We thought it would be a cold day in hell when good food came to a food court. Enter New Shanghai in the Queens Plaza, a welcome change to the hackneyed line up of existing fast food joints. And probably for that reason, on any given day, you need to be prepared and willing to face the crowds who have embraced the place, so expect long queues unless you come either side of the lunch rush.
Unsurprisingly the concept originates in Mainland China and there are now seven locations in Australia and counting. A big glass front frames the open kitchen where dumpling chefs are heads down and hard at work all day. Inside the space is filled with lots of little dark-wood tables, Chinese carved shutters and lanterns and the odd bike. Owner John Chen describes his venture as, “not so much about eating but about experiencing Chinese culture”.
As we sit down, we notice the gentle hum of Mandarin being spoken at surrounding tables; this had to be a good sign. Sitting down to an extensive menu (50+ items), we are momentarily overwhelmed by choice and pleasantly surprised by the price point (main meals $12-$20). But should we be? The decor says restaurant and these prices are therefore on the low side but it is still comparable to the prices of the food court neighbours.
The dishes we eventually choose arrive as they are made and in no particular order. The steamed pork “buns” – made to order by the busy band of specialty chefs – look more like dumplings but are the dish of the night. Inside the dumpling/bun is sweet and gingery and the lightly salted pork is a recipe described as a family secret – we’re guessing it was Chen’s family.
Huge pieces of calamari are tender and juicy and coated in salt and szechuan pepper, speckled with the classic fried shallots and chilli.
Next is Rainbow Beef; we’re slightly reluctant and put off by the name but ultimately pleasantly surprised when it arrives. A heaped plate of sticky beef strips is succulent and coated in sweet and sour sauce. Serving sizes are large but don’t fear over ordering, as takeaway containers are available on request!
Hidden away in the corner of the food court, the service in the packed venue can be slow at times but once you order, the food comes quickly. New Shanghai already has a huge following in the CBD, particularly for office workers during the week. Hopefully it continues to thrive as you can walk away having had a great meal at for well under $20.
LG23 Queens Plaza, 226 Queen Street. T: 3108 7652