Tao Heung is one of the most popular restaurants in iAPM Mall, Shanghai. During meal times, it is common to wait for over an hour for a table. Is the food that good, or is it just hype? Well, I think it’s a little of both.
People like to have what the other kid is having. By that, I mean that for many people, in Shanghai and other parts of the world alike, when they see a queue, they want in on what the people are queuing for; A queue of 5, becomes 10; 10 becomes 20, and so on. One of the most interesting phenomenons I’ve observed in my 8 years in Shanghai, are the local ‘Shanghainese Delis’. These small shady-looking shops are akin the the western deli; All of them selling the same cooked produce – smoked/fried fish, steamed chicken, roasted duck, stewed duck, etc.
The funny thing is, 9 out of 10 times when I pass by any of these shops downtown, there is always a queue of 10 or more. Be it on Huai Hai Road, or on a small lesser known street off Xin Tian Di. It simply boggles my mind, because the food items have never looked appetising enough to attract me.
Anyways, on with Tao Heung, a cantonese dim sum, seafood restaurant that originated from Hong Kong, and have now followed the also Hong Kong(ese) iAPM Mall to Shanghai.
To put the long story short, the food at Tao Heung is decent, cheap and accessible. As a matter of fact, Tao Heung is probably 1 of the cheapest restaurants to eat at iAPM Mall Shanghai.
They have a selection of 4 dim sums that go for ¥8 each. Order all 4 plus the obligatory pot of tea charged per person, and boom! You’re good to go with a meal for under $50 from a well known restaurant chain, in one of the finest malls in Shanghai.
While many of the patrons are at Tao Heung for the dim sum, they do have a big traditional seafood restaurant menu, and also specialise in cantonese style seafood hotpot, which I might try someday. The restaurant is structured like a typical hong kong dim sum restaurant, big large halls with round tables side by side. It can get noisy at times, and while the place is spotlessly clean, this is no venue for ambience.
How was the dim sum for a dim sum aficionado like myself? It’s decent, good value, but not fantastic nor particularly authentic.
Actually, I found their execution spot on, only to falter by some of the ingredients used, which I felt were slightly lacking, probably in order to save costs and keep the prices low.
This was my second visit to Tao Heung, and these were what my wife and I had.
叉烧肠粉 Rice rolls with char siu
Choice of plate could be better. The rice rolls here are quite special, because they are very chewy. They are paper thin as they should, but somehow, the rice roll chef (yes, there is a dedicated lady who just does rice rolls, pictured at the top of the post), managed to concoct a batter that results in thin but chewy rice sheets. To be honest, I’m not sure if I like it better, because I’m more used to rice rolls which required less effort to pull apart with chop sticks and chew. These rice rolls actually had quite abit of bite and resistance to them, like an al dente lasagne.
The char siu (chinese bbq pork) was quite tasteless and forgettable. No beautifully charred and sweet tasting meat. Quite a disappointment, to be honest. I usually order my rice rolls wrapped with shrimp, but wanted to try the char siu one because we already have quite a few shrimp items. 6/10
奶皇马拉卷 Custard ‘malay’ roll.
This was the missus’s item. I had a piece. It was comfortably sweet, soft and fluffy. If you like your cakes warm and want a sweet counterpart to the savoury dishes, this could be it, otherwise, there’s really nothing much to shout about. 7/10
虾饺 Har gao aka shrimp dumpling.
A must have on every dim sum table, unless you are allergic to shellfish. The skin is competently done, thin but with a slight resistance, so one can pick it up without the whole package falling apart. They were tasty, but lacked the specific flavour of the ones in Hong Kong. If you want to know what is this aforementioned flavour I’m talking about, try the har gaos in Tang Palace or Crystal Jade.
The actual fillings were abit questionable, because I took one apart, and found 1 entire shrimp, 1 section of a bamboo shoot, and some bits of shrimp and fatty pork filler. I thought it was a little unusual to see shrimp bits, because in many other dim sum places, they would use at least 2 whole shrimps, some fatty pork to boost the flavor. The overall size of the har gao here were quite small. 7/10
烧卖 Siu Mai.
Siu Mai in Shanghai is a totally different item from the southern siu mai that I’ve grown up eating. The ones around Shanghai are simply wonton skins wrapped around flavoured glutinous rice. The ones in the south are wonton skins wrapped around a pork and shrimp mince, and often topped with crab/shrimp roe.
I really enjoyed Tao Heung’s rendition, which has an entire shrimp placed on top front and center, and a nice generous lump of shrimp roe. The pork mince within was very nicely seasoned, and the entire package was delicious, even more so paired with some of their chilli sauce. This item tasted as good as it looked. 8.5/10
鱼翅灌汤饺 Sharks fin soup dumpling.
Ok most dim sum places that sell this item actually do not use real sharks fin, but an artificial vermicelli imitation. That said, the contents of the dumpling would usually have some flavourful ingredients like dried mushrooms, dried scallops, shrimp, crab meat, etc.
As a child, I would be delighted whenever my mum ordered this for me, because it is often a premium dish with real sharksfin, and the whole concept of a huge dumpling with goodies in it was akin to opening a christmas present.
All that said, I did not find anything that resembled sharks fin in Tao Heung’s soup dumpling, not even the fake stuff.
The filling was essentially pork, shrimp and seafood-sticks (surimi) (!?). Very simple. Too simple. A little insulting to me, because I feel that seafood sticks aka Surimi aka Crabsticks belong to the Ma La Tang (麻辣烫) stall, and not a restaurant of this calibre. I would have preferred the skin of the dumpling to be thinner and less dense. The broth was tasty, but i suspect msg-laden, judging from the cups of tea we thirsted for. That said, it only cost ¥20. Which really makes this difficult to score. For ¥20? Yes, this is a good deal. But coming from a person who wants to eat a proper cantonese soup dumpling? I would have paid upwards of ¥40 for a more decent one, instead of getting a half-assed one. So the verdict? 7/10 for half-assed-ness but extra points for value.
金沙红米肠 Golden sand red rice roll.
As I was sitting by the open kitchen section, I could see all the plates that were going out.
This dish was by far the most popular dish of the day. More plates of this went out than plates of har gao and siu mai.
I had initially mistook this for the traditional glutinous rice wrapped in pork intestine dish, and only realised this mistake after the dish arrived. This one was essentially the same chewy rice rolls but with some red colouring (hopefully natural), wrapped around a thin crispy fried batter that was wrapped around some shrimp.
Texture-wise, it was quite fantastic, because on first bite, you get the smooth and silky texture of the rice skin, and then you get a distinct crunch, before sinking your teeth into the sweet delicate shrimp within. While a sauce was indeed needed to aid in transporting the dish down the food pipe, the soy sauce mixture was a little salty and made the dish too savoury as a whole. A lighter acidic component like a soy-vinegar mixture would be much more suitable to cut the grease and richness. 8/10
Unfortunately, this second experience really left me quite disappointed. Tao Heung is not worth a 1hr wait, unless you are after having above-average dim sum at cheap prices in a posh shopping mall.
I need to give Jade Garden a try soon to complete my dim sum round up!