Utah dining out: Boba World offers stellar Shanghai cuisine
Dining out • Juicy dumplings, noodles, boba drinks are stars at this Davis County gem.

By Stuart Melling

Special to The Tribune

Published: December 4, 2013 09:56AM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:44PM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Top Utah dishes of 2013: Shanghai Fat Noodles with beef and vegetables at Boba World Shanghai Cuisine at 750 S. Highway 89 in Woods Cross.

Part of me doesn’t want to tell you about Boba World. Part of me greedily wants to keep Boba World all to myself. Part of me is already regretting saying Boba World three times. OK that’s my fault, let’s just keep it a secret between you, me and the residents of Davis County, who already seem to be wise to this tremendous little eatery.

It’s a tiny operation, seating maybe 30 at most in front of the open kitchen. The restaurant couldn’t scream “mom and pop” any louder — in all the best ways, mind you. The space is more homey than high class; dishes are served on a gloriously irregular selection of plates that I half suspect may never have lived life as part of a set. It’s a perfect functional antithesis in a dining climate more routinely obsessed with fad and form.

The menu bills itself as Shanghai Cuisine, and while you can happily order sweet and sour chicken ($7.95) or beef with broccoli ($8.50), I’d implore those so inclined to take advantage of the unique dishes on offer.

To begin, skip the cream cheese wontons ($4.25) — seriously, don’t make me spell out why again — and instead try the Shanghai juicy dumplings ($7.50): eight plump, pork dumplings filled with a soupy broth then steamed to a scalding finish. A side of ginger-rich soy sauce comes on the side for dipping, or, as my dining companion ably demonstrated one evening, can be inserted directly into the dumpling via some dextrous chopstick keyhole surgery. Top tip: However you proceed, keep your mouth closed when you bite in.

Lightly Cucumber ($6) is a coyly named dish deflecting attention from the lavish flavor lurking. Fresh sliced cucumber comes bathed in chile oil, vinegar, garlic and sugar. I can’t imagine that a better way to eat cucumbers has been invented.

Also good are the sesame balls ($3.75) — a handful of glutinous rice flour balls, filled with sweet bean paste, coated in sesame seeds and delivered to the table piping hot from the deep fryer. The fried chicken wings ($4.95) arrive similarly incendiary, still sizzling as they hit the table, nudging you to take that first bite way too hastily. Indeed, everything at Boba World appears the moment it’s cooked, not necessarily in the sequence it’s ordered. Order family style and enjoy each dish as it’s good and ready, and you won’t go too far wrong.

While there’s no liquor menu at Boba World, there are some of the best boba drinks in Utah. For those unfamiliar, boba drinks—- called chewing drinks here — are essentially a smoothie-esque blended drink, usually fruit or tea based. The drink is peppered with a mass of chewy tapioca “pearls” that give every slurp extra texture and taste. Most folks recoil at the sight of their first boba, but by the last gulp are happily smiling and demanding a second. Everyone should try the drink at least once.

Boba World offers 13 flavors of the drink in either small ($3.50) or large ($4.50) format, ranging from mango to green tea to taro and beyond. Beginners might want to start with the safer fruitier choices. Such is the popularity of this drink, the whir of the blender serves as the on-and-off soundtrack to a meal at Boba World.

Moving on to entrées, Shepherd’s Purse Shanghai Rice Cake ($8.95) halted me in my tracks the moment I spied it. Rice cake — balls of sticky rice sliced into chewy rounds — is stir-fried with pork in a light garlicky sauce with finely shredded shepherds purse, a common green often treated as a weed. It’s a subtle dish with softer textures not everyone will appreciate; I couldn’t get enough.

Shanghai Cool Noodle ($6) will also be an acquired taste — an almost spaghettilike noodle served cool as the name implies, with a creamy peanut sauce. The dish also comes topped with a vegetable ($2.50) or meat ($3.50) that adds an extra acidic dimension to the dish, not to mention heat. It’s an intriguing dish of hot versus cold, creamy versus sour.

The pinnacle of the menu for me, though, are the stupendous Shanghai Fat Noodle (chicken or beef $8.75, shrimp $9.25) dishes — something I know most folks will fall immediately in love with. These thick, chewy monsters are crafted in house and are cold-weather comfort food of the highest order. The noodles are simply cooked with crisp veggies and soy coating, and if I didn’t eat anything but Boba World’s fat noodles from now till spring, I’d be plenty happy.

A couple of near-misses included the Shanghai baby ribs with plum sauce ($11.95), catching me off guard prepared with small morsels of rib meat and bone rather than full-sized ribs to wrestle with. Our server also recommended the spicy garlic sauce shrimp and chicken ($11.95) one evening, but as a spice addict, I found it lacking and sweetly one-note.

I had far more lip-tingling fun ordering a Kung Po chicken ($7.95) extra spicy, and a mighty stellar version it was, too.

I still wish I was able to keep Boba World my own little secret, but it’s just too good not to share. Once the word is fully out about this gem, I am sure there will be crowds filling the humble eatery night in, night out.

Salt Lake Tribune restaurant reviewer Stuart Melling also blogs at www.gastronomicslc.com. Email features@sltrib.com.

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Boba World

Food • HHH

Mood • Hhj

Service • HH

Noise • bb

Shanghai cuisine including juicy dumplings and noodles bolsters a menu of familiar American-Chinese favorites. The boba “chewing” drinks are stars in their own right — don’t miss out.

Location • 750 S. 512 West, Woods Cross; 801-298-3626

Online • sites.google.com/site/BobaWorldShanghaiCuisine

Hours • Monday -Saturday, 10.30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.

Children’s menu • No

Prices • $

Liquor • No

Reservations • No

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • Yes

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • Yes