FOOD, Food reviews, Friends, Uncategorized DONG BEI REN 18 May 2009


Dong Bei Ren (???)
1 Shaanxi Nan Lu
Shanghai, China

PRICE: ???
RATING: ****

I’d heard good things about Dong Bei Ren (it translates into Dong Bei people, by the way) – both from Shanghainese as well as from Dong Bei people. Apparently it’s a great place to go with friends, since it’s fun and loud, so it became the restaurant of choice when we decided to have dinner with some friends of ours. It’s a shame they don’t take reservations, because the place was packed and it meant we had to camp out on tiny wooden chairs to wait until our number was called. No matter, we amused ourselves checking out the (massive) restaurant and peeking at what others were ordering.

In a stand-alone building, Dong Bei Ren is proudly decked out with red and green colours everywhere – much like Christmas 😉 It has a largely no-frills atmosphere – one huge rectangular room – but they hang photos of Chinese liberators on every wall and the dressed-up wait staff really give the place an atmosphere of organised chaos. It was disorientating, but loads of fun! We tried to order our way round the menu, because everything looked too enticing. Amazingly, I did some research afterwards and realised we basically ordered all the best / most recommended dishes. HURRAY!!!!

Dong Bei people evidently love their starches, which featured prominently on the menu. We had 3 different kinds – a sort of twisted savory donut, flat corn pancakes and round flaky pastry. The former 2 were nothing to write home about – basically tasteless and I’d have preferred white rice instead. The flaky pastry, however, was delish – much like roti prata. Most impressively served was the 4 chunks of pork ribs and 1 hulking lamb shank. Talk about a carnivore’s delight! The pork ribs were salty and tasty, best eaten using your fingers (gloves are provided). The lamb shank? Pick up the huge bone with one hand and gnaw away – caveman style.

We also ordered a tumble of assorted dumplings, which were served in a myriad of colours to signify what they were. They had plain pork ones, veg ones, lamb ones, and even sauerkraut ones! Very tasty, but they should serve it in hot soup or in a hot bamboo steamer as they went cold in a few minutes and didn’t taste as good. The Glass noodles, pork and mushroom soup dish was superb. I loved the flavour and the springiness of the glass noodles, and the pork was melty soft. Tasty!

But the star dish, by far, was the Sweet & sour fish. It came as a ‘whole’ fish with the meat in little cubes, all crisp on the outside and smooth and soft inside. The sweet & sour gravy was spot-on and we enjoyed the little fried potato pieces (which looked very much like the fish pieces). It was INCREDIBLE!! I would come back for the fish alone. Plus, we found out later that ordering the fish deserves a song and dance – a group of wait staff came round and sang to us something about “good fortune”. At least that’s what I think it was about 😛 Too cute!

Dessert was an eagerly anticipated Deep fried bananas with toffee, because it looked like that’s what everyone else was ordering. A tumble of crispy balls containing hot soft banana, it had liquid toffee poured over it and is brought immediately to the table. You pull out a ball, and dunk it in a bowl of water. SAY WHAT?! Yep, we were confused too. Lots of sign language and water bowl sniffing ensued – we were weirded out by this strange step. But we realised that dunking it in cold water immediately chills the molten toffee and makes it crisp on the outside, encasing the fried ball and warm banana inside. MAN IT WAS GOOD!!!!! Not exactly great on the calorie front, but just awesome.

The only downside is their not-so-bright service. Whilst cheery, they could NOT seem to remember any requests made (for spoon, plate, menu, etc) and we had to ask 4-5 times every time before someone would action it. They seem like they can only serve food, and asking anything more short-circuits their brain or something. This would get 5 stars if they buck up on their service, but overall a fabulous restaurant and great to go with mates!


Dong Bei Ren restaurant

4 chunks of pork ribs and 1 hulking lamb shank – meat lovers bow down!!

Lady on the left shows us how it’s done

Assorted homemade dumplings

Corn pancakes

Glass noodles, pork and mushroom soup

Sweet & sour fish

Singing to us

Deep fried bananas with toffee

Lots of toffee!


Let’s Chat!




Let's Chat!

In fact we went to a work lunch at a “Chinese” restaurant which failed for several reasons:
1. It was work people with varying tastes for food – some people have good taste and some people clearly have none.
2. It was an “Australian-Chinese” restaurant not a Chinese restaurant.
3. The servings were VERY stingy for the price. We ended up paying close to $30/person (includes corkage but not extra drinks) and there were people who were NOT full. For that much money for Chinese food you should get closer to a proper banquet!

I’ve heard that Chinese food in Canberra is a bit shockers, so I hear your pain, esp since you’ve lived in SHA! Dohhhhhh

In fact we went to a work lunch at a “Chinese” restaurant which failed for several reasons:
1. It was work people with varying tastes for food – some people have good taste and some people clearly have none.
2. It was an “Australian-Chinese” restaurant not a Chinese restaurant.
3. The servings were VERY stingy for the price. We ended up paying close to $30/person (includes corkage but not extra drinks) and there were people who were NOT full. For that much money for Chinese food you should get closer to a proper banquet!

I’ve heard that Chinese food in Canberra is a bit shockers, so I hear your pain, esp since you’ve lived in SHA! Dohhhhhh

That place sounds so good!!!!! I want to try all those things. Gloves with the shanks and a song with the fish….awesome! I want the coloured dumplings and noodles too and gah! I love toffee bananas! Dad gets them 🙂

Toffee bananas seem so western to me, so it was pretty amusing to find out they’re a traditional china dish!

That place sounds so good!!!!! I want to try all those things. Gloves with the shanks and a song with the fish….awesome! I want the coloured dumplings and noodles too and gah! I love toffee bananas! Dad gets them 🙂

Toffee bananas seem so western to me, so it was pretty amusing to find out they’re a traditional china dish!