New Shanghai

'Can't go wrong choices' ... pan-fried pork buns.
'Can't go wrong choices' ... pan-fried pork buns. Photo: Sahlan Hayes

273 Liverpool Road Ashfield, New South Wales 2131

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Opening hours Daily 11am-10pm
Features BYO, Vegetarian friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Mastercard, Visa
Phone 02 9797 7284

''HAVE YOU EATEN AT THAT place in Ashfield called Shanghai-something-or-other, the one that's always really busy?'' It's a question I get asked a lot. The answer? Yes, I have. Of course, they could be referring to any number of queue-attracting Liverpool Road restaurants - Ashfield hasn't built its reputation as Sydney's ''Little Shanghai'' on nothing.

There's Shanghai Night, the oldest, they claim; Shanghai Memory, the newest, run by the son of Night's owners; Shanghai Dumpling, the smallest, famed for its wonton dumplings; Taste of Shanghai, the two-storey squeeze; and New Shanghai, one of a growing empire that includes outlets in Chatswood and Bondi Junction.

''New'' is one of the older kids on the block, but a recent expansion and refurbishment have made its name seem more appropriate than ever. A clean glass frontage, solid dark-wood tables, Chinese carved shutters - backlit and hanging on exposed-brick walls - it all adds up to one swish-looking space.

It also has what no new dumpling joint is complete without: a totally mesmerising open kitchen up front, in which dozens of what New Shanghai refers to as ''dumpling artists'' work at high speed creating the restaurant's signature offerings.

It almost goes without saying, then, that dumplings are a must. Xiao long bao, the classic soupy specimens, are done well - loose little pouches filled with minced pork and piping hot broth. Pan-fried crab and pork buns are the best I've had. The golden-bottomed buns sprinkled with black sesame are not too thick, sweet or oily - their filling a juicy mix of surf and turf.

On the menu alongside several other types of dumplings are soups, noodle and rice dishes, stir-fries and more. Can't-go-wrong choices include sweet-soy-braised pork belly, crisp-skinned fried chicken with garlic and chilli (more sweet than hot, however), and stir-fried bean shoots.

Drunken chicken is a highlight from the ''cold dishes'' selection. The popular Shanghainese dish is made by marinating fillets overnight in Chinese rice wine. Order it on its own or, better still, with noodles, julienned cucumber and sesame sauce.

If the huge serves prove too much, takeaway containers are 20¢ - not a bad price tag for your next meal. In fact, value is good across the board, and it's this - along with service that while not always knowledgeable, is pleasant and super swift - that makes the new New still feel at home in rough-around-the-edges Ashfield.

Do … arrive early; they don't take bookings and, once the lunch and dinner rushes hit, things take a while to subside.

Don't … get your heart set on a dessert; they mightn't have what's on the menu.

Dish … pan-fried crab meat and pork buns.

Vibe … All shiny-and-new but with a reassuring touch of Ashfield slapdash.

Bottom line … dim sum $2.80-$12.80; other dishes $7.80-$18.80; seafood $12.80-$28.80.