A few years back, New Yorkers often returned from Chinatown with chins glistening and grease splattered on their shirts. They'd fallen in love with Shanghai soup dumplings, noodle reservoirs bulging with greasy gravy, ground pork, and—if you were lucky—a few shreds of crab. Known more properly as xiao lung bao, these "tiny juicy buns" were architectural wonders that had to be eaten by scooping the fragile bags from their lettuce beds, nipping off the puckered top, then sucking out the hot gravy—a potentially dangerous operation that sometimes resulted in squirting molten lard across the table. The fad has largely evaporated and half the restaurants have closed, which is probably how Shanghai Café slunk into town two years ago unnoticed. While many of the earlier places were clearly aimed at non-Asian diners, this modernistic Mott Street spot supplements higher-end dishes with tons of lower-end stuff like noodles, soups, fried rices, and stir fries, and the place clearly came as a boon to its young and sometimes frugal Chinese patrons. The menu still flogs the juicy buns, but in three versions. The most expensive ($6.95 for 8) features pork and a larger wad of crab than has ever been found in a juicy bun before. Sans crab, the dumplings are two dollars less, and I don't know which to recommend, since each is equally good in its own way. A third type cloaks gravy and pork in a doughier dumpling, fried crisp on the bottom like a pot sticker. The squirting grease... More >>>