Language no barrier to a date with the best dumplings in Shanghai
FOODDetective has just returned from a week in China, where she dedicated her efforts to helping relieve her Asian cousins of some of their shocking oversupply of xiao long bao dumplings. Best find of the trip was a tiny, hole-in-the-wall dumpling house just off Shanghai’s bustling Nanjing Road, which does a roaring trade from the crack of dawn until the dumplings run out, usually early in the afternoon.
Acting on a tip-off from Shanghai-based Australian chef Dane Clouston, Detective put on her best walking shoes and, clutching a Shanghai city map, set off to find the holy grail of dumpling houses, arriving at precisely 10.45am to find Jia Jia Tan Bao already full and with a queue forming outside. But Detective is nothing if not determined and eventually managed to place her order for a basket of pork and prawn xiao long bao, having perused a dog-eared exercise book, which has the only English menu in the place scrawled on one page.
Minutes later, she was happily tucking into 12 steaming, soup-filled morsels for the princely sum of just under $2, alongside exuberant tables of Shanghainese. Detective can report that this unassuming little place, with its busy team of dumpling makers churning out hundreds of perfectly formed pieces throughout the day, is every bit as good as she’d hoped. Top points, Mr Clouston. Jia Jia Tang Bao, 90 Huanghe Lu, Shanghai +86 21 6327 6878.
A FEW days after her dumpling high, a less-thanoverjoyed Detective found herself confined to her hotel bed with a nasty eye infection, having been packed off by a Chinese doctor with a bottle of eyedrops and strict instructions not to stand on her head. While still baffled by the slightly unorthodox medical advice (the headstand ban certainly wrought havoc on the rest of Detective s trip) it turns out that every bout of cloudy vision has a silver lining. From the splendid surrounds of her room at the stunning new Langham Yangtze Boutique Shanghai, Detective ordered room service to cheer herself up and serendipitously found that her selections from the hotel’s T’ang Court restaurant menu had been prepared by the very hands of two-Michelinstarred executive chef Kwong Wai Keung from the Langham’s sister hotel in Hong Kong. Kwong is manning the burners at the new Shanghai outpost for the next few months to ensure the second branch of his award-winning restaurant is up to scratch. Detective can certainly vouch for the barbecued pork, roasted duckling and exquisite braised veges with salted and preserved egg, but fears that having experienced two-Michelinstarred room service the humble club sandwich is ruined for her forever. www.langhamhotels.com.
BACK on home turf, Detective is pleased to see the core trading times and labour-intensive nature of work.
We are very happy,’’ says R & C Australia president Peter Doyle. It’s good that it’s been recognised that restaurant and catering is a separate industry within the hospitality sector and we look forward to working with the commission on a fair and equitable award for everyone. This is just the first step. It’s got to be fair and balanced for employers and employees.’’
IT didn’t take long for well-regarded Daniel Southern, ejected from his executive chef’s post at Melbourne’s Bistro Guillaume, to be snapped up by another high-profile Melbourne operator. The Briton has come full circle and returned to work for restaurateur Frank Van Haandel as executive chef at city-centre restaurant, Comme. Southern first worked for Van Haandel and his then business partner, brother John, as sous chef to Andrew McConnell in the start-up team at St Kilda’s Circa, The Prince. His imminent arrival as head chef at Comme has prompted present executive chef Simon Arkless to re-evaluate his position within the business’’, according to a statement put out by Van Haandel, who adds, we hope we can find a suitable position for him in our business or another Melbourne restaurant to match his incredible talent and dedication’’.
Southern, who says Comme will move away from Basque-inspired cuisine and adopt a French bistro feel under his direction, is diplomatic about Arkless’s departure, saying, I believe he is leaving. It’s not my business, I just need to get in there and do my job.’’ Southern takes up the post on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, back at Southern’s old stomping ground in the Crown complex, his replacement at Bistro Guillaume, Beau Vincent, is the latest chef to pitch a recession-busting offer to the market with a $30 two-course lunch including glass of wine. www.comme.com.au; www.bistroguillaume.com.au.
FIND of the week: Wildings Pantry Essentials’ Tastes of Wildings pack, including eight handy 10g-size spice packets (from Middle Eastern zaatar to New Orleans Cajun) plus five condiments in user-friendly 40g bottles. Detective is a big fan of single-use packs, which spare the domestically challenged the horror of discovering spices and half-used relishes old enough to be listed by the National Trust during pantry clear-outs. $25 a pack. www.wildings.com.au.
DETECTIVE loves: That a new register of GM-free farms, businesses and councils has been established by Gene Ethics to highlight products that are not affected by genetic modification. www.geneethics.org.
DETECTIVE loathes: People who leave restaurant doors ajar. Detective morphed into angry old woman mode when, during breakfast at her favourite local cafe, she and others were left sitting in a wind tunnel as fellow diners continually failed to close the door after them on leaving. Were they born in a barn?