For many weeks I evaded Causeway Bay but in the end I was persuaded to try Xiao Long Bao at Paradise Dynasty. It took me surprisingly long especially because Causeway Bay was only 15 minutes from my place in Sai Ying Pun. So what took me so long to try Paradise Dynasty’s signature dish?
Dynasty’s website described the cuisine as contemporary fusion of northern and southern Chinese cuisine. Mixing food and making it contemporary gave me the shivers and had stopped me from going. In Hong Kong these words typically mean over-priced dishes, black ‘luxurious’ interior and a mismatch of flavours. When, after a few weeks, I ran out of excuses I finally decided to visit Paradise Dynasty to find out what all the hype was about. For the newbies to Chinese food, Xiao Long Bao are dumplings with little juicy pockets of gelatinised broth made from chicken, pork and cured ham. When the dumplings are steamed the broth gelatine melts to create a mouth-watering Xiao Long Bao.
The restaurant is a few minutes away from Times Square in Causeway Bay, a well-known local area with many shops and restaurants. Normally we would book a table but a booking for two was not possible so we went there without a reservation. The elevator took us to the 6th floor. People were already queueing but surprisingly a table was available within several minutes. The interior was, as expected, predominantly black with flashes of emperor red to remind us we were in Hong Kong and, of course, there was a feng shui water feature for good fortune. I am not sure if this was meant for the restaurant or for those eating here.
I glanced over the paper menu – a small paper sheet resembling a bingo card because you need to tick off what you want to eat – and ordered the signature Shanghainese Xiao Long Bao dumplings, stir-fried rice with minced crab meat, green veggies, Sichuan chicken in dried chillies and sesame glutinous rice balls. This sounds like a lot for two people but we were hungry.
First came a bamboo basket with eight neatly arranged and colourful Xiao Long Bao’s. They were good, not great. I expected more refinement. Instead of a very thin translucent layer of dough, it was too thick and the taste covered the flavour of the dumpling’s broth. The colours were perfect for all the foodie photo-taking guests but did not elevate my culinary experience to a new level. My less favourite dumplings were the steamy cheese (yellow), steamed black truffle (black) and steamed garlic (brown). They lacked the flavour of cheese, truffle and garlic. The famous dumplings were good but not worth the hype.
The weird-looking slimy stir-fried rice with meat crab was next. With so many Asian dishes it is impossible to know the taste by the way it is presented and I had the feeling that this dish was one of them. It took a few minutes to get used to the gooey brown sauce but decided to take a big spoon full. It was delicious. The buttery sweet and sour sauce complemented the salty stir-fried rice really well. The crunchy green vegetables were tasty and the glutinous rice balls were fun to play with. The menu was simple and affordable with each dish costing between $40-$100 HKD. The water pond must have worked because I felt fortunate I had finally made the trip to Causeway Bay.
6/F, Lee Theatre, 99 Percival Street,
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel. (+852) 2177 0903