Friday, November 12, 2010

Paradise Dynasty - 8 种口味的小笼包

We went to celebrate a colleague's birthday at ION today.

Anyway after walking around the top floor aimlessly, we decided to have lunch at Paradise Dynasty, which looked like another DingTaiFung or Crystal Jade kind of eatery. They promised a most intriguing 8 flavours of xiaolongbao, namely Szechuan (spicy), Black Truffle (fantastic!), Cheese, Original, Ginseng, Garlic, Foie Gras, and Crab Roe.

[Photo source: Hazelhearts]

We ordered this version, 狗不理包子 (Tianjing buns), 韭菜鲜肉饺子 (boiled chive and meat dumplings), 鲜肉饺子 (boiled meat dumplings), 扬州炒饭 (Yangzhou Fried Rice) and 锅贴 (pan-fried dumplings). For desserts, we shared some kind of chilled Aloe Vera dessert, pumpkin pastries, and some Chinese donut (I blame my colleague for ordering this oily monster).

The xiaolong bao 小笼包 was the piece de resistance of the meal. We only had 2 apiece, I had the Black Truffle and the Szechuan flavours. The Black Truffle packed a punch, the meat and its soup had this rich quality that was to die for. Eh, the Szechuan was ok... just spicy. I would say skip the dumplings (韭菜鲜肉饺子, 鲜肉饺子), the skin was TOUGH and thick in both dishes. The filling inside 韭菜鲜肉饺子 (boiled chive and meat dumplings) tasted even worse than that inside the 鲜肉饺子 (boiled meat dumplings). The big joke is that the chive and meat dumplings were served up with torn skins, which is an irony given how thick the the skin was. Probably all the flavour in the meat washed out into the boiling liquid, that's why they tasted so bad. PS. every serving of the xiaolong bao 小笼包 held up despite the heavy soup held inside.

The 狗不理包子 (Tianjing buns)was very QQ but the filling inside was PATHETIC. One tiny ball, surrounded by lots of bun. One bite into the promising bun brings more disappointment, because you expected more given how good the bun was. The 锅贴 (pan-fried dumplings) also had the same nasty skin like the boiled dumplings but because it was fried, it tasted better, and had la more rewarding bite with lots of meat juice. Skip the fried rice. While it has the nice "hot wok" fragrance, it tasted super bland. We had to resort to adding preserved green chili to it.

The desserts were mostly blah. The pumpkin fried pastries were exactly like the tapioca fried pastries that one could buy in (currently being renovated) Toa Payoh Lor 8 Hawker centre though I preferred the later because they packed in the tapioca fibre. The aloe vera dessert was mostly honey and lemon, with pieces of aloe vera fruit, a very bewildering dish, and finally the fried balls of misery were OILY with some red bean and banana filling. Yucks. Fortunately they at least did not reuse stale oil like other restaurants would, or I would totally ban this place forever.

While the service was the best I have ever seen in a Singaporean Chinese restaurant, I am disturbed by the tea service charge (S$1.20 default for julienned ginger and pu er tea, even if you don't want them). The waiter was smart and preempted us, when the earlier waitress did not inform us about the tea service charge but encouraged us to order other beverages when we did not want the only tea leaves they had (Pu Er). Turned out Pu Er is the right idea, given how oily and savoury most of the dishes were. A XiangPian would have tasted washed out and I would never order a Chrysanthemum because they contaminate the food taste.

In a nutshell
Paradise Dynasty (Miss Piggy was funny, I asked her if she could recall the name, she said it was Paradise Destiny. Sounds like a stripper's club)
4th floor ION
Tel: 65 6509 9118
Food Quality: Some hits, i.e. the xiaolongbao, are UNBELIEVEABLE. Some misses, i.e. the boiled dumplings, are also UNBELIEVEABLE.
Price: Bearable for the wallet (S$78 for 4, before 10% discount for OCBC credit card)
Service: Excellent. We saw fantastic teamwork among the younger staff. The older staff were very sincere, a trademark of an excellent Chinese restaurant. Keep it up! They even had a guy pouring Pu Er tea out of the long sprout.

I will be going back, this time armed with a camera and the hapless B1. I want to try the la mian and test the rest of the menu as well as order a portion of that divine 8 xiaolongbao for myself.

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