Shanghai Taste: Authentic xiao long bao in Las Vegas

Shanghai Taste located in Las Vegas, Nevada
Shanghai Taste located in Las Vegas, Nevada

Over the last decade, I have been lucky enough to have traveled to China many times. On these trips, I have experienced new flavors and foods including authentic xiao long bao. Unfortunately, traveling internationally is all but impossible these days. This means if I want to taste the flavors and foods from my travels, I have to search for them closer to home.

If you are looking for Asian food in Las Vegas, you go to one place: Chinatown. Though called Chinatown, you will find more than just Chinese restaurants. Korean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, and more. You will find it all here in one of the many strip malls found along Spring Mountain Road, just west of the Las Vegas Strip in the shadows of the mega resorts.

Located in the heart of Las Vegas Chinatown is Shanghai Taste. This restaurant specializes in xiao long bao, more commonly known as the soup dumpling. At Shanghai Taste, xiao long bao are rolled by hand from scratch. Guests can watch the chefs through a window as they prepare these dumplings by hand. Other than xiao long bao, the unique menu features an assortment of authentic Shanghainese dishes which stand out in the sea of restaurants in Chinatown.

Interior

Simple interior
Simple interior

I found the décor at Shanghai Taste to be simple, as are many Chinese restaurants. People come for the food, not the décor. While small, the dining room felt open and bright with maroon walls adorned with Chinese artwork. The cozy yet modern dining room felt more like a restaurant in China than one found in a strip mall in Las Vegas.

As mentioned before, the xiao long bao at Shanghai Taste were made by hand. This process could be viewed through a window located between the front door and dining room. If you want a front row view of the kitchen, be sure to ask for a seat on the window.

Shanghai Taste Menu

Shanghai Taste menu
Shanghai Taste menu

Whenever I dine at Chinese restaurants, I can count on the menu being huge. Page after page of endless options that make ordering difficult and time consuming. Fortunately, I found the menu at Shanghai Taste to be straight forward and compact yet filled with interesting choices. The simple menu made ordering easy, especially on my first visit.

The menu was separated into eight sections. This included pan fried, appetizers, steamed, soup & wonton, noodles, fried rice & noodles, vegetable, and dessert. While the menu appeared small, it had a lot of great choices.

As with many dim sum restaurants, the menu was printed on a piece of paper. Items could be ordered by using a pen to write down the quantity of each plate. When ready to order, simply hand the piece of paper to your server.

Oils and Sauces

An assortment of condiments could be found on the table, a common sight at many Chinese restaurants. You had soy sauce, black vinegar, chili oil, and a sambal chili sauce. I poured each condiment into the small bowl with shredded ginger to create my own soy sauce-vinegar-chili oil dipping sauce. The smell was intoxicating and added flavor to each dish.

XLB – Combo Xiao Long Bao

The colorful Xiao Long Bao
The colorful Xiao Long Bao

At the recommendation of my server, I ordered the XLB – Combo Xiao Long Bao ($12.95). Xiao long bao are a type of Chinese steamed bun commonly known as soup dumplings. You can find them all over China, especially Shanghai. If you’ve ever been to Din Tai Fung, then you know what I am talking about.

These xiao long bao were colorful. You had a beige dumping with pork, a yellow dumpling with crab, a green dumpling with shrimp, and a black dumpling with beef. The vivid colors were derived naturally from ingredients such as bok choy, carrot, and squid ink.

Each of the eight handmade dumplings were not only beautiful but uniform with the same amount of folds. The skin of each dumpling was just thick enough to hold in the hot broth and tender filling inside yet thin enough to be chewy and light. This process took months of experimentation by the chefs.

The pork stuffed xiao long bao was my favorite. The perfect combination of tender pork and scallions with a lot of rich, salty broth. The crab stuffed xiao long bao seemed to be filled with some sort of dried seafood. These dumplings had an intense, salty, ocean flavor that I enjoyed, but the flavor might be too strong for some. The shrimp stuffed xiao long bao was filled with a tender piece of shrimp along with cucumbers for added texture. I enjoyed the clear, salty shrimp flavored broth. The simplest, the beef xiao long bao, was rich with its distinct beef flavor thanks to the 100% Angus beef filling.

