Not Your Mama's Dim Sum at Mi Mian Hui Xin

By Sophie Steiner, May 21, 2021

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The Place

Dim sum is what comes to mind when the craving for Cantonese food hits – we’re talking everyday street food that drums up a wistful sense of sentimentality for anyone who has spent more than a long weekend in Asia’s answer to New York. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

But dim sum within Shanghai’s dining scene spans the gamut, with everything from dingy hole-in-the-walls crammed with angry ayis rolling pushcarts over your toes, to upscale Michelin star restaurants where steamer baskets are placed atop pristine white tablecloths by waiters wearing equally crisp white gloves. 

Enter Mi Mian Hui Xin in Wukang Market a middle of the road, everyday dim sum and Hong Kong diner focusing on nailing the classics with just a few surprises. 

The woman behind the scenes is none other than Michelle Zhou (Mi Thai) who also has her hand in Wagas, as the owner's wife. Zhou brands her venues with her namesake "Mi" coming from her Chinese name and the first two letters of her English name. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Back to the venue, inside are white walls, sky blue booths, glass tiling and light cedarwood accents. Industrial metal lining is softened by hanging planters stuffed with ferns and other assorted floppy flora. The dumpling cooks wear face masks, working with precision behind a glass window, like quick-moving surgeons, folding, layering and frying with fastidious care. 

The Food

The menu is large, spanning steamed and fried dim sum, roasted meats, diner fare, sharing plates, Canto soups, desserts and drinks. Whether someone of Cantonese descent would fully approve of the state of dim sum at this diner is up in the air, but the fact remains that, regardless of rustic authenticity, it’s tasty. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Not necessarily transcendent, but the range is laudable, with classics well represented – steaming baskets of pork fat-filled, thin-skinned xiaolongbao, crimped shrimp wontons bathed in chili oil, pleated har gow, diced pork belly tightly wrapped in a translucently thin rice roll and crispy fried cubes of radish cake robed in crustacean-flecked XO drizzle.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Like clothesline ghosts, the rippled Shrimp Dumplings in Spicy Sauce (RMB42) arrive swimming in fiery red chili oil emulating the perfect balance of both peppercorn buzz ma and chili-pepper burn la that the name promises. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Take an edge off the heat with a sip of the Hui Xin Signature Milk Tea (RMB32), paradigmatic of the creamy, frothed naicha found in every country that the British Empire laid claim to once upon a time. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The ugly duckling on the table (but far from ugly tasting), black-freckled Steamed Sesame Xiaolongbao (RMB22/3 pieces, RMB42/6 pieces), sag like water balloons ready to explode on impact. A tidal wave of sugary black sesame molten lava unleashes a flavor onslaught on your mouth in the best sweet interpretation of a xiaolongbao we have ever tasted.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Soft as bread pudding’s inside, the Fried Radish Cakes with XO Sauce (RMB42) are securely seared with a flat-top grill char, so the mingling undertones of smoke, seafood and spice cause undulating waves of flavor intensity in all directions. 

DSC01426.jpgSignature Steamed Xiaolongbao (RMB12/3 pieces, RMB24/6 pieces), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Stir-Fried Rice Noodles with Beef (RMB68) arrive glistening with equal parts pork lard and dark soy sauce, as the springy mifen curl their way around the thick-cut meat slices, interspersed with bean sprouts, scallions and onion slivers. In a word – textbook. In two – crushing it. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Sinkhole-pocked firm tofu is coupled with roasted garlic, stewed mushrooms, dried shrimp and cured pork in the Tofu Stew in Clay Pot (RMB48) – a humble dish that brings out the soy’s delicate flavor in both curd and broth form.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Yet, at times, execution sees some missteps. The crackled surface we crave on a Hong Kong-style Roast Duck (RMB88) is inexplicably missing, yet the juicy, earthy-flavored meat inside makes up for it in taste. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Similarly, the steamed equilateral triangles of Black Truffle Mushroom Dumplings (RMB32) are graced with a dark core of minced fungi and truffles pressed right up against the crystal-clear wrappers. The savory, umami-rich chew, however, is regrettably overshadowed by the gooey dumpling exterior due to over-steaming. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The rich, milky gravy of the Signature Beef Brisket & Tendon with Curry (RMB68) emulates flavors rooted in nostalgic aromas found deep in the hearts of Cantonese foodies, but again, small flaws, like unpleasantly chewy meat had us choosing the soft chunks of daikon and potato over the dish’s namesake protein. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Barbecued Pork Rice Noodle Rolls (RMB42) – a point of pride for most dim sum venues – are grainy and starchy rather than slippery, blotting out the roughly chopped fatty char siu pork smooshed inside of them. While these are just minor gripes, they do reveal a trend of flavors needing to overcompensate for execution errors. But this is what soft opening is for – and they won't impede us from returning for more. 

DSC01470.jpgChilled Mango Sago Cream with Pomelo (RMB32), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Vibe 

Unlike the old school dim sum joints in Hong Kong, and Chinatowns dotted across the globe, dim sum here is made to order. No more ladies with metal carts, nor the need to football elbow other diners to get your preferred steamer basket of dumplings. Mi Mian Hui Xin is more upmarket, yet unpretentious, welcoming for anything from casual dates to large gatherings. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

There is the menacingly chic Something just next door, and a slick Nordic BBQ spot, Agnes, downstairs – tucked between hip boutiques – both also part of Craig Willis’ domain. Yet, Mi Mian Hui Xin still maintains some of that genuine Cantonese diner feel – in both flavors and atmosphere – within the confines of aligning with Shanghai’s demand for all things contemporary. 

Price: RMB135-225
Who’s Going: Canto-craving diners, the Wukang brunching crowd, those missing all things Hong Kong
Good For: Cantonese roasted meat consumption, dim sum feasts, dumpling gorging

READ MORE: Craig Willis Is Always Up to Something – This Time on Wukang Lu

See a listing for Mi Mian Hui Xin. Read more Shanghai Restaurant Reviews.

[Cover Image by Sophie Steiner/That’s]

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