Wednesday, 25 March 2015

On the hunt for more xiao long bao at Paradise Dynasty

Xiao long bao you say? Causeway Bay you say?  Surely that means (yet) another visit to Din Tai Fung? On any week night you would be correct, dashing from work straight to the MTR for the short ride out for soup dumpling goodness. However this time it was the weekend, and we were at the other side of Causeway Bay, wandering Times Square and Lee Gardens, and didn't fancy trying to mimic salmon swimming upstream against the hordes of people heading to the shops.  

We had been wandering around Lee Gardens, enjoying a spot of window shopping, when we spied a sign for Paradise Dynasty, with the multi-coloured xiao long bao pictured.  Intrigued by the colours, we decided to try our luck at getting a table, thinking lunchtime around Causeway Bay would be a nightmare.  Walking out of the lift we were struck by the large foyer area filled with tables, however we did not have to worry about waiting, as at that time of the day it seemed we had avoided the queues.  We also noticed the restaurant's sign "Paradise Dynasty: Legend of Xiao Long Bao".  Hmmm, sounded like something out of a very tasty movie!  

Paradise Gardens is part of the Paradise Group, originally from Singapore, with restaurants in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, mainland China, Japan and now Hong Kong.  It certainly had a slick feel of a large operation, however I must admit after a long morning of window shopping it was good to be off my feet and to know that lunch should be relatively stress free.  

We were quickly ushered to our table and provided with the customary tea while we perused the menu.  While I say this should have been a relatively stress-free lunch, there was a tense moment when we had to decide which xiao long bao to get - FMUS wanted to try the signature 8 flavoured xiao long bao, however I was feeling less adventurous, thinking that I would end up having to eat the flavours that neither of us wanted.  So we compromised - one serve of the original flavour, and one of the foie gras flavour.  The good thing about the ordering system at Paradise Garden was that you could actually order one of two sizes - 6 pieces or 10 pieces.  That suited FMUS perfectly, and you can guess which size of the original we ordered.....

First to arrive was the foie gras xiao long bao.  When ordering foie gras, you tend to expect a richness of flavour, and these xiao long bao didn't disappoint.  Very creamy foie gras filled the dumplings, but I'm glad we only ordered six, they were indeed really rich.  

The original xiao long bao were served next, and while they didn't have the exact precision you can find at Din Tai Fung, they were delicious, and a worthy competitor to our usual haunt.  Had we not ordered some other dishes, I could see that FMUS would have wanted to order two rounds of the 10 dumplings.  

We had decided to try something other than just xiao long bao this lunch.  Sticking with the less adventurous theme however, we had ordered the sweet and sour chicken, which I thought was a great example of this traditional Chinese dish (but did think I wish I had ordered some rice to mop up the sauce).  FMUS was not so enamoured, not being a fan of the capsicum on the dish, but he did agree the sauce had that great combination of sweetness with a hint of sour.  

His favourite dish (apart from the xiao long bao of course!) was the Shanghai style braised pork belly.  Talk about melt in your mouth!!  The pork was extremely soft and juicy, and the, tasty!    There was a sweetness to it like a plum sauce, but it managed to complemented the pork well, which itself had a large amount of its own sweetness, from the well rendered fat.  I'm not a huge fan of a lot of pork, so left FMUS to finish off the dish, but I have to admit, that sauce was amazing.  FMUS almost had a Mr Creosote moment, he wanted to finish off the pork and the yummy sauce, but there was just no more room in his stomach!   

We have often walked past signs in shopping centres and on the street indicating restaurants upstairs, however we are generally put off by the large queues waiting at the lifts.  This time were were half way up the building already, so avoided the ground floor wait, and I'm glad we decided to try somewhere new for FMUS's xiao long bao fix.  While the service was a little impersonal, as was to be expected in a busy restaurant, it was efficient and we didn't feel like we were being overlooked.  I would definitely go back, and this time I would try the 8 flavours of xiao long bao - to see if they really do live up to the legend...


Sauces and tea, ready to go
The foie gras xiao long bao, very decadent 
The original xiao long bao

Probably should have ordered some rice to mop up the delicious sauces
Cool Chinese suit of armour 
Plenty of lunch time diners, and the open kitchen

Its cool watching the kitchen at work

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