If you want to visit a restaurant where the xiao long bao are prepared in the window but you can’t face the queues at Din Tai Fung, this Chinatown newcomer won’t disappoint. But there’s more to Shanghai Modern than the homemade soup dumplings, excellent as they are. Despite the forward-looking name, this is a Chinatown restaurant like they used to make, a big two-floor canteen with enough shiny, surface glitz to make a meal-out feel special.
Friendly staff, however, feel beamed in from somewhere other than the Chinatown of old, while dishes ordered dim-sum style from a tick-box sheet are another welcome innovation, though unless you want your food to arrive all at once, we’d recommend you select your mains once you’ve finished your starters, not least because big portions make it easy to over-order.
You won’t have to wait long – the food arrives quickly, but all tastes freshly prepared. Salt-and-pepper smoked chicken with chilli is crisp and savoury; stir-fried aubergine with preserved bean-curd paste is sticky, sweet and meltingly soft; honey lemon prawns has lightly battered, deep-fried prawns drizzled with a citrus sauce for a seafood spin on lemon chicken.
A plate of Shanghai fried noodles with shredded pork would have been a meal in itself, while three little piggies of pork dumplings, dyed pink and fashioned with a pastry snout and a pair of adorable ears, are there to be Instagrammed and taste as good as any char siu buns.
There’s nothing ground-breaking on offer at Shanghai Modern, just a round-up of well-prepared regional Chinese classics served promptly and politely. It’s perfectly located for pre- and post- cinema/theatre, but they won’t shoo you away if you want to make a night of it.