on with my look at Shanghai's best-regarded xiaolongbao is Delongguan Dim Sum - it's a local chain with a few branches around Shanghai. These branches tend to top's list of top xiaolongbao restaurants. However the chains don't look like much, and I'm embarrassed to admit that after all my time in Shanghai, and having walked past these places a number of times, this was the first I had ever tried it.

I found Delongguan to be just about the polar opposite of my recently-reviewed Din Tai Fung. While that restaurant's interior felt modern, and the restaurant was heavily staffed by responsive servicemen, Delongguan (on Jiangxi Lu) was a dirty hole in the wall, with cigarette butts on the floor and the kitchen staff sitting around, bored:

So it's probably not the best place to bring the important business client, who would probably prefer Din Tai Fung. I kid - even for a hardened street eater like me, it seemed a little dirty. However, the taste is excellent, much better than Din Tai Fung's. The wrapper was thin, if not extremely thin, and maybe a tad mushy. The vinegar hit was just about the right strength, if nothing fancy. However, the meat filling was excellent and the soup was incredibly flavorful. Here's a look at the xiaolongbao. You can't tell, but it's one normal pork, and the other shrimp:

I also thought it was just about to my tastes - these xiaolongbao are in the running for my favorite Xiaolongbao in Shanghai, against Fuchun's. I'll reserve final judgement until I've tried all the top-ranked xiaolongbao restaurants, but I think any xiaolongbao fan in Shanghai should try both. While I prefer the environment and the wrapper at Fuchun, there's a slight sweetness to the xiaolongbao there, it's not something I particularly care for.

These pictures were taken at the branch on 473 Jiangxi Road, North of the Bund, South of the Suzhou River, and just a couple short blocks West of what becomes Zhapu Lu.

Update 9/1/2009 - This place was recently torn down - here's a Chinese-language list of other Delongguan Restaurants, although none of them are as convenient. I'm most familiar with the branch on 29 Tiyuhui Lu, near the Hongkou Football Stadium and around the corner from the excellent Hunanese restaurant, Guoyuan.

It's all an interesting area, and I'd really advice anyone in Shanghai to stroll the area, and to get a steamer of xiaolongbao while they're at it - although there's a lot of great street food and smaller restaurants in the area. Unfortunately, this restaurant (and the surrounding area) is Chinese only - but saying "xiaolongbao" should get the point across. Here's the menu, they also serve soups and noodles and won-tons (that aren't particularly good).

There's several other branches around Shanghai, none of them particularly convenient. The other ones I've seen are a bit cleaner, though. Here's a picture of the Jiangxi Lu storefront - it's easy to walk past it without giving it a second thought, as I did dozens of times.

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