Middle Wingdom: Wings
POSTED IN Blog, Middle Wingdom, Restaurant Review February 9, 2012
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Brought together by a shared love of hot sauce and Buffalo wings, a good friend and I have been disappointed lately that there really isn’t a consistently good spot in Shanghai for the delicious and classic, neon orange chicken wings of our American memories. Some places have tasty wings, no doubt, but they either aren’t truly buffalo or are not accompanied by a satisfyingly thick and tangy blue cheese or buttermilk ranch.
After kvetching about this for what seems like years, we found two others who also shared our dismay of not being able to satiate our gluttonous cravings for this quintessential bar food. The four of us finally decided that it was time to stop complaining and start a discovery of Shanghai’s best Buffalo winged offerings.
This is the Middle Wingdom.
Our first stop on this fiery journey brought us to the end of the earth and back. Gubei. Out in that neighborhood, we had heard of the aptly named sports bar Wings from Bubba’s Chili Cook Off, and thought it a logical starting point for our road to Buffalo. They supposedly had the best wings in the city, and we ventured out last night to put their spicy sauces to the ultimate test.
Each Wednesday, the bar offers a special on wings – forty with two 0.5L drafts for RMB 120. We immediately put an order in, and requested a few of their different sauces to sample: Memphis Dry Rub, Cherry Coke BBQ, the requisite Spicy Buffalo and their legendary Johnny Cash.
The dry rub and cherry coke appeared first. Initial reactions were enthusiastic, though a little mixed. Our highly quantitative tasting notes found the Memphis style dry rub to be tasty and creative with “hints of dusted BBQ Pringles” lingering on the palate.
The sticky Cherry Coke BBQ sauce was a bit too sweet for me, but I appreciated the meaty portions – bigger than most in the city – and the overall composition of the wing; lightly floured, but deeply fried, allowing for the tender and juicy meat to hide underneath its ever crunchy skin.
Then the real prize was delivered. Two plates of Spicy Buffalo and Johnny Cash. The Spicy Buffalo received points for both presentation and authenticity; they were drowned in an impossibly bright orange sauce. With the slightest bouquet of spice penetrating our noses, our mouths instantly salivated and we were ready to dig in. The wings themselves were delicious. Not as spicy as I think a wing described as “spicy” should be, but they were nevertheless tangy and loaded with a buttery Frank’s mix that made us nostalgic for America. We’re thinking that the rest of the wings we sample in this city will be matched against these.
We then decided it was time to conquer the Johnny Cash. One of the fry cooks brought them out personally, genuinely cautioning us of their spice. Bring it on.
They were loaded with crushed red peppers and seeds and coated with a thick, rusted red sauce. The first two in our group who tried to tackle the challenge couldn’t handle the spice so well. At first they insisted it wasn’t so bad, but within seconds, the insatiably spicy chilies crept up and their lips were burning.
As I bit into mine, the fiery chili flakes and tomato-based sauce created an almost euphoric experience of spice that was at once burning and addicting. As if I couldn’t reach a higher level of spiced bliss, Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire came on overhead, calling me to my peppery Promised Land. And as I went down, down, down the flames went higher. My mouth was on fire, and nothing was there to soothe my scorched tongue. But my stylish friend and I kept going in for more.
And in the spirit of Shanghai’s overindulgent nature, we ordered another twenty, but mistakenly received and ate thirty more without realizing it. Our waitress brought out a plate of unordered black pepper wings; we ate the entire plate and didn’t realize our mistake of not ordering them until our other plates arrived. Of the second round, we received another helping of the Spicy Buffalo and tried our hands at the Chipotle Maple, which immediately reminded us of a syrupy saturated chicken and waffle breakfast at Waffle House.
Winner winner chicken dinner that night? The Spicy Buffalo. They are classic and delicious and above all else, authentic. The only down side I really saw with these wings besides the lack of real heat – though that’s pretty picky – was that Wings was fresh out of blue cheese sauce, a huge blow to my desire for a good wing with an equally good dipping companion. But they promised they usually have it, so I guess we’ll have to set sail back to Gubei sometime to see.
Wings provided a nice start to our Buffalo discovery, setting the bar fairly high, up to which others should be measured. Though, I think we all decided that it doesn’t take seventy wings for us to evaluate if a place is good or not, so we’re going to try and scale back just a little, or buy a few more gym memberships for the group…
If anyone out there has an incredible Buffalo wing recommendation, let us know so we can see how it stacks against the rest.
Show us your wings Shanghai, and let’s fly. Welcome to the Middle Wingdom.
- WINGS : ★★★★☆
- 620 Hongsong Dong Lu near Gubei Lu