Taste of Shanghai – Ashfield & CBD Edition
The cover picture is the outside of Taste of Shanghai’s Ashfield restaurant.
By pure coincidence, it would appear that the recent stream of posts I’ve been spitting out have pertained to Asian, specifically Chinese restaurants. Quite odd, considering Chinese is perhaps the cuisine I have the least due to the ability to obtain it at home but…may as well flesh out this streak while it lasts!
I’ve already covered the Shang culinary sensation that is Taste of Shanghai with a previous post, chronologically ironic as that review was for the latest restaurant which opened in Hurstville for not even half a year yet. Now, I address the other two branches – the Ashfield & CBD branches. The CBD one opened first, while the Ashfield one didn’t take too long after to place its roots in what is essentially the Little Shanghai of Sydney.
Now, let’s eat.
Date Last Visited: 12/7/13 (at the Ashfield store)
Address: World Square Town Hall (for the CBD shop) | 264 Liverpool Road, Ashfield 2000
Recommended Dish(es): as usual, it’s the XLB. For the more adventurous and in a group, get the barramundi
The ToS at Ashfield possesses a rather noticeable facade, shown through the gravely and bare bricks & mortar construction, deliberately exposed to the elements. It gives a premium look while not being pretentious, and suggests that something different is going on inside. It clearly works, as the Ashfield store almost always has a small crowd outside the place. Reservations? Do make them.
I was fortunate to visit in a group of 8, which allows me to sample a greater variety of dishes than I usually am able to with my standard 2-person party size. Granted, I’ve had almost all of them before so many years ago, but having enjoyed those experience, I really did want to explore my childhood eats once again.
Something new I discovered – I didn’t realise the Ashfield ToS had a second floor! There’s a rather cleverly concealed staircase at the back of the restaurant that leads up to the bigger tables that seat groups bigger than 6. Ah I should have known…
To start things off, I ordered a watermelon juice to quench a raging thirst I had earlier for some unbeknownst reason. A deviation from water for sure, but watermelon juice certainly doesn’t pack on the calories.
While the drink was quite refreshing, it was surprisingly watery and had almost no sweetness to it at all. I guess they were going really low-calorie here…but in all honesty, it was pretty disappointing as far as watermelon juices go.
An enduring favourite of mine, green beans stir fried with pork mince goes down ever so well. The beans were rendered slightly soggy during the frying process – there was probably too much oil involved. That said, the dish was still pretty enjoyable, as long as you forgave the softness to the beans and ate it with rice. It just blends in anyway.
Still, ToS could learn a thing or two from my dad
Before this, I haven’t had sweet & sour pork ribs in what could be as long as a year. Considering it’s also one of the dishes I order most often when I’m out eating Chinese, this is quite the atrocity.
What stunned me here was that the ribs were served cold – though I am aware of this serving method, it was quite surprising as it was not advertised as such, and the hot serving method is preferred.
As for the ribs themselves, the flavour was good – tangy with that ever little hint of spice intermixed with the scent of pork, though it felt like there was too much offal parts used as there wasn’t much meat at all. Had I taken a picture of the bony/tendony remains, you’d see that it’s almost as much volume as the dish itself. Ah sigh…
The tables turn somewhat with the stir fried spicy beef, which was very nice on the palate. Indeed, I had no qualms gobbling up perhaps a quarter of this place before I decided I needed to control myself. Yeah, it’s pretty bad isn’t it…I’m a sucker for juicy, spicy beef.
On tenderness, the beef could have used some more work, but I have pretty big expectations for the simple things, I suppose.
Non-soup noodles are not something I usually order out, because dad makes the best noodles, but The Lady had quite the craving, and I’ll easily cave to a food request.
As you’d expect, the noodles are insanely oily (reflections not added in photoshop :P), but boy did they taste good. You can’t have too much though otherwise the oil is really going to get to you. Having said that, I’m pretty sure I was the vacuum cleaner that sucked the plate dry…oh boy.
Of course, never go to ToS without getting dumplings of soem sort! You can get these pan fried for +$2 but we opted for the healthier option this time. The filling is flavoursome, with a smooth consistency throughout, yet maintaining the granular nature of the pork & chive mix. I would have liked the skin to be softer and not so hard (similar to what you’d get if you left the dumplings out for awhile), but you can’t have everything!
