A dear friend of mine was in town and we decided to meet up for some dumplings. She was one of my eating buddies for many years until she moved away to Ohio. Who moves to Ohio? I was excited to see her and to get another sampling of soup dumplings.

I picked the new Shanghai Asian Manor and she met me with her husband and a group of his friends. I hadn’t seen her in a few years and I had never met most of the other members of the group. But I can only imagine the impression I made on all of them.

We arrived at our table in a spacious (for Chinatown) dining room and were greeted by friendly and English speaking waiters. I put in the order, making sure to pick some veggie dumplings for the vegetarians at the table. Everybody else was on board for the full dumpling experience and it was getting exciting.

However things came to a halt as soon as the food arrived. I ceased the instinctual digging in because I had to snap pictures, take notes, and do official tastings. I felt rather rude and awkward. I’m a bit embarrassed about having to take photos of all the food I eat before anybody at the table can get their chopsticks working. It’s an annoying thing about being a foodie and a blogger and I sort of wish I had my own personal photographer to come in, get the money shots, and let me enjoy the full social experience.

But until I can afford a staff (anybody want to donate their time?), I’m on my own. And as much as I beat myself up, everybody at the table was accepting (or so it seemed) and actually seemed interested in my food adventures. Fortunately I have friends who understand the difficulties of dining out with me.

We ordered two different soup dumplings – the crab and pork buns and the solo pork buns. Both came in a soft but rather thick wrapper and were steaming when we got them. I’m not sure if my photo antics ruined things, but when I bit into my first dumpling, it was just lukewarm. The soup seemed a little scarce (I tend to use caution when breaking open the bao because squirting often occurs) and was lacking much rich flavor. I couldn’t really taste the crab so I slightly preferred the pork on its own.

Surprisingly, my favorite were not soup dumplings at all. We also got some fried vegetable dumplings for those at the table that don’t eat meat. But of course, I pushed my way into tasting them. They had a slight crispy exterior but gave way to some fresh and crunchy vegetables. And most importantly, they were hot. You don’t realize how important this is until you have dumplings that are not so hot.

I had read good things about this place so I’m wondering what went wrong. The service was good and the food was all fresh, but I found the dumplings uninspired and a bit flat. Maybe we came on an off day. Maybe we should have stuck with the vegetarian versions. Or maybe I spent too much time trying to document the meal rather than just experiencing it. But did you see this photo I made my friend take of me?

Does Shanghai Asian Manor have the best dumplings in NY? Their soup dumplings were not hot enough and the wrapper was too thick. But the vegetable dumplings were pretty good, crisp and fresh. Together they earn this spot a 6 out of 10.

SHANGHAI ASIAN MANOR
21 Mott Street (between Chatham Square and Worth Street)
Chinatown
(212) 766-6311
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Category: Dumplings

About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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