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Shanghai Cafe Deluxe and Soup Dumplings: Better Late Than Never

December 22, 2011

Just when I had almost given up hope of finding a decent soup dumpling in Manhattan Chinatown, Shanghai Cafe Deluxe snuck up on me and shook up my world a little (well, at least my finicky taste buds).  Yes, perhaps many many years ago when soup dumplings first came into vogue, Joe’s Shanghai did have a pretty delicious offering (or at least had the monopoly on this difficult to execute dish).   But with the migration of Chinese diaspora off of the island and into Flushing and the plethora of options that came with it, I found myself traveling increasingly further in search of more authentic mainland Chinese food.  That is precisely why I nearly missed discovering this particular spot on Mott Street touting quite a well executed version of the ever popular soup dumpling.

The first thing you should do at Shanghai Cafe Deluxe when you sit down in the oddly neon purple dining room is put in an order for the soup dumplings, crab and pork or simply just pork.  Now, the thing about soup dumplings is that the equation to perfection is pretty simple.  Paper thin skin + intensely flavored broth + rich but not greasy filling.  And by simple, I meant only in theory but incredibly difficult in execution.  Often times, the skin is too gummy or not sturdy enough to contain the soup and the filling inside or there will be barely any soup inside at all!

Once the bamboo crate arrives, time becomes of essence and these little pouches should be consumed as soon as you can bare the scolding temperature.  I have my own way of eating the dumplings as I am sure many do.  After carefully airlifting one into my soup spoon,  little bite on the side to release the steam and a small quick sip to savor the broth in its simplicity.  Then, I carefully drizzle the black vinegar with ginger that accompanies the dish inside the opening I have made and shamelessly inhale the rest of the broth.  The vinegar helps cut the richness of the filling, which in this case has been generously topped with crab meat.

Of course, if you want to make an entire meal out of soup dumplings, I will not judge.  You will, however, be missing out on some pretty good dishes on the rest of the menu.

The pork shoulder simmered in brown sauce is one generous portion of delicious offering.  The meat just falls apart and is more than enough to feed 4 -5.  The sauce could have seeped into the meat a little more but the tenderness makes up for that small shortcoming.

The sauteed snow pea shoots are a pretty standard dish on most menus now but I still can’t get enough.  It is definitely my go-to vegetable for the meal if available.  Give it a try and you will be surprised by the light taste of fresh peas that comes through.

Lastly, Shanghai Cafe Deluxe offers a few versions of rice cakes sauteed with different vegetables and meats.  The mushroom version was well seasoned albeit a bit greasy and came with generous amounts of mushrooms and vegetables.

One faux pas that I found at Shanghai Cafe Deluxe is their pan-fried pork buns.  This particular dish is suppose to be tiny versions of their cousin, the steamed buns, but with a golden crispy bottom.  The version here fails pretty badly to capture the essence of this particular dish.  The buns could have used a few more minutes to achieve that even golden crust.

Like I mentioned earlier, I cannot believe that I almost overlooked this amazing new find in Chinatown right under my nose!  Now, whenever the craving for soup dumplings strike, I won’t have to spend long on the subway before I find myself slurping away blissfully with a crate of steaming goodness.

Shanghai Cafe Deluxe | 100 Mott Street, New York NY 10013

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2012 7.33 pm

    i just sent to shanghai cafe recently, and i agree – best soup dumpings in town!

  2. July 25, 2013 4.04 pm

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    I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Cheers

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