This is a dish I had not previously had – it’s a very simple soup with a simple flavour palatte of salt & chives. Nothing special, but quite delicious in its simplistic way and a good savoury palate cleanser. The addition of pork and tofu embellish it in a very useful way – I quite like it!
So I’m not sure what they mean “live” (I’m copying the menu item almost verbatim) as this fish is most definitely deceased by the time it arrives at the table, thank GOODNESS for that.
Notions of mortality aside, it’s a very well-cooked (and unique too!) fish, with The Lady declaring it to be a new favourite of hers (aww yeah go Shen for picking the food).
Sure, there’s almost nothing healthy about it – copious amounts of sweet & sour sauce with the perfect tang, deep fried skin everywhere, with some seriously heavily flavoured fish all in between. Awesome stuff.
If you don’t eat with rice…well, you’d better have some of that palate cleansing soup later.
Ah, the rustic 葱油饼, a street favourite in China due to its simplicity to make and its delicious flavour and carby texture. I didn’t expect it to be ordered for tonight, but I certainly have no qualms in devouring 3 pieces for myself. Ultra crispy and just generally very satisfying. You can’t really say it “tastes” like anything in particular – it’s like describing the taste of bread. This is the bread of Chinese cuisine.
ToS Ashfield – if you order the right things, it’s still got what it takes.
N.B. XLB and some pan fried dumplings/buns were also ordered, but I’ve covered them before in my previous ToS post, so check there for details. OR, look further below!
I only managed to discover the CBD store in 2013 which is incredible, until I come to the realisation that I don’t actually frequent World Square that much. Well I think I should now – armed with the knowledge that the original ToS is located here.
The look is perhaps even more noticeable than the Ashfield store, with very modernistic-yet-traditional throwback decor in the mix. It’s distinctive, if nothing else, and thus already serves its purpose.
This time, I only went with one other friend so didn’t order too much, but it was all your classic old school favourites, rest assured.
Oh I wasn’t kidding was I – Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) is pretty much a must have in any ToS visit. I had it in my Ashfield visit but didn’t take pictures there. But I couldn’t resist this particular time. Ahh, so good – they do rival Din Tai Fung, despite many opinions to the contrary. But hey, everyone’s only got their own opinion, right? My parents have been to both and said something I couldn’t even comprehend, but I think it translated to something along the lines of “it’s way better in China”…
Of course mum…of course.
In any case, as far as pursing the perfect XLB goes…there’s only so many things you can improve on with the ones you get from ToS without delving into obsession and pedantry.
Just bite one open and enjoy!
These are the same pan fried buns I had in the Ashfield visit, pictured. You’ve seen pictures of these in my Hurstville post, so there’s really not that much to add here. The warning applies – it comes VERY hot. You may not think so because the pastry won’t be hot, but I wonder how many people have burnt their tongues while biting them open, only to have the super hot juices assault their taste buds…
Be warned! Once you do wait for the cooldown, you’ll be duly rewarded with some very fragrant pork & chive filling. Something to be savoured.
Guess how many I had?
One type of dish I’ve never ordered from ToS (in fact, rarely ever ordered from any Chinese restaurant) is fried rice. Such a basic thing to make, yet so many possibilities. My friend recommended this dish, to which I naturally obliged.
So that was the first thing I noticed unfortunately. Yeah, that poop chute is pretty darn visible. Granted, it’s probably asking too much for the chutes of individual shrimp be removed, but my goodness, it’s a little bit concerning, but I dunno – some people don’t mind it. Make your own choice, I suppose.
As for the taste, I can’t help but feel that it needed some sweet soy sauce to give it a bit of a kick, and thus I chose to do the next best thing available to me – regular soy sauce. Just a dab, but it improves the dish HEAPS.
Ah, how could we go past these little balls of fat, mhm? There’s just so much to love here which will make you hate yourself later. Sugar + fat, the best of all combinations. Just submit, you have to.
Just so you know, if you eat the buns by themselves you probably won’t like it very much as they have very little intrinsic flavour. When paired with the condensed milk, the entire story changes. Make the story happen.
A few quirks and subpar dish choices aside, Taste of Shanghai, whether it be in Ashfield, city, or Hurstville, will have your back covered whenever you get that craving for Chinese. Done deal.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: the right dish choices are great, value proposition is quite good, even more so if you’re a member (extra 10% off)
Not so Awesome: can’t get past oiliness, some rather flat and uninspiring dishes if you choose them, that poop chute….