Chinese (Shanghainese) Restaurant in Shanghai, China: Xia Restaurants, Wine, Travel, Opinions

Xia Heart
Restaurants and bars
Price: Moderate

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +86 21 6212 6797
Address: 9 Zhenning Lu
Country: China
Food Style: Chinese (Shanghainese)

We are obsessed with the flavour and texture of the Shanghainese specialty lion's head meatballs. They are usually cooked in a claypot with strands of cabbage that for the 'mane' of the lion's head. You can tell a good one because they are as light as a feather and simply melt in the mouth. The secret is the use of the right amount of fat. Too little will mean toughness and lack of flavour, too much will mean an overly fatty unpleasant dish.
We had heard from some local friends that Xia was a place to try. We entered this pleasant restaurant past a sheer wall of glass encasing bamboo trees to be seated in a comfortable booth.
Three small dishes appeared - one with fresh soy beans, one with fermented chicken and one with finely chopped tofu and local greens. These set the scene. Each was perfectly executed and each was served in an interesting china bowl as were each of the other dishes to follow.
A dish of pickled cabbage, capsicum and mushroom was lightly pickled and cut into thin strips. A dish of cubed vegetables sprinkled with poppy seeds was also very tasty.
While we were waiting for the meatball we thought we should also continue our xiao long bao hunt so we ordered four of these local specialties. They were suitably thin, had nice soup inside and the filling of pork was full of flavour. We rated them slightly ahead of those from the Nanxiang Steamed Buns Restaurant in the Yu Yuan area.
However we were here for the meatballs and were looking forward to the experience. Soon a flat green china bowl appeared with a single meatball almost the size of a baseball in the centre of a circle of baby bok choy and a pool of light braising liquid. The waiter deftly broke the meatball into four portions to reveal a centre of succulent crab meat. We took our first mouthful and immediately knew that we had succeeded in our search. The meat was perfectly tender, full of flavour and the juices were light and carried a slight saltiness from soy sauce.
We knew immediately that we would be able to unreservedly recommend this dish to others.
So if you are seeking one of Shanghai's culinary treasures, Xia in the French Concession is the place to head.
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