NJ Dining: Petite Soochow (UPDATED)


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Petite Soochow
607 Gorge Rd, Cliffside Park, NJ
(201) 313-1666

The abrupt permanent closure of my favorite Shanghainese-style Chinese restaurant, China 46 in Ridgefield Park, forced me into seeking out alternatives for Xiǎolóngbāo, the elusive “Soup Dumpling” or “Steamed Juicy Bun” that originates from Shanghai and is also a popular dish in Hong Kong and Taipei. It’s also served in a number of Shanghai-style Chinese restaurants in New York City’s Chinatown, such as Joe’s Shanghai, Shanghai Cuisine, and New Green Bo.

Fortunately I had recently heard of another Shanghainese restaurant, Petite Soochow, from another foodie blogger, TommyEats, on a random New Jersey post at the CNET Chowhound forums site. Petite Soochow, which has been in business for just over a year, is the second incarnation of a defunct Shanghainese restaurant in Saddle Brook, Old Soochow. Somehow this place managed to escape earlier notice, but I’m very happy I saw Tommy’s post, because Petite Soochow is probably one of the best authentic Chinese restaurants in Northern NJ.

Petite Soochow in Gorge Road in Cliffside Park.

Your Soup Dumpling supply chain is still intact. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

Petite Soochow main dining room on a late Sunday morning.

These crullers served with hot soymilk is a popular breakfast item.

An Oyster Pancake with a tomato sauce on top.

House Special Chicken Saute with Eggplant over Scallion Pancake.

Some other dishes on another table — a spicy fish dish and some sort of sauteed scallops dish.

A cold appetizer of Spiced Firm Tofu and Shrimp.

Shanghai Style spare ribs, on another table.

Spring rolls. Although they look like typical Spring Rolls, things are not as they seem.

The insides are stuffed with a Chinese green, scallions and ground pork. These were truly excellent.

Owner Mindy Zhou makes every single dish of dumplings fresh to order.

Here she’s making the Soup Dumplings for us.

Xiaolongbao or Soup Dumplings with Pork. These are probably the best we’ve had in the entire area — juicy with lots of broth in it and heavy on the meat inside. We’ve also had the Crab/Pork version and they are excellent too.

Xiaolongbao closeup.

This is a “Chive Box” dumpling, which has egg, chives and cellophane noodles in it. Its big enough to share.

Chive Box cross section.

These are “Pan Fried Juicy Buns”, another specialty of Shanghai. These are stuffed with a similar mixture to the Xiaolongbao, but have a thicker dough and have more of a bun-like consistency. The inside is burning hot filled with a juicy meatball.

Pan Fried Juicy Bun underside.

Pan Fried Juicy Bun interior.

A regular scallion pancake, which was decent, but did not live up to the other items we had.

Shredded Pork with Chinese Chives

A simple plate of sauteed Shanghai Bokchoy and Garlic.

“Three Cup Chicken” which is a Taiwanese chicken dish cooked in an earthenware casserole. This version used chicken pieces with skin and bone on it versus boneless chicken. Very tasty, but you need to pick it apart with your fingers.

The restaurant is also known for its noodle soups.

On a second visit I had a pork with cabbage noodle soup. The broth is light and simple, and a great dish for a rainy day.

The noodles are thick and Udon-like, with a doughier texture.

Rachel got a seafood noodle soup, which has a much thicker broth with egg in it.

Her soup had thinner egg noodles in it.

One of the staff members cleaning Dou Miu, or pea shoot leaves.

We also ordered some Jiaozi, or simple steamed pork dumplings. These were also excellent.

Jiaozi closeup.

These fried dumplings that are really more like potstickers, which we got on a different visit are some of the best I’ve ever had. The skins are thin walled and have a great crusty bottom.

We were less happy with these spicy Sichuan-style dumplings in red chile laced sesame oil. These had a really bitter flavor that we didn’t like and Rachel thought they were inedible. Chengdu 1, in Cedar Grove does a much better version of these.

The Shanghai-style Chow Mein Noodles with Beef were excellent. These had a curry flavor to them, although much less pronounced than “Singapore style” chow mei fun noodles that you get at a lot of Chinese takeout places.

This is a Chinese squash dish with Golden Mushrooms. The little red things are these fruity juju-bee things that I was unable to get an exact translation of. Overall the dish was somewhat bland but it would go nice as a vegetable accompaniment to some of the other dishes we’ve had.

