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Girdled by the South China Sea, the islands and peninsula that make up Hong Kong have had to grow up rather than out. This geographical constraint has resulted in more than twice as many skyscrapers as any other city in the world (1,251 and counting), and many of those high-rises house malls jam-packed with some of the best restaurants in the city. Now the trend of dining out amongst designer shops is heading north to Shanghai, as developers erect facsimiles of Hong Kong’s favorite malls on both sides of the Huangpu River. At IAPM, the latest shopping spot stocked with HK brands to open its doors to Shanghai, it seems fitting that Tao Heung is one of the most popular spots in the foodie and shopping mecca.

This dim sum and hotpot chain opened its first branch in Sai Wan in 1991. Over the past decade, it has expanded into southern China, with more than 130 restaurants, as well as an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2007. The IAPM location is its first foray into Shanghai, and with queues of hungry diners lining up since it opened last August, it’s already proving to be a huge hit.

Tao Heung, photo by UnTour ShanghaiIf you come during peak meal times, expect to wait at least 30 minutes or up to an hour on weekends for your number to be called. Peek over the balcony and watch the constant entertainment – dancers, musicians, magicians and more perform on the ground floor stage in the atrium – or take a quick spin through the two-story Apple store to kill time. Or use your time wisely, and head to the menu console and preorder your meal. The handy touchscreen showcases mouthwatering pictures of the steamer baskets, and once you make your selections, you hand your receipt to the hostess while being led to your table to expedite the process. It eliminates language barriers and is all very efficient and orderly, not unlike Hong Kong itself.

Dishes are unbeatably cheap, and a centralized food processing and logistics center ensures that the dim sum quality is the same here as in HK, meaning it’s all very, very good. It’s the place to try those slightly more intimidating dim sum dishes, easing your way into meaty steamed chicken’s feet (酱汁蒸凤爪, jiàngzhī zhēng fèngzhǎo) and the sweet stink of the flaky durian pastries (榴莲千丝酥, liúlián qiānsī sū), both the best versions of these dishes we’ve had in Shanghai.

Tao Heung, photo by UnTour ShanghaiAll the classic yum cha dishes are done well here. Excellent steamed pork ribs (蒸排骨, zhēng páigǔ) come served on a bed of tofu skin with fermented black beans and rings of red and green peppers. Fragrant pork dumplings (烧卖, shāomài) wrapped in yellow dough are topped with tiny but plump shrimp and a sprinkle of roe. And the quintessential steamed shrimp dumplings (虾饺皇, xiājiǎo huáng) have over 1,000 well-deserved likes on Dianping (China’s version of Yelp).

The daikon radish cake (萝卜糕, luóbogāo) is one of the few dishes that looks different from the traditional rendition. Tao Heung’s improved version is cut into small cubes instead of the larger rectangles, which maximizes the amount of surface area for spicy XO sauce.

None of these dishes costs more than 25 RMB (and some go for as little as 8 RMB on weekday specials). If this is the future of mall dining in Shanghai, we can definitely stomach that.

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Published on April 24, 2014

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