Traditional Dapai consists of fast, casual fare prepped-to-order by many cooks in an open kitchen, and consumed at communal tables. Dapai Xiaochu puts a modern spin on this concept with its tricked-out decor, though its recipes are Nanjing homestyle.
Dapai Xiaochu’s interior looks like an ancient tea-house that mated with an art museum cafeteria. A row of antique jugs traverses the center and t-bones a wooden shelf of bay leaves, chilies, fish, and coconut milk, but the tables are spiffy, plastic, and red and green like at a diner. Hanging from the ceiling are chandeliers composed of messily-scribbled notes. The kitchen is, in accordance with Dapai tradition, open.
For me, the decor was a bit cacophonous: there were too many bright lights, contrasting color schemes, and opposing designs to process. Entering Dapai Xiaochu, I felt like a nocturnal creature emerging from the quiet, night-time desert onto Las Vegas’ main strip.
Fortunately, even the crabbiest of modern art critics can appreciate Dapai Xiaochu’s homestyle Nanjing fare, especially its signature dishes. Go for the steamed pork with glutinous rice (36RMB), a mound of sticky brown rice bisected by wedges of fatty pork and steamed in a banana leaf. The pork wonton soup (26RMB) is also a catch, if only because of its chicken broth, which is light enough to refresh, but also rich enough to insulate you from the cold.
For a guilty pleasure, check out the fried pork dumplings (16RMB/three), which go beyond being your typical bland bags of grease, and actually pop with vibrant meatiness.
If you have a healthy appetite for classic Nanjing cuisine at a good price, and aren’t prone to seizures, check it out.
Dapai Xiaochu – First floor, Xin Cheng Mansion, 167 Jiangning Lu, near Beijing Xi Lu, Jingan district (静安区江宁路167号新城大厦1楼, 近北京西路). Tel: (0)21-6255-5177. Hours: 10.30am-10pm daily.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].