I've been meaning to try Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao for a long time, but there is always a pretty serious line and for whatever reason i've never had time to go. I finally got to go on President's day for a late lunch (3pm) with my gf (sort of overboard on Chinese New Year's eating...I went there and then to Lu's for pork chop rice). Nan Xiang is on Prince between 38th and 39th, it doesn't have an english sign and the onning is red (if you look on yelp there is a picture on the onning). A little lesson in food, Nan Xiang is the name of the area where soup dumplings were invented.
It's laid out almost exactly the same as Canton Gourmet, which is next door. You walk in and there are some tables and area where you can see them steaming XLB, on the left there is another doorway which leads into another room that is cramped with tables. While the decor is plain (wooden tables and plain white walls) it was very clean and new looking for chinese restaurant.
The service was generally fine, but the XLB took forever to come out (like 40 mins). I was getting annoyed as was the table next to me who was yelling at the waitress the whole time about how bad the service was etc. I think it had to do with the kitchen not the waitress, so i did feel sort of bad for the waitress who kept apologizing and was being really nice about the whole thing.
The menu is very short consisting of typical taiwanese / shanghaiese breakfast items (sweet and salty soy bean milk, you tiao etc), some cold shanghainese appetizers, soup dumplings, a few noodle and soup dishes. They keep it short and specialize, which is exactly how I like things done.
Anyhow, onto the food:
- scallion oil noodles (cong you ban mian): this is a bowl of thin noodles with a sauce made out of soy sauce and scallion oil I believe; I think the scallions were browned, fermented and put in the oil. This version was much better than the version at Taste of Shanghai (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/647259). The noodles were reasonably al dente, they weren't hand pulled, but they were good; they remind me of ramen. The sauce was very nice and not too salty and had great flavor from the scallion. Both my gf and I both thought it was good. I actually ordered it thinking it would be small (cost $3.50), but it was a big bowl if I had eaten it alone I would've been full. I would definitely get this again
- sweet soy bean milk (tian dou jiang): this was just hot sweet soy bean milk, it was good, not chalky and clean tasting. My gf thought it was a little watery, but we are probably spoiled as the last time I had fresh soy bean milk was in Taipei 2 months ago at Yong He Dou Jiang Wang, which is by far the best taiwanese / shanghainese breakfast I've ever had. Overall, this was good and better than most places in NY
- soup dumplings with crab meat (xie fen xiao long bao): while I like XLB alot, I'm not obsessed with them like alot of people are, so I wasn't like aching for these, but I was pleasantly surprised with the high quality of these XLB as I've sort of trained myself for disappointment in NY. This is the first good batch I've had in NY and having just eaten at Din Tai Fung in Taipei I've got a good comparison to go on. The skins were much better than any of the other places in NY, normally I've found XLB in NY to be too doughy and not tender enough, here they were not too doughy and were tender. They weren't quite as delicate as Din Tai Fung, which has exceptionally delicate skins, but they were good. The filling was what really set them apart from most of the mediocre XLB in NY, all of the places in NY have overly heavy and greasy filling. Not the case here, the filling was very good, the meat was tender and the soup was very flavorful but not greasy and heavy. Overall, we both thought these were very good and I definitely think these are the best XLB in NYC by a long shot.
It was a good meal and while I'll warn people that a) this place usually has a wait and b) be prepared to wait for your XLB if you want XLB this is the place to go in NYC. I also really want to come back for breakfast as their breakfast items looked really good. Highly recommend