Shanghai Dumpling in Chapel Hill sits between Insomnia Cookies and the CVS pharmacy at 143 Franklin St. Staff writer Mattias Miller spent an evening sampling a few items from the menu.
The entryway is very rustic with stenciled-on Chinese characters and two Chinese lanterns that mark the door. The interior, however, is decorated very simply with a solid colored wall and painting that reminded me a lot of the type of neutral art one would find in a hotel lobby. As soon as you enter the restaurant, there is a sense of narrowness as you funnel in toward the server. However, the dining area is laid out nicely so that the space doesn’t feel cramped. The server seated us extremely quickly and was very helpful throughout the entire dining experience.
None of the decorations inside are particularly eye-popping, but Shanghai Dumpling doesn’t really need to be — the focus is on the food.
The only downside of the space was that there was very little sound throughout the entire restaurant. When I visited, there were only a few other guests, and everyone was quiet. In fact, the only sound to mask the noise of us chewing was the audio of a local news station coming from the TV situated behind us.
I came with a party of three, and we each ordered two items from the menu to share. Shanghai Dumpling’s prices and portions cater to this type of dining. I personally prefer this style because it means I got to try a larger variety of food while also managing to mooch one too many dumplings when I contributed the least amount of food to the table. Together, we ordered the shrimp fried rice, shrimp dumplings, crab meat and pork soup dumplings, custard buns, Chinese cabbage and mushroom dumplings and fried leek crescents. I wasn’t eating meat at the time, which meant my options were limited, but there was a decent variety of dishes that were vegetarian-friendly.
The Chinese cabbage and mushroom dumplings I ordered had a pleasant blend of vegetables that flowed well together and was deliciously transported via a thinly wrapped dumpling. The fried leek crescents exceeded my expectations, as well, and synthesized nicely with the rest of my meal. Finally, ordering the custard buns as dessert is perfect as they have a similar texture to the rest of the meal, but just enough sweetness in the custard to leave you satisfied. As a lover of carbs, this was truly an ideal meal as almost everything, except for the rice, was wrapped in some sort of dumpling or dumpling-like shell. Additionally, if any of the items taste bland, Shanghai Dumplings offers chili and soy sauce at every table to spice up the experience.
Overall, Shanghai Dumpling provided a fun and tasty meal. The concept of ordering several small portions to share around the table is fun, but depending on the party size, requires a hefty wallet to be filling. For my party of three, we each ordered $12-$15 worth of small dishes, which was filling. This price is too high to visit regularly, but if you’ve got the money and courage to venture past CVS, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon sampling Chinese food with friends.
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