Restaurants & Bars 4

Dim sum: Dragon Palace, Royal China Club, Plum Valley - London

limster | Jan 1, 201203:02 PM

• Dragon Palace, Earl's Court

A solid and very inexpensive place for dim sum, probably half of the price of Royal China Club.

Chao2 zhou1/Teochew style dumplings aka Chiu Chow Fan Kou were excellent - the translucent skin of moderate thickness, with a very delicate but non-mushy texture. Filled with a melange of items, including pork, peanuts, vegetables cloaked in a slightly spicy and savoury dried shrimp flavour. Reminiscent of Teochew-styled crystal dumplings aka shui3 jing1 bao1.

Har gau/xia1 jiao3/prawn dumplings had a firm textured skin of medium thickness that balanced the filling well. Prawns were fairly well textured, more or less ripping on the bite, but had a bit too much white pepper, and the sharp crunchy contrast from bamboo shoots was not ver prominent.

Zi2 bao1 xia1/paper prawns were not bad -- prawns wrapped in a thin papery skin coated with sesame seeds on one side and deep fried.

Lotus paste buns/Ling Yong/lian2 rong2 buns had a pleasant smooth filling and were fairly fluffy, but didn't seem to have any of the advertised salted egg yolks.

Enjoyed my meal there, would probably put it at the same level as Yum Cha in Camden.

• Royal China Club, Baker Street/Marylebone

An excellent wuyi oolong - Orchids on a Cliff - with a nutty woodsy mellow roasted flavour typical of the region. Good to have a decanter to minimise the length of the infusion, but they do fill the pot completely and the decanter holds only a small volume, so it's only a stop gap.

Xiao3 long2 bao1, steamed dumplings flled with pork, crab and broth, were excellent - fairly thin skins, just the right amount of broth, the filling full of crab, silky fibres across the minced pork.

The assortment of cheong fun/chang2 fen3/rice sheets provided an opportunity to try 3 different filings - flavoursome and delicate sole (which was the standout), a fairly dense and firm prawn, and (iirc) a lightly flavoured beef. The rice sheets were fairly slippery and glossy, with a mildly sweet soy sauce; not bad but I remember an even more delicate rendition from over a year ago. Might be that I was eating later in the day, when the rice sheets were not as fresh.

Shen1 jian1 bao1 are buns with a bread-like texture that are steamed and pan-fried for a crispy scorched surface. This one is scorched on both sides. Filled with flavoursome lamb, beautifully complemented with black pepper and little red leaves of shiso. Superb.

Hard to catch the longan/long2 yan3/dragon's eye fruit in the duck spring rolls, but the duck was fairly supple and tender, the blistery shells crunchy and with a very faint bit of greasiness that was nicely cut by the sweetness of the plum sauce.

Great flavour in the fillings of pumpkin and vegetable dumplings -- the mild pumpkin sweetness bolstered by umami-rich complexity of mushroom and vegetables typical in a luo2 han4 zhai1 (typically translated as Buddha's or Arhat's delight). Skins were a shade on the soft side.

The egg custards tarts/dan4 ta3 were of the shortcrust variety -- pleasant crust, very delicate custard.

Excellent dim sum on the whole, with great service and pacing (they served 2 at a time rather than having everything come out at once). Pricey -- most items were £4.80 or £5.20 for 3 dumpings. Roughly in the range of Min Jiang.

• Plum Valley, Chinatown

Didn't remember much of my meal there, except for a crispy shredded filo with its fragile crunch around fairly good prawns and a moderately mangoey mayo, vague impressions of an ok scallop dumpling, and a standard dessert of grapefruit sago and mango in coconut milk. Overall impression was pretty good, but nothing mind blowing imho.

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