456 Shanghai Cuisine is run by the grandson of the owner of the well regarded original 456 that was located in China Town’s Chatham Square in the 1970s. Forty years later the reborn 456 is an unassuming, plate glass fronted restaurant on Mott Street just below Canal Street. Soon after it opened in 2011 the NY Times put it on the culinary map with a good overall review and a glowing recommendation for its soup dumplings. While the main menu, at least the parts of it written in English, offers mainly American-Chinese dishes, the appetizer menu includes many traditional dumplings offerings.
The Dumplings: We tried the Pork and Crab soup dumplings (Xiao Long Bao), the tiny fried pork buns (Sheng Jian) and the steamed vegetable dumplings.
Pork and crab soup dumplings – These were probably the best of the dumpling varieties that we tried. The wrappers were thin and supple but retained their integrity and held in their soup, which was fatty and pork infused. The pork and crab filling lacked any flavor influences from the crab, but was tasty. Not the best soup dumpling I have had in NYC, but a solid effort.
Tiny fried pork buns – Sheng Jian are a traditional breakfast dish in Shanghai that are similar to soup dumplings in that they are supposed to contain a pork aspic based soup along with a pork meat filling. These dumplings are pan fried on the bottom and steam cooked on the top and are served sprinkled with sesame seeds and slivered scallions. The Sheng Jian at 456 Shanghai Cuisine were some of the largest I have been served, part of their size was attributable to the thicker than usual bun style wrapper. I was disappointed that 456’s version of these dumplings didn’t contain any soup, I suspect that the liquid had been absorbed by the outer bun.
Steamed Vegetable Dumplings – the vegetable dumplings had green colored wrappers; they were probably colored with spinach juice. The batch of these dumplings we tried had a very sweet flavor, very close to the flavor of a good steamed shrimp Har Gow. I think the sweetness came from the wrapper, because the vegetable filling was pretty generic and flavorless.
The Dipping Sauce: The soup dumplings came with the usual black vinegar sauce with slivered ginger and the veggie dumplings came with a mild soy based sauce that wasn’t particularly memorable.
The Location: 456 Shanghai Cuisine is on Mott Street between Canal and Bayard Street, it is on the west side of the block, about a third of the way down from Canal street.