Xiang Man Lou ('XML') is a tiny Shanghainese Restaurant located at Temple street squeeze between the Temple Inn and a slimming studio. You can be sure that you probably passed this restaurant a few times without taking notice of it. I certainly missed it when I try to locate it, not to mention the non-English or non Hanyu pinyi signboard. Yup, if you have not figured it out until today, now you know Chubby Botak Koala can't read Chinese :)
XML served a traditional Shanghainese Cuisine. Quick research online, it seems that Shanghainese Cuisine uses alcohol freely in their cooking, from entrée to desserts. You basically can associate the drunken chicken, drunken duck or anything soak / cook wine to the Shanghainese cuisine. They are also known to be very bold with their flavour, so be prepare to expect super salty, spicy, tongue numbing and even nectarous flavor.
My recommended dish for XML are drunken chicken (醉鸡), braised pork knuckle(红烧圆蹄), fried frog leg in a mini-pot (干锅牛蛙), Chef's Golden fried rice (金沙炒饭), and mini rice ball with rice wine (桂花酒酿小圆子).
For the drunken chicken (醉鸡), XML uses the bone-in chicken whole leg, which consist of drumstick and thigh. It was soaked with rice wine over a period to time and the result is tender, succulent and full of flavour meat with light aromatic wine taste.
|Drunken Chicken (醉鸡)
The Braised pork knuckle (红烧圆蹄) has a nice brown colour and looks lean. It is easily cut to smaller part with fork and spoon, due to the long cooking process. When you bite into it, the skin seems to melts in your mouth and the meat is very tender. The sauce is slightly salty, and it goes well with rice. Yummy!
|Braised Pork Knuckle (红烧圆蹄)
|Braised Pork Knuckle - in piece (红烧圆蹄)
The fried frog leg in a mini pot (干锅牛蛙) is nicely executed. The frog legs are succulent and the combination of the sliced vegetables and potatoes make this dish close to a comfort food. The spiciness level of this dish was much lower compare to the original version as we were blown off by the spiciness from the other dishes.
|fried frog leg in a mini pot (干锅牛蛙)
|Fried frog leg
Chef's Golden Fried Rice(金沙炒饭) is one of the item not in the current menu. The nicely served round shaped fragrant fried rice gives a al-dente texture with enough 'wok hei'. The wok hei-ness combined with ingredients such as lap cheong and prawn, gives a perfect taste and it is not oily at all. According to manager, it is a very popular dish with Japanese tourists.
|Chef's Golden Fried Rice(金沙炒饭)
For desserts, mini rice ball with rice wine (桂花酒酿小圆子) is a must try, as it is a traditional Shanghainese dessert and of course it nicely prepared. Ingredients consist of mini rice ball, wolfberry and osmanthus flower. Slightly on the sweet side, but combine well with a fragrant low alcohol rice wine.
|mini rice ball with rice wine (桂花酒酿小圆子)
The sweet and sour whole fish (糖醋松子鱼) here is a feast to the eyes. The meat was sliced skilfully, that when it was fried, it come out looking like the pineapple skin. Although the presentation was just gorgeous, it is a pity that it is slightly lacking in taste. The fish is coated with too much flour and the sweet and sour sauce was just too heavy.
|The sweet and sour whole fish (糖醋松子鱼)
If you really wanted to tried some original Shanghainese spicy dishes, deep fried chicken with chilli (歌乐山辣子鸡), seasoned dry beef with pepper(干煸牛肉) and fried Chinese cabbage in Mini-pot (干锅包菜). The are just mind blowing spicy or tongue/lips numbing in some cases. Furthermore, they are super salty too. However, these are the flavours that you will get if you are dining in China. So for our PRC friends, these dishes will remind them of home-cooked food.
|deep fried chicken with chilli (歌乐山辣子鸡)
|seasoned dry beef with pepper(干煸牛肉)
|fried Chinese cabbage in Mini-pot (干锅包菜)
This dish is considered the lighter side of the cuisine, sauteed prawn served with vinegar (清炒虾仁) is a good option. The prawn is small in size, however it is very sweet and crunchy. If you dipped it in vinegar, it will add the tangy flavour into it, but made the prawn feel more crunchy.
|fried Chinese cabbage in Mini-pot (干锅包菜)
The restaurant is simply decorated and very minimalist. Most of the tables catered for small to medium size group (4 to 6 people). Service is all right and the food came at a regular interval.
Overall, XML served traditional Shanghainese cusine, they also provided some other Chinese dishes that cater to the locals' and tourists taste buds. If you are not used to heavy flavours, I suggest you inform the service staff when you order. Ask for less salt and tone down on the spiciness. If I am around the area, I won't mind coming back for their drunken chicken and fried rice. I'll check out their Xiao Long Bao next time as well.
Thank you very much to OpenRice and management of Xiang Man Lou for the tasting invitation. Cheers!!
Food & Drink: 7/10
Budget per Person: $11 - $25