More than a decade ago, New Shanghai opened in Sydney’s Chinatown as a standalone store specialising in xiao long bao, or soup-filled dumplings. Since then, it’s grown into a 12-venue supergroup, with locations around Australia, China and Dubai.
The most recent addition to the stable is in the food hall at St Collins Lane in the CBD. It’s the third Melbourne restaurant and the group’s largest to date (it can hold more than 300 people), but that’s not its only claim to fame. It’s also the first to extend on the signature menu of Shanghai-style soup dumplings, pan-fried buns and noodles.
“This is New Shanghai, but not as you know it,” owner John Chen tells Broadsheet. “Diners at the new venue can expect all their favourite dim sum, plus a much more creative Chinese-style tapas menu.”
By “tapas”, Chen means small bites such as freshly shucked oysters with lime-and-ginger dressing; sesame puffs filled with smoked ham; spring-onion pancakes bursting with melted cheese; popcorn chicken; and crisp, garlicky pork ribs. Plus, soy-glazed eggplant, spicy “dynamite” prawn bao buns and spring-onion-oil noodles.
There’s also an entire section of the new menu devoted to skewers. “Grilled skewers are a Xinjiang-style street snack,” says Chen. “They’re iconic in northern China. Ours are inspired by Japanese yakitori, but with added soy and Sichuan pepper.”
The skewers start at $5 apiece. Choose from salmon fillet with orange-and-ginger sauce, Wagyu with asparagus, Sichuan-pepper-covered pork belly, and prawn-paste chicken wings. Vegetarian options include salt-and-pepper mushroom and spicy firm tofu.
But Chen reckons the lamb skewers – with or without cumin salt – are the highlight. “[It’s] primarily a nod to the Xinjiang cuisine enjoyed throughout the summertime, where locals crowd the city streets to snack on lamb skewers and drink cold beer.”
Though Melburnians can’t take to the streets with their skewers, they can get stuck into them on New Shanghai’s covered balcony. And the restaurant features shiny red booths, dense hanging foliage and handpainted murals depicting its namesake city in the 1930s. “The interior is reflective of the sophistication of Shanghai and its energy,” says Chen. “We wanted to bring the glamour of old Shanghai to the new restaurant.”
The diner’s currently open for lunch seven days and dinner Thursday through Sunday, but Chen hopes it will also evolve into a post-work drink destination. The cocktail list includes the Chinese Negroni (osmanthus gin, bianco and rosso vermouth, Campari, and Sichuan pepper), the Oolong Old Fashioned (oolong tea, bourbon and Angostura bitters) and a Lychee Martini. Plus, some low- and no-alcohol options.
New Shanghai St Collins Lane
Level 2 260 Collins Street, Melbourne
(03) 9242 0508
Mon to Wed 11.30am–3pm
Thu to Sat 11.30am–10pm