Nanxiang Mantou Dian - Not Recommended
Yuyuan Lu 85, Shanghai
Our first day in Shanghai without the tour guide and we decided to hit up one of the most famous xiao long bao places in Shanghai. Yes, this was the place that Bourdain hit up and unfortunately it was pretty average. The first thing you’ll notice is the area where Nan Xiang is sucks pretty bad. It was made up for tourists to look like Old Shanghai and reminds me of Epcot center – insanely crowded and pretty fake looking.
When you finally work your way through you notice this place is kinda like Enter the Dragon where there are multiple levels to the joint. The first floor is where you line up and get the xlb to go – quality supposedly sucks there and the lines is at least 30-40 deep. The second floor you seat yourself, but you can’t get access to the crab xlb. Also, packed as hell. The third floor you have two choices either sit in the room where you have to spend 60rmb or the other room that you spend 30rmb. We chose the quicker line (30 rmb) since it was taking so friggin long. With such high expectations of getting xlb in Shanghai, I was highly disappointed. Cali definitely make better xlb and Din Tai Fung in Taiwan crushes this place. In fact there are multiple DTF joints in Shanghai, but I’ve been there multiple times and it’s a Taiwan joint so I want to check out a real Shanghai XLB place. Place is a little pricey compared to others around the city as well ($8 for 6 xlb), but still reasonable. Any who, not recommended based on the wait and quality of the xlb.
The first thing I notice about XLB is the skin and these were a little too thick and too doughy. The next is the soup base which was very pungent and flavorful. The final thing is the meat which was very pleasant – texture and flavor. Was this a terrible XLB – definitely not, but I was expecting so much more since this was such the most famous place according to our tour guides and concierge. It was packed with Chinese people and a couple of locals were even saying to go check it out. Kinda bummed that I had much better ones in Cali – it felt like if I went to Katz’s and the pastrami was better in the middle of North Dakota…something not quite right about that. One last thing, there was some crab shell in the xlb which is a big no no for me.
Tang Bao *
This is basically a huge ars xiao long bow with a straw in the middle where you drink the soup base. The skin is very doughy and not worth eating. The soup is good, but a little oily. Huge on flavor though and surprisingly there are pieces of crab in the base as well.
Mushroom XLB **
These were great and the skin was much more delicate – still a tad too thick, but still much better than the crab ones. The mushroom broth was phenomenal as was the filling. If you have to get one xlb here, then this is the one to get.
Fried Dumpling **
Nice and light batter that was perfectly crispy. The filling was so delicate and stuffed with soft tofu diced - pretty awesome.
--- What the F - in a bad way * Good ** Great *** What the F – in a good way
If this place wasn’t crowded, I would probably check it out for a first time, but because the line is so damn long I would avoid this at all costs. Pretty average xlb and thankfully we found better ones in the city.