Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen restaurant review – bao down for the best xiao long bao in Hong Kong!

Now for a blog that’s short on pictures but long on love… a review of one of my favourite restaurants in Hong Kong, Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen.

My boyfriend has a stock list of restaurants he suggests whenever I ask where we should go for lunch: McDonalds, Subway, Burger King, Express Teppanyaki and instant noodles from 7-Eleven. Yup, he’s a classy sort. So imagine my surprise when one day, having been dating him and asking this same question for at least 18 months, he suddenly threw ‘Shanghainese’ into the mix.

Which Shanghainese did he mean? Hong Kong has its fair share of good but now overrated Shanghainese joints – the New York Times apparently reckons that the Michelin-starred Din Tai Fung is one of the ten best restaurants in the world (I can think of ten better in Hong Kong!) and it regularly features on blogs battling for the title of ‘best xiao long bao in HK’ with another Shanghainese called Crystal Jade (curiously neither actually originate from China). In fact, he meant neither of these places and his choice of Grand Cuisine, tucked away near his old work place in Quarry Bay, has xiao long bao that blow those two out of the water.

Ever since his first nonchalant suggestion of Shanghainese, we’ve probably been there fortnightly ever since. The food is consistently excellent and the prices are more reasonable than the other big hitters I mentioned. And their xiao long bao… hear that slurping sound? That’s me sucking up drool from just thinking about them.

For Shanghainese novices, xiao long bao are steamed dumplings filled with minced pork and soup, with thin translucent skin encasing their contents as opposed to the fluffy white stuff you’d find with char siu bao. For such a small unassuming item, the list of criteria for perfection is rather long. Skin soft and thin enough to melt-in-the-mouth but not so fragile that it busts and spills all that soup within thanks to a slight breeze. Fresh enough that said skin has not hardened and said soup has not evaporated. Dumpling size big enough to satisfy yet small enough to sit in your spoon, hence further lessening your chances of losing the broth. Meat that’s tender and flavoursome with no off-putting pieces of gristle or other unidentifiable chewy bits. Delicious piping hot soup that doesn’t totally burn off the roof of your mouth.

Forget Cadbury’s Crème Eggs asking ‘how do you eat yours’. Everyone has a different method for tackling a xiao long bao – some devour it all in one, others make a small hole to cool the contents down and add vinegar painstakingly with chopsticks, some slurp the soup out before chowing down on the contents, others delight in savouring the soup left in their spoon until last. Anything goes but the act of getting a xiao long bao from bamboo basket to mouth is practically an art-form.

The soup (made from meat stock) is the best bit. Before I could wrap my head round the term xiao long bao, I called them ‘goo buns’ as I just couldn’t get enough of that gorgeous goo that exploded in my mouth with every bite. I’ll stop with the talk of liquid explosions before it gets too x-rated (who knows what nirvana Nigella might find herself if she had to describe it) but complemented with the bite of the vinegar and ginger dip it’s traditionally served with, it’s just heaven.

Back to Grand Cuisine’s xiao long bao ($26 for four dumplings). In my opinion, these really are the best in Hong Kong. All those criteria I listed earlier? They hit them – and then some – every single time. Perfection.

The other most popular dish at Shanghainese restaurants is the dan dan mian ($36, banner photo), noodles served in a Sichuan soup that’s usually as spicy as that radioactive red colour makes it look! Again, the dan dan mian here is top-notch stuff – soft slurp-able ribbons of noodle, a deep rich soup with a complex swell of flavours that intensify with each mouthful (I love the earthy nuttiness of the sesame paste, though it’s noticeably less prominent than the comparably sweet dan dan mian at Din Tai Fung) and an aromatic freshness provided by the sprinkling of scallions and coriander. Portion size is just right for sharing between two, or polishing off on your own if you don’t need anything else.

We always order the spring rolls as well ($24 for three). Very Western of us I know, but they’re so yummy – basically because they’re so fresh. Straight out the fryer, they’re some of the lightest yet tastiest spring rolls I’ve had, even though the filling mainly consists of vegetables (practically the only time my boyfriend will eat his greens!). Make the most of your leftover noodle broth and get dipping!

Service is decent, the environment is pleasant (though possibly slightly claustrophobic when it’s busy) with typically ornate Chinese restaurant décor and there’s a VIP room at the back that closes off from the rest of the place that would be perfect for private parties. You can also sneak a peep at the cooks hand-pulling noodles, steaming dumplings and generally strutting their chef-y stuff through the windows to the kitchen.

Plus drinks and the inescapable 10% service charge, it’s a lip-smackingly delicious meal for two that’s certain to have you full until (if not well past!) dinner-time for just over $100 – astonishingly good value given the quality.

The only downside? You might find me sat in a corner making orgasmic noises over a xiao long bao. If you can brave that thought, then I’ll see you there!

Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen, Shop G510-11, Po On Mansion, Tai Koo Shing, Hong Kong, 2568 9989

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5 responses to “Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen restaurant review – bao down for the best xiao long bao in Hong Kong!

  1. Pingback: Bao down! Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen restaurant review … - Airfare to Shanghai | Airfare to Shanghai

  2. Pingback: Bao down! Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen restaurant review … - Airfare to Shanghai | Airfare to Shanghai

  3. Not to be all nitpicky and stuff, but I believe the NY Times tagged Din Tai Fung as one of the ten most interesting restaurants in the world and the writer was specifically referring to the original location in Taipei, which is an experience that none of their subsequent branches even attempts to replicate. (Okay, I just checked, it was “ten meals worth the price of a plane ticket.” by R.W. Apple, Jr., a great political reporter who also wrote about food. Sorry, this is beyond geeky.)

    One other thing about Grand Cuisine Shanghai Kitchen is that the previous tenant in this location was the original HK location of Crystal Jade. CJ moved on and these guys replaced them with pretty much the identical menu (and quality).

    • I’m not familiar with the original article in the NY Times – what I am familiar with is Din Tai Fung’s hoarding outside their Causeway Bay branch stating ‘Rated as one of the Top Ten Restaurants in the world by The New York Times’, so that’s what my comment was based on. Sounds like a movie poster lifting comments out of context from reviews, based on what you’ve said (and with a surname like Apple, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t write about food at some point!).

      I have eaten at both Crystal Jade and Din Tai Fung and in my opinion, both the xiao long bao and dan dan mian at Grand Cuisine are nicer. Obviously, that’s just my preference, but that’s the case for any food review! Those two get so raved about in HK so I thought I’d share my love for Grand Shanghai, which doesn’t get nearly as much love but delivers high quality food for a few bucks less. I think similar menus and dishes are to be expected amongst Shanghainese restaurants, just as you expect similar menus amongst Sichuan restos or even the same stock dishes among local cha chaan tengs – just a matter of taste as to which and where you prefer!

  4. Having visited Hong Kong for the first time some days ago and having found the Grand Cuisine Shanghai restaurant to be located more or less over the road from East Hotel Hong Kong, I have been dining there with my fiancé for at least four times; we even tried, among others, the same dishes shown in the pictures. Everything we had was consistently fine, the quality unbeatable for the price. The only minus was the, to my impression, rather harsh and interaction with one of the waiters, as we were the only European guests in the location, maybe because of the inconvenience of having to communicate in English. Another waiter who had seated us the evenings before was consistently friendly and helpful.

    But, however, this place is strongly recommended for the food, it’s worth it, even if you are staying near Central or in Kowloon.

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