In a dimly lit room, a few masked men crowded around the powdered counter. the cold steel counter was laden with messy piles of everything...With skillful hands they flattened snow-white globes into malleable discs. Tenderly handling them with a dash of pink, and holding them with care. The men neatly nipped and tucked at the foreheads of the now reformed white globes, tucking the sides creating pleats like a miniskirt, eventually closing into a delicate ring at the top. They swiftly rested each pleated globe on fine white linen, and quickly as they fill the round and they're sent right to the other side of the room.
Such is the case for 金牌小龍. The shop in TST has generated enough lines to be called "popular". Yet on the second day of its opening, the new Causeway Bay shop has yet to be discovered. One can see that while the crowds who lunch are elbowing each other for a spot upstairs and downstairs, this newly opened branch is so quiet compared to the others. It's not exactly pin-drop silence, but given the service is impeccable, and the food is made and served promptly enough, there is room for one to wonder if the dining space is packed, if the food is going to be on the same level? But that's another story to be told in the future.
King's Dumplings runs a similar array of dishes much like the well-loved Din Tai Fung, which is not-surprisingly a few blocks away. It's so similar that even the menu layout and the photos are similar. But well, you can't really argue, that soup dumplings should have certain standards-- the plumpness, the round pleated top and the standard sizes. Ordering was easy. Everything on the menu has pictures (for diners who don't already know what certain things are, they give good pointers) And with less than 5 tables filled, food was promptly served.炸醬拌麵 ($32)
didn't really arrive in a bowl, but more like a dish. The neatly arranged noodles were placed at the base, while the brown stew of minced pork, chopped bamboo shoots, and minced dried tofu was ladled across the top, unveiling half of beige white noodles. The sprinkling of scallions catch our attention, followed by a wave of aroma from the brown stewed meat. It resembled what may be an Oriental version of Spaghetti Bolognese, only with a richer preserved soybean paste taste and the extra sweetness and bite from the pork and other ingredients mentioned earlier. The noodles though, were stuck into one piece and required extra work from two pairs of chopsticks to separate them back into strands. The noodles, slightly chewy, were just about perfect with pork and sauce equally clinging along each strand of noodle. The scallions, although not many across the top, provides a slightly sharp garlicky crunch.蒜泥白肉 ($45)
has a surprising look. What amounts to many other similar dishes is often fanned out paper thin slices of pork with a garlic-dominating sauce, so pungent that one would need a double dose of fresh mints within arm's reach. But here the pile of pork is not made up of paper thin slices, and then are not visibly garlicky. In fact the dressing is chunky enough to cling onto the meat slices. An off-orange colour, the sauce is made with a potent dose of minced garlic and what may be the slightest tinge of black vinegar, among other things. The presence of black vinegar lightens the dish and tricks us into wanting more.台式焢肉飯 ($38)
This is not something new, but it's not something particular either. What it essentially comes down to here at King's Dumplings is a bowl of steamed rice topped with braised pork belly and half an egg cooked in 5-spice marinade. The marinated tofu looked slightly dry but a bite into it allowed one to taste all the juices absorbed within the intricate structure inside the tofu. The 5-spice marinade, despite thin, made a very satisfying sauce and flavour on the tofu and the egg itself. The egg, although not soft-molten-yolk (nor was I expecting it to be) was not too-tough, and it actually retained an egginess to the yolk. The pork belly itself was slightly sweeter than antcipated. The smooth skin took on a brownish-burgundy colour while the alternating layers of half-molten fat and tender pork meat were scrumptious and richly satisfying from the texture to the taste.粉蒸排骨 ($38)
is served in an extra-petite steamer basket, almost like pork riblets were packed tightly together ready to leap out of the basket. When uncovered the riblets, coated and marinated with five spice (and a particularly strong note on star anise) were soft and tender, as the juices penetrated into the bony bits and down to the potato chunks that lined the base of the steamer basket. For one who loves five spice this may be the dish for you, although there were occasions where pumpkin/squash was used in place of potatoes. That brought out a completely different flavour in the unusual twist.金牌小龍包 (6 pcs /$42)
are the delicate plump dumplings that gathered around in groups of 6, neatly made at the front of the visible kitchen, where masked cooks skillfully tucked in the rounding edges of the dough, yielding and counting as they go until the entire top of each dumpling is neatly tucked in, forming a ring of a top that resembled a crown. The dumplings were placed on a piece of linen and steamed. When the lid came off, a whiff of steam diminished into thin air, offering a sensational aroma of steamed dough. The wrapper, thin and semi-translucent easily held the pork filling as well as the steaming soup within, all goodness trapped inside the thinnest of wrappers. When consumed (careful, it's hot!) the 'soup' within is meaty but not over-seasoned, while the wrapper, even gathered and pinched at the top, remainly cooked through and bore no signs of uncooked dough. Now this is a pretty good soup-filled pork dumpling, and it needs no extra dip of black vinegar to taint the simple taste of what can be considered a unique icon of Chinese cuisine.
There was still room for desserts, as we approach the menu once again. We paused, pondering on the possibilities of eating something great and yet, simple like soup-filled dumplings that are made so repetitively across the board and few managed to stay consistent. One should bear no expectation to King's Dumplings, and as its opening this week it becomes yet another addition to the list of competitors of eateries of the same nature. It doesn't matter so much whether the location is on the tucked corner at the mall, or even convenient on the street side. It takes consistency to beat the rest, and King's Dumplings, I'd like to try again in a few weeks...I wonder if food and service will be just as good.
Brightly lit space
Tables evenly spaced
Steamy Potted Tea
炸醬撈麵--sauce slightly sweet.
蒜泥白肉--a little vinegar goes a long way
金牌小龍包--plump steamed dumplings
Thin, semi-translucent wrappers holding juicy filling
焢肉飯 - moist and tender pork belly, juicy tofu
粉蒸排骨- small steamer makes good presentation
Tucked away dumpling shop.
Spending per head: Approximately HKD85(Lunch)Other Ratings:
Value for Money 3