Shanghai-Style Lion’s Head Meatballs. A hearty dish, heavily flavored with five spice.

The real hit of our second visit was these fantastic giant heads-on shrimp which were prepared in a garlic ginger sauce. These were fried with a light batter coating.

The same dish on a different visit.

The specials board outside, which apparently has a number of good dishes on it. I can’t read Chinese, but I can tell you that its probably a good idea to pay attention to what the other patrons are eating.

51 Responses to NJ Dining: Petite Soochow (UPDATED)

  1. kobi says:

    Looks great, Jason. How would you say the soup dumplings compare to some of the places in Manhattan?

  2. zgalante says:

    This food looks great. Nothing beats Jersheys best though! Stephanios on LBI!!!

  3. Comparable or better. Definitely better than Shanghai Cuisine’s or New Green Bo’s. I think they are even better than China 46′s were most of the time.

  4. Eric says:

    Went there today to try the soup dumplings. They were very good, comparable to the way Joe’s Shanghai used to be. I was trying to order those spareribs that are pictured under the title of “Shanghai Style spare ribs” but could’nt find on menu and owner was not sure what I was talking about, oh well…maybe I will bring picture next time.

    P.S.: I have a small complaint. It will not stop me from going to this nice place for good dumplings but it is the principle of the matter. I read on another food blogger website(Chowhound) from someone who tried this place in the past and they commented on how they round off your bill. For instance, if your total is $25.65, they will round it off to $26. Sure enough, I noticed they did exactly that to me today. Again, not enough to lose me as customer but it seems inappropriate to me….anyways, enough of that. Go there and enjoy the dumplings!!!!!!!!!!

  5. BJS says:

    Went there this past weekend for breakfast. It was very good. Had the crispy fried cruellers w/sesame bread, soy milk. Didn’t have any room for dumplings, but will try that next time.

    BTW, our check was not rounded off.

  6. Eric says:

    I went back to eat for sit down meal(not take out this time). They did not round off my check but perhaps that was because I was not paying cash. Harder to do with credit card statement. Curious to see what happens when I pay cash???????

  7. hank says:

    Thankyou Jason. You put us onto China 46 which as you know we loved and I do believe that we will now be going to petite soochow instead and gladly. We had an excellent meal there last evening and the staff could not have been friendlier. Their dumplings (and the lovely lady who makes them) were perfection. A very good sign was that the majority of the clients were all Chinese and I am wary when we go to an ethnic restaurant and everyone is American.

  8. Rachel Perlow says:

    Can anyone translate that specials board?

  9. Bill says:

    Jason, this is a great review of a restaurant that deserved more attention from Chinese food lovers.
    I will try to translate this menu but keep in mind that this is not a “standard” special menu.
    Some of the dishes are not “standard” dishes and the names are more poetic than descriptive.
    So, with that in mind, here is my translation:

    1. Fish sliver sautéed with yellow leek.
    2. Tofu and Beef in Black Pepper Sauce.
    3. Heart of Bok Choy and Gluten Puff in Earthen Pot.
    4. Red-Braised Flounder (whole).
    5. Fragrant-Spicy Beef Tendon.
    6. Sliced Scallops in Puck-Ma Sauce.
    7. Fresh Pepper with Beef Tripe.
    8. Red Fish in Five Willow Sauce.
    9. Red White Tofu (???)
    10. Hot-And-Numbing Fish Fillet
    11. Young Chicken and Wanton in Earthen Pot.

    What is interesting is that some of the dishes on the special menu are Sichuan inspired
    (5, 6, 7, 10), instead of all Shanghai dishes.
    Dishes #1,#4, 5 8 and #10 are variation on classic dishes and I have no idea what #9 is about.
    All this talk of Chinese food is making me want to go back and try some of these dishes.

  10. Dev Anand says:

    Took out food on saturday. Everything was great. These are the folks from the Old Soochow restaurant in Saddle Brook. I couldnt find the Shanghai style ribs either…maybe they are the ribs in brown sauce? The three cup chicken is not to be missed.

  11. Mochi says:

    Those red jujube like things in that one dish are probably goji berries. They’re great antioxidants!

