In the narrow entrance and behind the glass of an open kitchen, dozens of white-powered hands work at round cuts of dumpling skin while others are slapping hand-pulled noodles into form. The small hallway soon takes a sharp turn and opens up into an expansive room of dark timber panels, a tasteful gold centrepiece, and royal purple curtains to shade the dining area from the unforgiving Singapore sun. Further in, there is even an alfresco that overlooks high over Orchard Road. The restaurant looks typically upscale Chinese—elegant, dark and cosy.
The bamboo basket of xiao long bao however, are not so typical. A striking combination of colours usually only reserved for a packet of Skittles, the xiao long bao circled inside the basket in a savoury rainbow. Much like a tasting selection of cheese, Chef Fung Chi Keung recommends the first time eater to sample them in a particular order: the original (white), ginseng (green), foie gras (brown), black truffle (black), cheese (yellow), crab roe (orange), garlic (grey) and Szechuan (pink). While the experiment is a brave one, some flavours prove to pale in comparison to Paradise Dynasty’s unbeatable original xiao long bao. Encapsulated in the heat of the dumpling, the crab roe loses its delicacy while a distinct pungency of the black truffles overwhelm the pork broth in the black versions. There are still innovative winners among the batch though, such as the light herbal ginseng and the numbing spices of the peppercorns in the Szechuan xiao long bao.
But beyond the array of colourful dumplings lie the real highlights. The piping hot Radish Pastry—a sweet radish, soft but firm to the bite, feather-wrapped in airy flakes stays true to its traditional preparation. The la mian with sliced pork also holds a delight within its silken threads of noodles and signature pork bone soup.
#04-12A, ION Orchard
2 Orchard Turn
[Shorter version of this review is in Appetite Magazine, November 2010]