It sounds like the words of a song, I shouldn't like Shanghai Noodle House, but I do. There isn't anything special about the food, it's one of the daggiest, most obscure places in Chinatown and the service and price are pretty much par for the course. But I always enjoy myself here, largely because it's one of the least pretentious places to eat around.
It's been a while since my last visit, twelve months or more, but it did seem somewhat cleaner than I remembered. There were still the same plastic tables and chairs and tea urn near the door but without the slight film of grease over everything. It still has the same long menu and specials stuck to the wall though, including things rarely seen outside of the more authentic Chinese restaurants in Melbourne (spicy sliced pig stomach anyone?).
With only three of us on the day our choices were limited. My favourite dish was undoubtedly the Xinjiang lamb. Tender, juicy, moderately spicy, it even looked pretty with the addition of a little greenery. While it no longer seems to be available as a claypot dish, it's the one dish we tried that I could happily eat again and again.
The major problem with our other two dishes was that I thought they were both a little oily. The pork dumplings weren't what I expected, with a comparatively delicate skin and appearing to have been pan fried rather than deep fried. At $7.50 for 15 these are not the best dumplings in Chinatown but they are pretty good value for money. The small puddle of oil left on the plate after finishing was a little disconcerting though.
I wasn't a huge fan of the Szechuan pork with vegetables. For starters I'm not really a fan of pork thin sliced then stir fried, I think it loses too much of its 'meaty' texture. Both texture and taste wise this dish didn't really do it for me, with the vegetables seeming to be cabbage and something which looked a bit like lemongrass but with a woody texture which we couldn't identify. Again a bit oily and given there are so many other choices available I wouldn't order it again.
One of those places that I get an occasional urge to visit. It's no longer quite as cheap as it used to be or the serves as large but to compensate it doesn't feel like you need to wipe the table down before ordering. Not as popular as Shanghai Dumpling a few metres away but still popular enough that on a Friday lunchtime all the tables filled up before 1pm. It's worth giving it a go and whether you enjoy it or not will probably depend on what you are looking for in a Chinese restaurant - it's cheap and cheerful but a little dodgy. And I shouldn't like it, but I do.
Food - 6.5
Ambience - 5.5
Service - 6
Price - 7
242 Little Bourke Street (Down Tattersalls Lane)
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9662 9380