  12. Eric says:

    I have eaten their soup dumplings numerous times and they are consistently fabulous. However, I have tried a few of their shanghai style dishes and they werre not up to par with the former China 46. Especially the salt and pepper pork chops!!!!!!!! Oh how I miss China 46′s Salt and Pepper Pork Chops!!!!!!!! The were the benchmark.

    * Anybody know where I could get a great Salt and Pepper pork chop dish? I am calling all my fellow foodies to please help me in this endeavor. Jason? You know anybody who does a comparable (to China 46′s) version? Anybody? HELP!!!!!!!!!!

    P.S.: I will keep you all updated if I find anything as well………..

  13. David Jiang says:

    hey guys. petite soochow and old soochow are the same owners…. They just relocated to the cliffside park area.

  14. Bob Wallace says:

    We went here about a week ago and everything was great. I have two newbe questions.

    1} How do you eat a soup dumpling ?

    2} I saw a lot of TENDON on the menu I was fearful of ordering it. Can you compare it to anything?

    Remember I and my wife are new to this style of food please be kind :-)

  15. 1) You lift up the underside of the dumpling with a Chinese Soup Spoon and sort of “flop” it onto the spoon. Bite a small hole into the side of the dumpling and suck out the juice. Then dab a little bit of the vinegar condiment they give you on the dumpling and eat it.

    2) Rubber Bands.

  16. Bob Wallace says:

    Thanks, We must have been great entertainment to the staff and the regulars eating there. I was trying to lift the whole thing into my mouth with the chop sticks HA HA ha a ha.

    We will be going back that is for sure.

    Thank you for your review.

  17. John says:

    I went there with my girlfriend. It was decent, but I ordered the seafood noodle soup, expecting what I saw above.. Instead, I got some lousy instant-noodle soup version. aside from that, experience was good enough to go back

  18. Vivian says:

    Thanks so much for posting about Soochow’s. I’ve been eating at their restaurant since I was a child, when Mindy’s father ran it in Chinatown, . We then lost track of it for a long time and then when I was in my 20s, I found out it had reopened in Saddlebrook. And when it closed there, I was lost for a while. And then last year I finally heard it had reopened even closer to me in Cliffside Park. So now we go there several times a month and my son loves to watch Mindy wrap the soup dumplings through the plastic partition. We were just there this week and my husband ordered the kung pao chicken and we were surprised how good it was. Not overwhelming heat and I wasn’t tasting much sichuan peppercorns, but it left an enjoyable warmth in your mouth and throat. And the sa cha noodles is very tasty too and a bargain. The squash dish photo that you have above is known as silk squash or Chinese okra and I only see it at Northern style Chinese restaurants, but for some reason, it’s very bland and sometimes watery here. But most of their other food is delicious.

  19. Vivian says:

    I forgot to mention that the crab soup dumplings is surprisingly good. I’ve ordered them before at restaurants and you can never taste the crab and they’re often dry, but Mindy puts a generous portion of crab in each dumpling and it’s still very juicy.

  20. [...] I’ve been to, and this includes the very good local newcomers such as Chengdu 1 and Petite Soochow, which I recommend heartily. I thought I had moved on until I had this dish recently at China [...]

  21. Lin says:

    I heard the food was good here but had a horrible experience. 1st they had not 1 but 2 hairs in the dumplungs. Woman offered to take the 2 pieces of dumplings with the hairs out and not charge us for the dumplings on the check, which I thought was decent. Then they brought out white rice that was old. Its smelled old and was literally yellow. When I said something, they said its always like that. I grew up eating rice in a Korean household and I KNOW when rice is old. We then asked for the food to go and the check and the woman comes over and explains she has to charge us for the dumplings she originally said she would not charge for because of the hair. Although the food was decent. I will obviously not be going back there.

  22. Robert says:

    My wife and I ate at Petite Soochow last Sunday, at about 3 PM. The large Chinese families were leaving, so we didn’t have to wait long.
    The food was terrific: soup dumplings, 3-cup chicken, Shanghai spare ribs were all excellent. The spring rolls and a shrimp dish were good but not great.
    All in all a wonderful dining experience. Best Chinese in NJ, and better than most in NYC.
    Thanks to all for recommendations.

  23. Susan J. Finkenberg says:

    Cliffside Park is not a hop skip and a jump for me. I live in Cresskill. Any good chinese closer to me?

  24. DTM says:

    Jason,

    Great blog you’ve got here!

