Offbeat New York

China Town    

    Joe's Shanghai Restaurant

9 Pell Street
New York, New York 10013
Phone: 212 233-0278

As you make your way through Chinatown’s narrow, winding back streets, you would probably walk right past Joe’s Shanghai as you head towards the wider expanse of East Broadway.

The entrance is marked by an unobtrusive and not easily viewed doorway and the large, shared tables make for a rather hectic dining experience. But for Xiao Long Bao - “Little dumplings from Basket” - better known as soup dumplings -- this is the go-to place.

For the uninitiated, these are chewy, doughy dumplings containing either a small pork or crab meatball surrounded by a succulent, rich broth. Freshly made to order, they arrive in individual bamboo steamers. To enjoy them at their best (and to avoid a mouth burn from the piping hot broth), place a single dumpling on a spoon, and bite off small top piece of the dough. Carefully suck the broth out of the dumpling and then just gobble and slurp down the rest. It won’t be pretty but everyone around you will be doing the same thing.

One could make a meal of just dumplings, but the restaurant excels in seafood as well. By all means try the clams or squid in black bean sauce or a simple steamed whole fish. But even better, order braised yellow carp fish belly. It’s not what you might think! It’s bite size chunks of the tenderest and tastiest part of the carp in a light and slightly sweet and sour sauce. Delicious.

Jan Greenberg lives in New York City. She writes about food and travel for magazines including National Culinary Review, Food Arts, Gastronomica and Time Out NY.

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