Lan­guage no bar­rier to a date with the best dumplings in Shang­hai

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

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?

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