    I would suggest that you try Hunan Cottage in Fairfield, NJ. They have authentic Shanghainese food–wonderful soup dumplings. It is a bigger restaurant than Petite Soochow with a friendlier atmosphere. You can also request dishes to your taste–the owners are very open to changing a recipe to suit the pallet of clients.

    I’ve been to Petite a number of times. The owners are not friendly (standoffish and arrogant), and the space is too cramped with very little off-street parking.

  25. CK|GH|JK says:

    Seriously… You totally put hope back into my life with this one. My husband and I have been living in NJ for almost 7 years now and wasn’t able to find a decent Chinese restaurant until this one. Luckily, we live in Cliffside Park and this is literally 5 mins from our place. Now, whenever we want to celebrate, we go to Petite Soo Chow. Seriously awesome food!

  26. Did anyone notice in Friday’s Better Living section of The Record that health inspectors closed down Petite Soo Chow for poor sanitary conditions? I wasn’t totally surprised, because we stopped going more than a year ago after seeing the lone male waiter picking his nose on more than one occasion.

  27. BRZ says:

    What? It’s still open and as busy as ever.

    The good thing about Petite Soo Chow is that it’s not a tourist attraction, most customers are Chinese Chinese people. Generally, the waiters and owners (at least from what I’ve seen) tend to treat the Chinese people a little better than others, but either way the food is fantastic. Two of my favorites, besides Xiao Long Bao and Sheng Jian Bao (the pan fried buns) are Pai Gu (a sort of fried pork dish, it’s excellently prepared) and Ti Bang (another pork dish, it’s whole pork shoulder in sweet sauce) and those two, I think, are two of the best-prepared dishes they have that were not shown here.

  28. So are you telling me you didn’t notice whether the lone male waiter is still picking his nose in the dining room?

  29. Thanks, Jason. Another thing about Petite Soo Chow concerns me. The Record and others reported that the soup dumplings were made to order by an elderly woman working behind the counter. If I recall The Record review correctly, the reviewer said she was told there would be a delay in serving her the soup dumplings for this reason. In a half-dozen visits, I never saw the woman making the soup dumplings to fill orders. One night, I asked her if I could buy the dumpling she was making and she said they were for a wedding and were not for sale. In fact, my understanding of how the soup dumplings are made suggests you cannot make them to order. They have to be frozen after they are made, then steamed when someone orders them. Otherwise, there is no way the liquid (soup) inside them could be contained. Anyway, China 46 was a far better restaurant and I still mourn its loss. No waiters picking their noses in the dining room. A great Sunday brunch, including your ability to order unlimited dumplings from the menu. The pork shoulder with steamed buns was an incredible dish.

  30. Susan Finkenberg says:

    So where can you get a decent Chinese meal in Bergen County? Dim Sum Dynasty is not good. Lotus Garden in Hackensack stinks. My friend’s local joints in Bayside Queens are exponentially better then those two. I guess the answer is that I must shlep into Westchester to go to Aberdeen (first rate Hong Kong Cuisine) or to Chinatown in NYC. Who would have thought that in such a populous area such as Bergen Col there is not one place to enjoy a first rate Chinese meal.

  31. What stinks about Lotus Cafe in Hackensack? Have you really explored the menu? Did you try something in XO sauce? Or order the dish you wrap in lettuce before eating? Have you tried their noodle dishes, such as the one topped with meat sauce, or the flounder in black bean sauce? Did you ask for the special menu listing multi-course dinners for from 4 to 12 people? The food is fresh, the service is good and you can bring your own beer or wine. What more could you want? Yes, please go to Westchester so I won’t have trouble getting a table.

  32. Susan Finkenberg says:

    Your response to my post is so irrational and rude that no further comment is merited. Is this how you talk to people? How sad. I will unsubscribe.

  33. Vivian says:

    Victor,

    I don’t know when you’ve been to the restaurant and they don’t make the dumplings to order. Every time I go there, which is often, the owner/chef who makes the soup dumplings wraps them to order. I’ve been there for dinner during the week and for brunch on weekends and have never NOT been able to get them. It’s unfortunate that has been your experience.

