Food review: Dim sum by gaslight
Cantonese favourites are subtly seasoned with mixed results at this stylish Central venue, writes Susan Jung
Duddell's is a beautiful place for beautiful people. It's lovely inside - the restaurant on the third floor is elegant and tasteful, while the art-filled fourth-floor bar is cosy, with a fantastic balcony.
The restaurant was full on the day of our visit, and because the ceiling is low, the noise level was high. The four of us had a hard time deciding what to order, so we stuck primarily to the traditional Cantonese dishes, some of which had been tweaked.
The food walks a fine line between subtle and bland, and sometimes it hits the wrong side. Occasionally, it needed a little more salt. This was the case with the filling for the steamed mushroom dumplings with black truffle (HK$96 for four), which had light, chewy skins that were not overcooked; and the too-dense taro paste in the taro puffs with shrimp and pork (HK$72 for four). The suckling pig (HK$160 for a half portion), which was a pretty little inverted sandwich, composed of a thin layer of steamed bread between a perfect square of delicately crisp skin and underseasoned meat, would have been so much better with a little crunchy sea salt sprinkled on top, while salt-baked chicken (HK$230), recommended by the waiter, also needed more salt, although the meat had the firm texture that comes from a fresh bird. Barbecued pork with honey (HK$120 for a half order) was tender and succulent, but needed some char.
Baked barbecued pork puff (HK$72 for four) had delicately crumbly, slightly sweet and well-browned pastry, and plenty of finely chopped meat. The steamed rice rolls with beef, water chestnut and dried tangerine peel (HK$80), which were served towards the end of the meal (although we ordered it the same time as the other dim sum dishes), were also enjoyable with a nice balance between the thin layers of rice roll and the well-seasoned filling. Crispy fried eel with sweet chilli (HK$220 for a snack portion) had the flavours of really good sweet and sour pork, with a hint of spice.
Fried fish maw with egg and fresh crab meat (HK$280) had just a scant amount of fish maw and crab meat, so didn't seem worth the price, although it was well cooked. Braised frog with bean curd puff (HK$240) was a home-style dish with large chunks of tender, mild-tasting meat. The bean curd puffs (which were actually gluten) absorbed the rich sauce, which was flavoured with pieces of pork.
The service, at first, was competent in that they took our order and brought the correct dishes. But after I was recognised by one of the owners, the servers became far more attentive, and we were given free desserts, which included a dense but delicious baked kumquat puff, and a cooling avocado and sago cream with chocolate, which tasted much better than it sounds.
Duddell's, 3/F and 4/F Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central. Tel: 2525 9191. Open: Monday-Saturday noon-2.30pm (last order), 6pm-10.30pm (last order). The bar is open Monday-Saturday noon-midnight. About HK$420 without drinks or service charge.