Juicy pork buns with minced crab meat ($7), and an unadorned, pork-only version, also answer to the name "soup dumplings," after the savory liquid inside. One widely repeated account on how they should be eaten advises the diner to deposit one dumpling in a soup spoon, nibble off the topknot, and — perhaps after a few gentle breaths to cool it down — slurp out the soup before consuming the wrapper and meaty filling. I've done this.
More recently I'd come to believe this was a Stateside affectation, perhaps in response to Americanized (read: larger) xiao long bao. The xiao long bao I sampled in Shanghai were indeed a wee bit smaller; I also encountered a tang bao, which more literally translates to "soup dumpling," that was considerably larger. A reliable Hong Kong-based friend and correspondent, however, reports that according to her Shanghai-based colleagues, this is how they, too, eat their xiao long bao.
Sensation's owner — though the chef is Shanghainese, she herself was born in Beijing — prefers to bite open a hole in the xiao long bao, add vinegar and ginger, and deposit the entire dumpling in the mouth, where all the flavors can come into play at once. This approach, too, has been seconded in several authoritative-sounding quarters.
Normally one would nibble from the top, but rather than disturb the minced crab meat, the owner suggested a side-on attack. The dumpling skins surrounding Sensation's xiao long bao are just firm enough to hold their shape while you season them to taste. My own, current, preference is not to add any additional liquid, only a sliver of vinegar-stained ginger.
Sensation Neo Shanghai Cuisine
208 Grand St. (Bedford-Driggs Aves.), Williamsburg, Brooklyn