Xia Fei Shanghainese Restaurant
Shop 26-7, B2, K11 Mall, 18 Hanoi Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel: 2801 6111
Price: about HK$120 without drinks and the tea or service charge.
Ambience: bright, clean and bustling, the space and decor is a roomier version of Airport Express' Crystal Jade.
Pros: the menu is extensive and dishes are well-portioned. The arrival of the food was paced nicely, though the wait staff was a bit slow to bus finished plates.
Cons: it's hard not to judge this eatery against the more established Shanghai la mian franchises around town. This locally owned, stand-alone restaurant holds its own with a few comparable dishes, but overall the Shanghainese flavours are overly muted. Some dishes on the menu, such as sweet and sour fish and beef and scallion stir-fry, are downright Cantonese. The seasonal shrimp with crab fat dish (HK$92) that we made the mistake of ordering was corn-starchy and bland, not to mention fishy in taste. We also regretted ordering the water spinach in broth (HK$56) which was old, stringy and much less appetising than the deep-fried French beans with salted egg yolk (HK$46).
Recommended dishes: the xiao long bao (HK$24, above) were large and steamed just right so they stayed intact when we picked them up and yielded a juicy mouthful of soup to the bite. We were impressed with the dumpling skin, which had the right bounce. The noodles in the dan dan mian (HK$40, above right) were a little uneven, but overall consistency was also good - the soup had the right balance of spice and wasn't too heavy on the peanut paste. Dessert of almond paste-filled egg white souffle pockets (HK$32) - warm, moist and delicately flavoured - was the highlight of the meal. We were surprised to be told it will be taken off the menu 'soon', but will still be available upon request.
What else? We were warned ahead of time to expect a 15-minute wait, despite making a reservation for 8.30pm on a Wednesday night. A large window into the dumpling kitchen (above) by the entrance provided a view of relaxed, smiling chefs at work during our wait.