If only franchised Chinese food chains in the US were this good.
Yes, Crystal Jade is a well known restaurant group that actually originates out of Singapore. They have multiple locations throughout Asia, including Singapore, China (Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou), Hong Kong, Thailand (Bangkok), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City), Korea (Seoul), Indonesia (Jakarta) and Japan (Tokyo). They make everything from sweet bakery items to savory dim sum dishes.
It may seem a bit weird to be visiting a Singaporean chain while in Shanghai. However, many have claimed that this place has some of the best dim sum (both Cantonese and Shanghainese) that Shanghai has to offer. Not wanting to miss out on some of the best food in Shanghai, we came here for our first meal right after hopping off the plane from Xi'An.
It's great to be really hungry if you're going to be visiting this place, because you'll have a hard time narrowing down what you want to order! Come with a group of friends, if possible, so you can share a bunch of things!
We were very very impressed with the food here. This is a great place to visit if you want to try a variety of dim sum items, all executed with expert precision, quality, and care. The xiao long baos (soup dumplings) had a nice, thin skin that did not break at all. These were light years better than any dumpling we'd ever had in Boston, and definitely closer in rank to the likes of Din Tai Fung and Jiai Jia Tang Bao. Similarly, the daikon pastries and steamed buns were also delicious.
We also tried this new type of . . . sandwich? . . . that we'd never had before. It reminded me of Peking duck in some ways, but made with pork instead. First, they brought out a plate full of the barbecued pork, cucumbers, and fried tofu crisps? I'm not sure what the last ingredient was. Help! Does anyone know?
The waitress then brought some flat steamed bread that had the consistency of Chinese mantous (steamed bread). She proceeded to construct a "sandwich" for us, placing pieces of pork, cucumber, and crispy tofu skin in between the bread.
The resulting little "pocket" was by far my favorite dish of the evening! I loved the interplay of textures between the soft, warm bread, the layered tofu crisps, the crunchy cucumbers, and the chewy pork. The flavors came together nicely as well, with the sweet and rich pork contrasting nicely with the light and crisp cucumbers. I really could have ordered two of these.
We also got a side dish of tofu noodles, edamame, and mustard greens, which was forgettable. We basically ordered this in a vain attempt to be healthy. I'd skip this unless if you are really feeling guilty about all the rich foods you've been eating!
Another favorite was the wontons in spicy chili sauce (hong you chao shou). I love the spicy kick of the hot oil, and the pork dumplings were juicy and flavorful as well.
Finally, we tried the hand pulled dan dan noodles (pictured up top). These had good texture, although we both decided that we didn't love the thick, sesame-like flavors of the dan dan mian. It's probably a matter of personal preference, but I found it a bit rich and heavy for my tastes.
In general, you really can't go wrong with Crystal Jade. Some claim that it's still not quite as good as the best dim sum in Hong Kong or Singapore, although in the same breath they say that it comes quite close. Having never really done that comparison, I can't comment on that. What I can say is that the dim sum is excellent, probably better than most, if not all, of the dim sum that is available in the US.
Plus, I think "close" to the best dim sum in the world is reason enough to visit, n'est-ce pas?
Notes: Apparently this place is very popular and can sometimes be super crowded. Definitely try to make a reservation if you can, or arrive a bit earlier. The menu is written in English (which is helpful!) and the service is excellent. You can easily reach Xin Tian Di by cab or by subway (Xin Tian Di stop on Line 10 or South Hangpi Road on Line 1). Check rail times! Line 10 just opened in April and has limited hours. We learned the hard way that it closes pretty early (like 8 PM or something) and got stuck having to hail a cab from another random station!
2/F South Block Xintiandi Ln
123 Xingye Lu
Shanghai, China 200031
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