While I enjoyed all the dumplings, when I return, I would order just the pork xiao long bao. They were my favorite.

Shanghai Duck

The Shanghai Duck
The Shanghai Duck

I am a huge fan of roasted duck. One of the best experiences I have had was eating Peking duck at Jingzun Peking Duck Restaurant in Beijing, China. So, when I saw the Shanghai Duck ($12.95) on the menu, I knew I had to order it. But, to be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.

For the price, I was impressed by the amount of duck served on the plate. Not only that, it was beautiful. The sauce glistened under the lights of the restaurant. And, it tasted just as great as it looked. When I took a bite, the duck almost melted in my mouth. Tender, chewy, fatty bits complemented the dark, moist pieces.

A sweet yet savory sauce covered the entire duck, flowing down onto the plate below. This thick, sticky sauce covered every inch of the duck with delicious, umami flavor that reminded me of my travels to China.

The only thing I had to watch out for were the bones. And, there were a lot of them so I had to be careful. I gave up trying to use a fork. I just dug in with my hands and ate each piece like a chicken wing. When I found a bone, I ate around it. Messy, but worth it.

Spicy Wonton in Chili Oil Sauce

Spicy Wonton in Chili Oil Sauce
Spicy Wonton in Chili Oil Sauce

In the mood for something spicy, I ordered the Spicy Wonton in Chili Oil Sauce ($9.95). I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of wontons served in the small plastic bowl.

Though similar to xiao long bao, the skin of each wonton was thinner and more delicate, yet did not fall apart in the chili oil sauce. The texture of the skin reminded me of a fresh pasta. Inside each wonton, a simple filling of tender pork and green vegetables.

The chili oil sauce was my favorite part of this dish. While technically a chili oil sauce, it tasted more of an aromatic, spicy, smoky broth to me. I even drank it like a broth. The flavors of the vegetables and herbs, including cilantro and green onions, added to the depth of flavors. While the wontons on their own were great, they were much better coated in the aromatic, smoky chili oil sauce.

Shanghai Scallion Pancake

The simple Shanghai Scallion Pancake
The simple Shanghai Scallion Pancake

Whether Korea, Japan, or China, each country has its own unique version of a scallion pancake. You can find them on the streets and at markets all across Asia in one form or another. At Shanghai Taste, they served their version of the Shanghai Scallion Pancake ($3.95).

This circular pancake, cut into quarters, was thinner than most pancakes I have had in the past. The thickness reminded me of a crepe instead of a traditional savory pancake. I found each slice to be crispy and crunchy on the outside while airy and chewy on the inside. Though thin, the complimenting crispy and chewy textures made this a great dish.

Baked into the pancake were thin pieces of tender yet crunchy scallions. I could smell the aromatics of the fresh scallions even before I picked up a slice. For added flavor, I dipped each slice of the pancake into the soy sauce-ginger-vinegar-chili oil mixture.

Service

Service at Shanghai Taste was friendly and straight to the point. As this was my first visit, I decided to order dishes recommended by my fast talking server. I’m glad I took her advice as I enjoyed each and every dish. Even better, my food arrived promptly after ordering. Another great thing about Shanghai Taste was how clean the restaurant and dining room were. I’ve never seen tables being cleaned so fast after a guest left.

Conclusion

If there is one thing I miss about traveling, it’s the food. Since I can’t travel to Asia for the foreseeable future, my next best option is to seek out authentic restaurants with those familiar flavors. As I watched the chefs preparing and rolling handmade xiao long bao at Shanghai Taste, I knew I had come to the right place. The flavors and smells of the dishes, whether the scallion pancake dipped in chili oil or the broth of the xiao long bao, reminded me of past trips. While it might not be the same as eating in China, Shanghai Taste in Las Vegas Chinatown might be the next best thing.

Pros

  • Hand rolled, made from scratch xiao long bao
  • Authentic, flavorful dishes
  • Efficient service
  • Clean

Cons

  • A lot of bones in the Shanghai Duck

Hours

Monday-Sunday: 11:00AM-9:00PM

Address

4266 W Spring Mountain Rd 104 A, Las Vegas, NV 89102
GPS Coordinates: 36.12740,-115.19719

Map

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