Finding great Chinese food in Boston is no easy task. A few restaurants prepare dishes reminiscent of what I ate in China, but so far I have found none that can compete with even the most modest Beijing eatery. However, when my friend showed me a promising Boston Globe review of New Shanghai, an inexpensive restaurant in Chinatown, I forgot all about my many past disappointments and rushed to sample the dumplings that “burst with broth when you bite into their meaty center.”
Just the mention of Shanghai xiaolongbao (literally buns in a little basket) is enough to make me salivate. The secret to the dumplings is a gelatinous stuffing that melts into a broth when cooked, filling your mouth with a broth so luxurious that it rivals the finest consume. In China, xiaolongbao would often cause such rapture that I would forget my surroundings. I would close my eyes to focus fully on savoring the delicious dumplings, and then be shocked to find myself in a street-side shack rather than in an elegant restaurant.
While New Shanghai had an authentic Chinese restaurant’s shabby décor, the xiaolongbao were a mere shadow of what the dish can be. Sometimes, modest Chinese food reminds me of the great things I ate in China. While objectively these dishes leave much to be desired, the memories of what they could be are enough to leave me satisfied and happy. New Shanghai’s xiaolongbao, on the other hand, left me depressed and hungry.
The one good thing about the restaurant is that the fortune cookies were some of the most amusing I’ve encountered:
You are important enough to ask and you are blessed enough to receive back. (my fortune)
You may attend a party where strange customs prevail.
There are only 3 colors, 10 digits, and 7 notes; its [sic] what we do with them that’s important.
You are the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life.