Monday, March 5, 2012

Decent Enough Dim Sum At Half The Usual Price: Shanghai Blues

One luxury John and I couldn't seem to get enough of when we went to Washington last Christmas was dim sum brunch with my parents. My dad is such a regular at a particular establishment in Renton that the owner barked at the server to offer a better tea upon spotting my father and plonked down two sauce dishes of mustard (our preferred dipping sauce for har gao dim sum) on the table. If that ain't good service, then I don't know what is.

The barbequed pork buns (char siu bao) were a favorite of John's and came in both the steamed and baked varieties (which aren't always served in Chinese restaurants - don't think baked char siu baos even exist in London Chinatown, for example) and the har gao and siu mai (prawn and pork dumplings, respectively) were both succulent and served in large portions. Steaming hot, these were offered to us by ladies pushing freshly filled trolleys before we could even take our seats. Basket after basket of steaming delights were delivered to our table - all for a bill of roughly $40 for four.

It's no surprise that we returned to London mournful and longing for dim sum comparable to our state-side experience, which, if you live in this city, you'll know is impossible. Sour-faced, rude waiters serving overpriced, frozen goods is more like it. But we did recently re-discover an old favorite of ours that does half price dim sum lunches on the weekend: Shanghai Blues in High Holborn.

Apparently, Lewis Hamilton is a fan (says so in the magazine interview posted in the bathroom downstairs) and so am I, if it means that Shanghai Blues can fill a dim sum void that previously couldn't be satisfied. We dined there on Saturday with Tom & Cristy and enjoyed a variety of classics, such as har gao, siu mai, beef cheung fun, and char siu bao (steamed) and some Shanghai Blues creations: tai chi dumplings (wrapper half dyed with black squid ink to give a - forgive me - slightly gimmicky yin-yang effect), scallop dumplings, and some yummy veggie selections for Cristy. We ate to our hearts' content and even ordered a side of Chinese broccoli (also known as "gai lan") to fit our virtuous/healthy needs.

And you know what? The bill didn't even sting: £50 for four is not bad for central London prices, plus the service and ambience are ever-so-much-better than the unpleasant Chinatown experience (I mean, I'm Chinese, speak fluent Chinese, and absolutely DREAD stepping foot into a restaurant in Chinatown).

So if you're in the mood for dim sum and don't want to shell out exorbitant prices for bad attitudes and mediocre prices, then I suggest you avoid Chinatown all together and mosey on down to Shanghai Blues. Reservations are advised.


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