My search for the best dumplings in New York continues….

JOE'S SHANGHAI, 9 Pell Street (between Bowery and Doyers Street), Chinatown

The first place most New Yorkers, including myself, have ever tasted soup dumplings is probably at Joe’s Shanghai. It opened in Flushing in 1995 and then soon opened a second location in the heart of Chinatown.

That’s part of why it’s so popular. It’s pretty old in terms of restaurants catering to Shanghainese cuisine and it’s in the middle of where everybody wants to eat Chinese food.

I’ve been here many times, they’ve even been featured on my Chinese dumpling video, but I’ve never sat down to review them. Which is pretty insane, since I’ve trekked out to Sunset Park and Flushing to discern which is the city’s best soup dumplings and these are right in the middle on convenient Chinatown.

Barely Any Crowds

So recently I was walking by and I saw there was no line, no wait, no crowds at Joe’s Shanghai. That’s actually pretty rare, so I took the opportunity to slip in, sit at one of the round communal tables, and order the xiao long bao.

Crab Meat with Pork Meat Steamed Buns at JOE'S SHANGHAI

Every table had at least one bamboo bowl holding the legendary steamed buns. I chose the soup dumplings with both crab and pork – as far as I’m concerned, those are the most authentic variety. At least based on my experience in NYC.

Soup Dumpling at JOE'S SHANGHAI

My first observation is that these were monstrous. Since my first experience, I’ve had many others and these were by far the largest of all the specimens. They almost didn’t fit on the spoon.

I also noticed the wrappers were on the thick side. That certainly helps keep the soup inside until it’s bitten into, but it also weighs down the dumplings. My other problem was that there wasn’t a lof soup inside. I didn’t have any burst of liquid, but instead a dribble of grease.

Soup Dumpling at JOE'S SHANGHAI

These were almost like stew dumplings because the filling was very rich and hovered somewhere between a sauce and a soup. The flavors inside were nice – crab notes are prevalent immediately with some rich pork coming in at the end.

Black Vinegar Sauce

The black vinegar sauce here is a must to cut the greasiness.

Joe's Shanghai

These aren’t bad soup dumplings. They’re definitely tasty, but I’ve had so much better since my first time. I want to thank Joe’s Shanghai for introducing many people to the wonders of xiao long bao, but I encourage everyone to not let their soup dumpling journey start and end here.

Does Joe’s Shanghai make the best dumplings in NY? Although they usually get all the credit, these aren’t the best. They’re a good intro, but the thick wrappers and overly greasy stock keep these from being the best. They get a 6 out of 10.

JOE’S SHANGHAI
9 Pell Street (between Doyers Street and Bowery),
Chinatown
(212) 233-8888
136-21 37th Avenue (between Main Street and 138th Street),
Flushing, Queens
(718) 539-3838
24 West 56th Street (between Sixth and Fifth Avenue),
Midtown West
(212) 333-3868
joeshanghairestaurants.com
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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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