Saturday, January 12, 2008

Joe's Shanghai

Yes, I know, what a horrible name/translation for a Chinese restaurant. I guess, in some ways, it is similar to the food, really really excellent along one dimension and failing past mediocrity in others.

Some of you may know that I am a big fan of XLB. I think that's an acronym I picked up from Kirk. Anyway, Joe's Shanghai is well-known for their ridiculously good XLB. Seriously, Din Tai Fung had better hope to God that Joe's does not expand beyond its three stores in the NYC area. (BTW, we stopped by the Chinatown shop, but they also have one uptown and in Flushing, Queens.)

Before I begin my love poem, have a picture first:Leaving aside the issue of "does size matter", one must admit that 8 of these gigantic XLB for the low price of $4.65 is a f***ing steal. And as a side note, I should mention that my mom first ordered the version with crab meat, which had a strange taste. Also, it costs more. (crab is expensive?) However, I successfully argued that XLTB was significantly different from standard XLB. (After all, why does XLTB sell out so quickly at Dumpling House when XLB does not?) So what you see here is one of eight XLTB that we got. Yes, that IS a standard size Chinese-style soup spoon.

The broth you see starting to spill out is mostly from inside the XLB with a small amount of vinegar: as you can see the XLB is still quite plump, indicating quite a bit more broth inside. And the broth is soooo good... Such a perfect flavor. It's hard to compare the quality, but all the ones I had were as expected, rich and juicy, perfectly flavored pork inside, complemented by just as much vinegar and ginger as you desire. The wrapping was also done excellently, thinnish on the bottom, having soaked up so much broth on the inside, and yet the top part was dry and easy to grab with the metal tongs, indicating a very well balanced thickness that allows for comfortable eating while preserving the broth inside from spilling because the wrapper was too thin. Tastewise, I would say that Din Tai Fung is comparable in flavor, but Joe's wins along multiple fronts: broth quantity, overall size, and price.

If you ever stop by NYC and you don't have an aversion to XLB, I highly recommend you spend a paltry 5 bucks and grab yourself and excellent meal. Heck, it's cheaper than a decent combo at McDonald's.

My one and only complaint about Joe's (and a rather large complaint at that) is that the rest of their food ranges from mediocre to Teh Suck. The noodles we ordered (Shanghai Fried Flat Noodle, I believe, based on a suggestion from a review my Mom read) were mediocre: just soy-sauce flavored that could've used some more nutty flavor or veggies or Something. The fried rice we ordered for my brother was just crappy: cold, bland, mostly rice, with very little veggies, egg, or chicken. I made better fried rice the first time I made it. (And now my fried rice is even better still, tempered by years of cooking experience and knowledge of seasonings.) I should also mention that the noodles and fried rice were priced at $6.95 and $7.25 respectively. So with 8 XLB at $4.65, why would you want to order anything else? Get your variety some other day.

When we went, we managed to find a spot splitting a large table with two other small parties. However, as we left the place, there was a large line, so I suggest going early to grab a comfortable spot during the lunch time rush. Of course, the non-Chinatown locations might be less crowded, but I find that somehow hard to believe...

Joe's Shanghai
9 Pell Street (off of The Bowery)
New York, New York 10013

24 W 56 Street
New York, New York 10019

136-21 7th Avenue
Flushing, New York 11354

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Blogger KirkK said...

You have given a major jone's for some good XLB........
Thanks for the link.

January 28, 2008 at 2:42 PM  

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