If you found this blog by Googling my name or by following sundry noxious links (you know where), please note that all claims that I was fired from my job are 100% false, as are most of the other things written about me. I don't know the people who are libeling me, but it's clear they have some imaginary axe to grind and way too much time.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Coworkers@Joe's Shanghai (Midtown)

I had a devastating late-week craving for soup dumplings, so I dragged my coworkers to Joe's Shanghai for dinner on Friday.

We kept it simple:

Four orders of pork, two orders of crab and pork. Being from Nanjing, four hours away from Shanghai, I've been eating soup dumplings since birth, so I will now stop calling them by this bullshit name. Xiao long bao is what they are.

Alex demonstrates the correct way to eat xiaolongbao.

Did it stack up to the xiao long bao of my childhood? Of the touristy Nan Xiang in Shanghai or Din Tai Fung in Hong Kong? Eeeehhhh, what's the point in comparing a xiao long bao with the Platonic Ideal of a xiao long bao, which can only be found in China? Doing so would just make me sad. Suffice to say it is hard not to love a xiao long bao that is done even remotely correctly. I've made many a meal from the frozen supermarket ones.

Joe's Shanghai satisfied my craving. That was enough. The skins were a tiny bit tough and I found the dumplings a little too big - I like them small and dainty so they don't seem like giant meatballs once the soup and wrapper are gone. The boys loved the pork ones and said the crab ones were too salty and "too crabby." I thought both were equally delicious.

My one major gripe was with the service. I do not require much. I even think shitty service in Chinese restaurants is kind of charming, in a perversely authenticating sort of way. But when you give the four people who order six baskets of soup dumplings one tiny little soy sauce dish, and then stingily bring over one more when they ask for more sauce dishes, I get a little insulted. (Listen, I may be sitting with the baiguis, and your other customers may all be tourists, but I will not be taken for a pushover.) Also, your sauce isn't even very good, because it's been sitting around pre-mixed until the ginger goes soggy and tasteless, so really, you can afford to give it up.

Alex enjoys his xiao long bao

We also ordered salt and pepper squid, which is kind of my benchmark dish for judging Chinese restaurants. At $17, it was the most expensive I've ever encountered, and the portion was small. It was a solid fry job, if a bit under-salted. As usual, my favorite part was mixing the jalapeƱos, scallions, and lettuce bed with rice. Too bad they were even stingier with the peppers than the squid.

The takeaway: go in times of desperation. Be disciplined and just order the xiaolongbao.

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