    And the “soup” is actually gelled into an aspic and mixed into the meat filling and melts into soup as it is steamed. It does not need to be frozen. In the original method of making it, pork skin is boiled in a broth, the broth is reduced down, and then cooled until it gels. The more common method these days is to use gelatin. Saveur and Gourmet both have run recipes on soup dumplings. I wouldn’t bother attempting making them though, it’s way too much work, esp considering you can get it better and inexpensively here.

    As for sanitary conditions, Chinese restaurants have never been known to be clean (hey yo, I’m Chinese, I can say this!). I just try not to think of it and concentrate on the food. As for that waiter who picks his nose, I’ve never noticed it. But as long as he’s just bringing me the plates and not touching the food, well….

    As for Lotus Cafe, can’t say I’m a fan, but then again, I haven’t been there in a while. When I did, I had their noodles. Was not impressed. China 46 on the other hand, yes, I agree, I miss them. And their Peking pork chops.

  34. Thanks, Vivian, for that detailed explanation. And, yes, I am aware of the sanitary conditions in Chinese restaurants. I have been eating in them for more than 40 years here, in the city and in Hong Kong and mainland China. I have also been in the kitchens of more Chinese and non-Chinese restaurants than I care to remember in my years as a restaurant reviewer. But nose-picking is where I draw the line and, no, it’s not OK that he is just touching the plates. Just the idea of returning to the restaurant turns my stomach. I’d be willing to buy you lunch at Lotus Cafe. Have you tried the fat noodles in the meat sauce?

  35. ChrisPowers says:

    Food’s too good for me to care. Order take-out and pick it up, or request a different waiter if you must. I, personally, won’t be eschewing this place simply because of the experience of one person who, quite frankly, seems to spend a lot of time on a web page devoted to a restaurant he despises.

  36. You should have said a restaurant that deserves to be despised.

  37. Ryan says:

    “juju-bee” are Wolfberries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfberry#Culinary, AKA “goji” in Mandarin

  38. Robert says:

    Our party of four dined at Petite Soochow on Saturday and everything was great. However…I had read (on this website?) that they overcharge non-Chinese, and – lo and behold – the bill was exactly $10 higher than it should have been. They were apologetic and refunded the $10, but still…
    It’s so good we’ll go back anyway.
    The only other good Chinese nearby we have found are:
    - Lotus Cafe (Hackensack) – the Lotus Delight dish is great
    - Golden Dynasty (Franklin Lakes) – better than average and nice ambience
    - Oriental Garden (Suffern) – excellent Pad Thai, generally good food
    Are we missing any good ones?

  39. [...] exactly what I did, and now I regret that mistake. While I wouldn’t say it has the depth that Petite Soochow or Chengdu 1 have with their Shanghainese/Sichuan cuisine, Lotus Cafe is putting out some seriously [...]

  40. Eric says:

    Robert,
    I’m not asian and have never been over-charged. I’ve been there many times (though probably not often enough to be a recognized regular) and never had an issue. I’ve never had an issue with them rounding up, either. I’ve probably been there about 35-50 times over the past 3 years.

  41. [...] met at Petite Soochow restaurant, one of my favorite authentic Chinese eateries in Northern New Jersey. Unlike many authentic [...]

  42. Nancy says:

    Jason – thank you for writing about Petite Soohow! We dined there on our last trip through NY and it was as fabulous as you show above! Try the fish head casserole sometime; it is sublime. http://funplayingwithfood.blogspot.com/2010/06/fun-playing-with-shanghai-ese-food.html

  43. Jeremy says:

    We get takeout from here every week or two. The soup dumplings, as (nearly) everyone has said, are great. Most of the noodle and soup dishes are also good. However, I got the pork, spring cabbage and noodle soup this evening and didn’t like it one iota. The flavor was very bland save for a slightly chemical-ish taste. Yuck.

    Would love to try the spare ribs pictured above. Are they on the menu?

  44. Steve says:

    Had dinner there last night and it was awesome. Shredded pork with scallions is also a great dish!

  45. SHAKUEY201 says:

    Shut down again for health violations. Wonder if that male waiter still picks his nose in the dining room?

  46. mitch says:

    why did the board of health close them down again???

  47. SHAKUEY201 says:

    Shut down once again, this time for insect infestation.

  48. [...] not on the menu. For a closer look at some other dishes, the Off the Broiler blog did a nice job: http://offthebroiler.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/nj-dining-petite-soochow/. I’m just all about those warm, neatly sealed packages today. Even though I know what’s [...]

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