The recent debut of Paradise Dynasty – a stablemate of Taste Paradise – at ION Orchard gives xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) aficionados reason to cheer, not least because with this new 206-seater on the map, you can skip the long queues that form daily outside the no-reservations Din Tai Fung outlets. Looks-wise, Paradise eschews any notion of modernity in favour of textured wood pillars and wall panels made from 100-year-old timber to conjure a faux– Imperial China experience.
On the menu is a kaleidoscope of souped-up xiaolongbao in not one or two, but eight flavours and colours. Sadly not everything works, even if you follow the recommended tasting sequence. It commences with the ‘original’ and ends with the Sichuan flavour. While the umami-packed pork jus was perfectly sealed in an exquisite pastry skin that had just the right thickness and bite, only the rich foie gras, the part-earthy, partpungent black truffle and piquant Sichuan flavours were exceptional or worthy complements to the savoury pork flavour. The ginseng flavour was a little too ‘herby’, while the crab roe soup dumplings had disagreeable hints of fishiness. Likewise, the garlic dumplings were forgettable, though we suspect the ‘cheesy’ dumplings will win big with the kids.
Admittedly, flavour preferences are subjective. So, to please the table, we suggest you begin with an order of a mixed basket of eight flavours ($13.80) before specialising in any of the single-flavoured small (six pieces) or big (ten pieces) baskets. But Paradise Dynasty is not a one-trick pony. Also on the menu are Shanghai dim sum, chilled appetisers, fried dishes such as the deep-fried diced chicken in Sichuan sauce, fried rice, rice cakes and 18 varieties of la mian (hand-pulled Chinese noodles). While there are some noteworthy items in the mix, choice picks include the poached marbled beef served atop la mian in a piquant broth laced with tonguesearing Sichuan dried chillis; and pork dumplings topped with spring onions in a heady chilli oil-laced sauce. A hearty combination would revolve around a basket of soup dumplings shared with the generously sized bowl of la mian.
On the dessert front, the gargantuan soufflé egg – white balls stuffed with red bean paste and banana – were exemplary, as were the grated, nutdusted rice balls.#04-12A ION, 2 Orchard Turn (6509 9118)
As published in Time Out Singapore: