We had never paid any serious attention to this particular restaurant. With an English name like Ningtu we actually thought this is just of the many HK Style Cafe around. Moreover, I remember reading somewhere too that the service was bad in this restaurant. Sometimes these sort of things will unfairly make one form a negative impression and prevent me from wanting to check this place out.
Given our long list of to-try restaurants, Ningtu was just not on our radar. That is until now when Ningtu landed on the CRA award list.
The Ningtu Restaurant is located on a quiet side of Kingsway. This is just slightly east of the intersection with Victoria Drive.
Well, Ningtu is not a HK Style Cafe as I assumed it was. It was the lack of X and Z in the Ningtu name or else I would know it is a Mainland Chinese restaurant. LOL! Ningtu is a very Shanghainese restaurant and a pretty authentic one too.
The dining hall was of average size but definitely not small. I am guessing it can seat about 50-60 people, at least. Most of the table sizes are big round tables indicating that a lot of their customers are families.
Suanne and I arrived at Ningtu just 15 minutes past their opening time at 11AM. We thought we are early but oh wow, the whole place was already quite full. We had to wait 20 minutes for a table for two.
I had earlier read some reviews of Ningtu before I came. Many of the reviews said that the service was poor. So we were expecting the worse and went ahead nevertheless. I guess this is what Keev meant when he once thanked us for TOFTT. Keev comes up with some of the daftest acronyms that makes me scratch my head wondering what he meant.
It took a while for me to learn that TOFTT means Take One For The Team. That seems like the current chowhound-speak for being a guinea pig to scout out a new restaurant. Well, except that Ningtu is not a new restaurant. I was just saying that we went to check out this restaurant expecting the worst service.
It was nothing of that sort. Not for us. The service was courteous and very fast. It is without a doubt a very busy restaurant. The swivel door to the kitchen swings open every few seconds with people going in and out. We were seated facing that door and it was noticeable … and annoying.
Everything is about speed and efficiency here. The table cloths were plastic — quite practical because all they need to do to clear the table is just to wrap everything up (cups, plates, bowls and all) and wallah … a new clean table is ready.
Click on the menu above if you can’t read it clearly.
Being a Shanghainese restaurant, the dim sum menu is full of the northern variety. You would not expect to find siu mai or har gow or phoenix claws here.
We like the prices of their dim sum. It is mostly within the $4 and $5 price range.
Talking about dim sum, I saw that they serve some of the dim sums in metal steamers unlike the bamboo type that we usually see in (southern) dim sum places. Is that right that traditionally northern dim sums are served in metal steamers?
They also have various kinds of rice cake dishes. Rice cakes is called Nian Gao in Chinese. It has a soft-chewy texture. Rice cake is apparently Ningtu’s specialty. You will see what it is later on down this blog post.
For starters, we opted to get You Tiao ($2) which is also known as Chinese Donut.
Our eyes were wide opened when we saw it. It was … huge! It has to be the fattest You Tiao we had ever seen.
Deep fried into fragrant golden brown, it tasted awesome. It is lightly salted and are so crispy and flaky that it can even be eaten on its own.
Look at the size of the You Tiao. It is almost as wide as a regular rice bowl.
Oh yeah. You know why You Tiao is always made in pairs joined in the middle? Here is what I found out from wikipedia:
The Cantonese name yàuhjagwái literally means “oil-fried ghost” and, according to folklore, is an act of protest against Song Dynasty official Qin Hui, who is said to have orchestrated the plot to frame the general Yue Fei, an icon of patriotism in Chinese culture. It is said that the food, originally in the shape of two human-shaped pieces of dough but later evolved into two pieces joined in the middle, represents Qin Hui and his wife, both having a hand in collaborating with the enemy to bring about the great general’s demise. Thus the youtiao is deep fried and eaten as if done to the traitorous couple. In keeping with the legend, youtiao are often made as two foot-long rolls of dough joined along the middle, with one roll representing the husband and the other the wife.
We ordered Salty Soya Bean Milk ($1.75) to dunk the You Tiao. It seems like their Soya Bean Milk has already some pieces of You Tiao already.
This was equally great too. Just like the You Tiao, this is one of the better soya milk we ever had.
The above is the silver winner in the Crab category. This is called Rice Cake Crab.
The price of this dish is dependent on the weight of the crab. We ordered a 2.5lb crab at $11 a pound. There is an additional $4 charge for the rice cake. So this beauty worked out to be around $34.
The dish was more than enough for two persons. We did not even need to order rice as the rice cake is a good enough substitute for it.
This is it … the rice cake (nian gao). It has a soft-chewy texture and it does a great job in absorbing all the yummy sauce. This is such a great combination with the crab.
Look at that.
Dispensing with all decorum, we ate with out fingers. Well, it was I who ate with both hands. Suanne choses to use one hand with chopsticks on the other. That is the wrong way to eat it, right?
The shell is soft enough to bite into and can be easily broken off with our hands. So we did not even need to use the nutcracker.
Taste-wise, the sauce has a gingery flavour. The crab meat is fresh (they brought the live crab out of the tank to show us before they take it back to the kitchen to cook it). We had such a great time sucking on the juice/sauce.
Hey err … what do you call this part of the crab on the shell? Is this the crab roe?
I got to say that this is one of the best crab meals I ever had. Really satisfying even though this is almost $34.
The Lemon Water goes perfectly with seafood all the time. Restaurants always serve it together with seafood. You should drink this AFTER the crab not DURING. The waitress told us it is for AFTER the eating crab. 😉
We actually also ordered the Ningtu Special Rice Flour Ball ($4.50). This is filled with red bean paste and coated with sticky rice.
It was very chewy. Our jaws got kind of tired chewing these. Perhaps we should have eaten them while it’s still hot. We ate them last as we were too engrossed with the crab.
The food was fantastic and for all that we had, I even think that $44 is inexpensive.
You know … I had tried to stop directly recommending anyone to try any restaurant for some time already. We even stopped calling our blog posts a review as we are NOT restaurant reviewers but just mere bloggers sharing our dining experiences. We are definitely not food critics and do not pretend we are Michelin Inspectors. No siree … we are just mere bloggers. I’ll make it an exception this time … I recommend you try the rice cake crab here. You might just like it.
Note that Ningtu is closed on Wednesdays and they accept cash only.