When I used to live in Ashfield, I visited the local Taste of Shanghai quite often. I don’t profess to know the ins and outs of what “authentic” Shanghainese food is, but I’d have a good idea since almost every restaurant in Ashfield is Shanghainese and I’ve lived there for 8 years….
…unless you’re telling me every restaurant in Ashfield isn’t authentic Shanghainese, in which case AWKWARD.
But anywho, authenticity is never something I valued much – when friends say “it’s really good – it’s authentic!” I go “ahhh that’s great :)” without really meaning it. After all, in the end, who cares if it’s authentic or not, as long as it tastes good.
Well, that small rant aside, I’m pretty stoked that it finally opened in Hurstville (which is close to where I live now). I barely ever eat out at Hurstville, but I decided to give the Hursie branch of ToS a go, just to see how things have changed (or not) since my various stints at Ashfield.
Date Visited: 11/12/2012
Address: 177 Forest Rd, Hurstville NSW 2220
Go-to dish: them dumplings & xiao long bao
The decor is very similar to the one back at Ashfield – the use of exposed brick seems to be a hallmark. It works – the restaurant stands out from both the outside, as well as the inside.
I’ve actually been to Hurstville’s ToS twice now, but didn’t take pictures the second time around. Kind of unfortunate, as the second time I had a much larger variety of dishes, but suffice to say I was pretty happy with them (for the record: deep fried milk dough – yum, fish fillet in sizzling hot sauce – yum yum, pan fried pork buns w/sesame – yum!).
Still, you go to ToS for the dumplings. They’re as good as the ones from Din Tai Fung, but when it comes to dumplings, home made is still the best (unless you suck at making dumplings in which case, there’s ToS/DTF for you).
I list two flavours not because what’s pictured is both (it’s the former), but because I’ve had the latter too and they both look the same anyway.
Xiao long bao is pretty much what anyone gets when they visit a place like this. It’s almost like rice – you pretty much always order it as part of your meal. And of course why not – xiao long bao is DELICIOUS
- Though I gotta say, I question my own choice of picking “curry” as a flavour. It tastes really…weird. Not bad per se, but something I have to acclimate to. The taste could best be described as…juicy meat + Chinese medicine flavour. Okay that does not paint a good picture, but it’s like durian – smells like rubbish but actually tastes pretty good. That analogy does not work if you dislike durian, in which case I can’t help you any more son.
- The beef & basil flavour is a lot more standard, though still “out there” with the use of basil. It’s very Thai-like, and tastes like a fusion of sorts. It’s not bad.
- Xiao long bao is all about that juicy soup that bursts out when you break the tender soft skin. ToS has no problems with this – so savoury and hearty. I could (and have) eaten up to 40 of these in one go before. It’s like chips, but healthier and more delicious.
Like ramen, I have a constant craving for xiao long bao. Heck, I feel like going to Hurstville right now to order some…
The last time I tried braised pork sticky rice dumplings before this time was years and years ago. Parents usually don’t order it on when we have yum cha as they reckon it’s not very healthy. Well they’re mostly right about that, so I ordered a set this time when they weren’t around 😛
- I didn’t like these too much; too much sticky rice, didn’t taste the pork as much, and there wasn’t much overall flavour to it.
- It does taste a lot better with soy sauce (which is on every dable), but most things taste better with soy sauce so…
- Overall too much stickiness for the flavour it brings
Well, I guess I won’t be getting this again.
So you know how dumplings are generally meant to be healthy right? Well there’s always a way to turn anything healthy into something that’s outright artery-clogging. Just add copious amounts of chilli oil.
- Then again, the dumplings do taste better because of it. Add in some soy sauce, and you’ve got a wonderfully oily, juicy dumpling on your hands (hopefully not literally)
- The filling on the inside is also some of the best that ToS produces. If I were to have hand made dumplings that aren’t made at home, I sure wouldn’t mind getting some of these (parents can’t make xiao long bao unfortunately).
- Just watch yourself, it sure doesn’t rest easy on your blood vessels. You can wipe the oil off if you wish, but then what’s the point?
There seems to be a lot of criticism on review sites which drag ratings of the various ToS branches down that are primarily concerned with service. My own opinion is that most of the time service is on the mark. There was one occasion where it took way, WAY too long for a dish to come out (30+ minutes), which was just ridiculous, but that was an isolated incident.
Seriously, at peak times, ToS branches get queues, so I can forgive them if in their rush, the busied staff forgot an order. This is not fine dining, so give that a rest and empathise with the wait staff once in awhile.
Overall, a place I would go to if I just cannot be bothered going home to eat, or the parents don’t feel like cooking. That doesn’t happen often though, but when it does, may as well get some quality.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three 😀
The Good: food that pretty much hits the mark with respect to their prices
What could be improved: flavour tuning for several of the dishes, extra wait staff during peak times
I give a grand total of seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10