Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shangweiguan Nanxiang Xiaolong

It's been a long while since I've posted an update about xiaolongbao, but please believe it's not from a lack of eating them. I've actually gone a little wild about them, more than I should be considering that the “soup” of xiaolongbao is largely coagulated fat, heated up in a steamer until it melts. I've been frequenting Delongguan the most, and perhaps that's become my favorite xiaolongbao. But I still go to and enjoy all of the xiaolongbao places I've mentioned so far, except for Din Tai Fung which isn't really all that.

Shanghweiguan Nanxiang Xiaolong is currently the top rated (by taste) Xiaolongbao on Chinese food website dianping.com. While these rankings change from time to time, as more and more reviewers pitch in, it appears that Shangweiguan Nanxiang Xiaolong is stuck permanently in the #1 position. It scores a 27 out of 30 on taste, there's no grade inflation on Dianping and that's about as high as ratings get. The #2 xiaolongbao, Jia Jia Tang Bao, currently scores a 25 out of 30.

The branch mentioned here is located in a neighborhood area, rather than a shopping district. There's mostly large apartment buildings nearby, with a small strip of low-key restaurants at Xingshan Lu. It's pretty obvious which is the xiaolongbao restaurant, from all the workers inside making xiaolongbao, there's also steaming pots out front.



Nanxiang Xiaolong's Chinese menu is pretty minimal: the standard pork xiaolongbao, shrimp xiaolongbao, and won tons. As always, for non-Chinese speakers just saying “xiaolongbao” and giving an appropriate amount of money should do the trick. Drinks are next door at the convenience store. This is 3.5 kuai's worth of xiaolongbao:



It doesn't look too promising, to be honest. But it's easy to tell why these are the top rated xiaolongbao in town. Xiaolongbao is supposed to be delicate, and these are as delicate as I imagine possible- they seem to dissolve in the mouth. That's true of the dough in particular, but even the meat is obviously very well ground, and unlike the vast majority of meatballs can be described as “light” and “silky.” The taste of the soup and meat is also very nice. Personally I wouldn't claim these are the best xiaolongbao in Shanghai, just because the competition is so strong. However they are still excellent, have a unique vibe to them, and I definitely recommend anyone in Shanghai to try them.

The restaurant is located on 598 Xingshan Lu. The big problem with the place is, it's not very convenient to get to. Personally I walk from Jinshajiang elevated subway station, it takes about fifteen minutes. There’s a whole lot of lefts and rights involved, so I don't imagine there's an entirely convenient bus – of course a taxi, or a motorcycle taxi, is also a possibility. Here's a map, in Chinese, of the local area – the “A” in the upper left corner is the location, and I don't think it's as confusing as it may look.