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What is XLB? XLB is Xiao-Long Bao (ze-yaw long bau) traditional steamed buns that hail from Shanghai culture. It’s typically enjoyed as dim sum but has made it’s way into other times of the day – like today where it was part of dinner.
I came here with two friends, and surprise – we had to wait outside in a lineup. We waited for maybe about 30 minutes with a growing lineup behind us. This restaurant is a cramped and narrow space, so if you’re claustrophobic, you might have an issue here. We shared a small table and were given utensils and tea right away.
I noticed that the service here is much more friendlier than your typical Chinese dive – people actually smile, thank you and are generally polite. Our server came to take our order fairly quick and thanked us.
The first dish to come was the Pan-Fried Chicken Dumplings (8 pieces for $7.50). Although they don’t seem like much, they were actually quite good. They were made mostly of minced chicken and cabbage but the dough was crispy and soft.
After our first dish, we waited for about 10-15 minutes for our next dish to arrive. We think that they might’ve given our orders to the tables beside us (even though they arrived maybe 20 minutes after we did). Our server came over and asked us if we received our dishes and we explained to her we had not. She then went over to where the cooks were and it looked like she was straightening it out (in Mandarin).
Anyway, eventually our food came after this and the next dish was the Peaceful Beef Rolls ($6.95) which is fried dough, five spiced beef and sweet hoisin all rolled up into these large rolls. These were the biggest beef rolls I’ve seen for a restaurant and although they a little burnt, they weren’t so bad. There was the perfect ratio of beef to hoisin sauce so that the dish wasn’t dry.
We also ordered Peaceful Potato Rolls ($6.95) – same concept as the beef rolls but with shredded potatoes, scallions and a sweet vinegarette sauce. I couldn’t tell which one I liked more.
Our next dish I believe- was the Shanghai Stir-fried noodles ($9.95). I had just come back from a feast so I didn’t try this one out. My friend told me that it tasted very salty with oyster sauce than the soy sauce it claims to be made with on the menu.
Finally the Xiao Long Bao. The reason for the journey to this restaurant (for me anyway). They’re $6.95 for 8 pieces. There are many ways to eat the XLB, but from what I’ve learned is you take a bite off the top and drink the ‘juice’ from the inside of the dumpling. The juice is sweet and savoury. The meat was good, tasted fresh and the wrapper was chewy and soft at the same time. The XLB is good here, but I guess maybe since everyone seemed to hype it up when I had it, there was much left to be desired. I’m still going to say that Dinesty has been my best experience for XLB.
I’m all for hole-in the walls, but with the prices they charge here, they could use a renovation. Our table was covered in grease and since we parked in the back, I had a little peek of their kitchen, let’s just say I wasn’t that impressed. I know that any kitchen at any restaurant can be dirty (thanks to my Environmental Health know-it-all husband) and I would never know, but …please, renovate your restaurant. Maybe expand it so that there’s more chairs too.