Soup Dumplings at Shanghai Asian Cuisine -- NYC's Best?
Fifteen years ago when Shanghai soup dumplings first hit town, they caused a sensation, and foodies were lining up at the 7 train to sojourn to Flushing to get them at the original Joe's Shanghai. Soon thereafter, the dumplings -- bulging with dangerously hot soup, more grease than soup -- became commonplace on the menus, not only of all the Shanghai places that opened up in Manhattan's Chinatown (I counted six at one point), but also on the menus of Chinese restaurants representing other regions, or sometimes no particular region at all.
Eventually, Joe cloned himself, and there were two Joe's in Manhattan. The problem was, the dumplings at all these places started sliding downward. First, many of them were deprived of their negligible crab component, which in the best examples send the filling in an oceanic direction (pig of the sea?). Second, the skins on the dumpling kept getting thicker and thicker, as dumpling makers unsure of their dumpling-making chops indemnified themselves against the charge of broken dumplings by making sure the dumplings never broke.
Well, a friend clued me to the dumplings at Shanghai Asian Cuisine, a newcomer to Elizabeth Street in the block south of Canal, lying at the mouth of the arcade that connects Elizabeth and Bowery.
The dumplings are superb: thin-skinned, extravagantly stuffed with plenty of pork and crab, with a little tuft of yellow crab protruding from the pucker like chin whiskers on a hillbilly codger. OK, the crab is probably the frozen product, but the enhanced crabby edge enlivens the ground meat. And, as in the original soup dumplings we enjoyed in Flushing long ago, these are so delicate that the slightest false move ruptures the skin and out gushes the fillling. Defeat!
So what about the restaurant's name? Well, the Shanghai stuff is mainly the lower end of the menu (meat balls, mock duck of mushrooms and bean-curd skin, chicken in wine vinegar, braised noodles, etc.), and the "Asian" stuff at the high end mainly Cantonese, Sichuan, and other regional Chinese. Stick with the Shanghai food.
Shanghai Asian Cuisine
14 Elizabeth Street
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