With all of the northern Chinese and Shanghainese food I eat/blog about, you might be thinking that I'd sick of it by now.
If so, you obviously haven't fallen into the embrace of said food like most of Sydney. The heady mix of ginger, vinegar, soy and chilli is the perfume that stirs us so. As ubiquitous as it is comforting as it is ever-mysterious.
Finally trying Lynn's Shanghai. Which is in a club, of all places. Normally clubs are terrible places, filled with terrible things and I avoid them like I normally avoid terrible things. But for soup dumplings I'm willing to cast off the shackles of my mortal hatred of terrible things. Once. FOR SCIENCE!
The place has a slightly "clubby" feel to it (FYI, if you tell them you're only going to the restaurant you, apparently, don't need to sign in) but it's only slight. You could just as easily be in any other Chinese restaurant that has tried to make the best of a slightly cold, "modern" room.
Soup dumplings. Xiao Long Bao. The XLBs. The place claims to have the best in Sydney--better than Din Tai Fung--and they're admittedly pretty good. They're missing the big herbal, salty notes that I like, but, for a more subtley flavoured, well-textured, porky, ultra-soupy XLB you could do a lot worse than Lynn's version.
The fried pork buns are also bursting at the seams, just aching for a chance to spray you with scalding, porcine stock. They have a nice crunch and, while missing the same herbal notes as the XLBs, are damn agreeable.
The cold starters are solid and a good option, since the hot stuff can take a while to arrive. Drunken chicken is a nicely flavoured, slow-poached chicken. The silken tofu slices with century egg are also a solid choice.
As with many Chinese restaurants, the fried beans are a great, salty, delicious choice. Here they'd similarly great, but hopelessly misadvertised. The menu says green beans and bamboo shoots, but what arrived was green beans and pork mince. Other blogs show green beans, bamboo shoots and pork mince. I get that it's sometimes hard to put up bamboo shoots, but you need to communicate it. A bamboo shoot fiend (*cough*me*cough*) or a non-pork eater isn't going to be happy with the alternative turning up.
Every wrong in the world is forgotten when a plate of crispy duck and steamed buns hits the table. It's like Peking duck, but on steroids. Split a bun, slather on some hoisin, stuff it generously with crispy duck and shallots, forget about everything. Maybe dip it into your leftover ginger/vinegar/chilli/soy mix from the soup dumplings or maybe even chase it with some sips of Tsingtao from a chilled glass. Such a good dish.
Service is good and occasionally enthusiastic, but slightly slow. I'd imagine that if you order all hot dishes that you'll be in for a wait for your food. Also, if you want something (more Tsingtaos) then make sure you don't delay. It can be hard to get attention of staff in some parts of the U-shaped restaurant.
That said, the food is good. And that's what you want, really. There are small details that stop it from becoming great--small holes in the soup dumplings, no bamboo shoots in the bamboo shoot and bean dish, etc--but it's damn solid. I rate Taste of Shanghai as a slightly (but noticeably) better CBD Shanghainese place in terms of food and maybe service and maybe ambiance, but Lynn's is a rock-solid alternative with slightly better prices and a slightly better chance of getting in during peak times. I'll definitely be back for more.
RATING: Will return to [?]