Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao
Shop G510-511, Po On Mansion, Taikoo Shing
Tel: 2568 6262
The crowd waiting outside this small restaurant at the relatively early lunch hour of 12.15pm made us think that these potential diners must be on to something. So we took a number but, after 45 minutes, left unfed, too hungry to wait any longer.
We returned a week later and this time we were smart: we went for an early lunch at 11.45am and were seated immediately.
While it's questionable if this place is worth a 45-minute wait (it would be better for everybody all round if the restaurant just accepted reservations), we will return (at off-peak hours) for the excellent Taiwanese and northern Chinese noodles and dumplings, served in clean, comfortable surroundings and at fair prices.
The noodles and dumplings are made on the premises. A small, open kitchen allows diners (and those waiting for seats) to observe the chefs pulling noodles and pleating dumplings.
Everything on the pictorial menu looked tempting. While we waited for our fourth guest, we nibbled on cold Japanese cucumbers ($35), which were crunchy and refreshing, but would have benefited from more sesame oil and garlic.
One guest, who can't take spicy foods, ordered noodles in chicken soup ($38). The noodles were served 'dry' (with the soup on the side). The broth was clear and comforting, with the slightest slick of chicken fat floating on top, while the noodles were smooth and tender.
The noodles 'Sichuan style' (dan dan mien, $28) were excellent, with just enough spice to give it a kick without overwhelming the taste buds. The surprising highlight of the noodle dishes was the version with scallion oil ($22). It sounded plain, but the noodles were flavourful yet not greasy from the intensely infused scallion oil, while the tangle of finely julienned fried scallions on top added texture.
The dumplings were just as good, especially the xiao long bao (four for $18). The delicate, smooth pork filling and broth were encased in a light wrapper that was just strong enough to hold everything inside without breaking.
The waitress recommended the steamed vegetable dumplings (three for $15), which were also excellent, as were the chive-shoot dumplings (six for $24). We rounded out our main courses with sauteed eel with chive shoots ($50), which had a sweet, rich sauce coating the tender slices of eel.
Desserts, unfortunately, were not as good as the savoury dishes. The glutinous dumpling in ginger soup ($18) lacked flavour in both the soup and the black-sesame-seed filling. We couldn't finish the red-bean-paste pancake, which was thick, doughy and greasy.
A meal for four with three glasses of soybean milk ($8) was $345.