I was hosting a guest from Hubei, and had wanted to break his xiao long bao virginity, while showing him around the Lujiazui towers, so I landed up at IFC Mall, and the most marketed choice was Paradise Dynasty. I did a quick search, and found that Paradise Dynasty also offers a host of sichuan-style dishes, which would have accommodated my guest if he didn’t like the plainer non-spicy dishes; Hubei people are known to be unable to taste any flavour below jalapeno spiciness.
Paradise Dynasty, a chain of restaurants by Singapore-based Paradise Group has been quite hyped, primarily by its 8 colour xiao long baos (XLB), each colour representing a unique flavour of the filling. Posters and marketing materials of the 8 colour XLB has been seen in various places, especially around the buildings that housed its restaurant(s).
Truth be told, I had been intrigued by the marketing from the first time I laid eyes on the 8 coloured XLBs, but again, had not found the right opportunity to try it out, since Din Tai Fung is almost within walking distance from where I live, along with a host of local, cheaper choices. Therefore I selfishly chose Paradise Dynasty to bring my guest, and allow myself to have a taste.
First impressions of the restaurant were good. The restaurant is dark themed, and has a modernised rustic feeling. Service was passable – servers came when called, but none of them cared to approach our table without us signalling for them.
The food section of the menu was split into 4 distinct sections, the snacks, the noodles, the cold dishes, and hot dishes. On the cold and hot dishes were many sichuan staples: Water-cooked Fish/Beef (水煮鱼/牛), Mouth-watering Chicken (口水鸡), Mapo Tofu, etc.
Unfortunately, we were told that ALL of the cold dishes and the aforementioned fish/beef dish was not available due to seasonality. Rightttttt.
That had already set my expectations or the lack thereof for the rest of the meal, and I just ordered a light meal, making plans for a later dinner.
So how was it? Not so good. If you are a fan of Paradise Dynasty and would not like to read a bad review of it, please turn away now.
Let’s begin with the good thing first. The XLB.
Yes, the actual dish lived up to the photoshopped version on the posters. Quite a spectacle to be honest. One is simply not used to seeing 8 different coloured variations of the same item on a chinese steam basket.
Due to unselfish reasons, I only tasted 4 out of the 8 flavours – Foie Gras, Truffle, Original, Cheese.
First, the skin was quite expertly crafted. Thin and sturdy, with a good number of pleats (I didn’t bother counting). Each of them packed a good tablespoon of soup.
The original flavour was nice; The broth and meat not overly rich nor salty. Neither did it have the strong ‘porky’ flavour that some XLBs have. Very pleasant, on par with Din Tai Fung.
The cheese flavour did not tasted as disgusting as it sounded in the head, mainly because the cheese was used very conservatively. Infact, if I hadn’t known it was cheese, I would’ve just thought it was a very rich tasting XLB. No idea what cheese was used, probably a gruyere or something similar. This one is really hyped just for the idea of a XLB with cheese.
The Foie Gras was similar to the cheese, again, very conservative use of the foie. It tasted like a richer version of the original XLB. To be fair, after making an effort to make out the foie, I did get it on the palate. If you had not eaten foie gras before, this will not tell you what foie gras tastes like.
The truffle was thankfully better than the above 2. No sight of whole truffle slices like in Din Tai Fung’s version, but the flavour was apparent in the soup, and quite balanced. By balanced, i mean light. You recognise the truffle flavor, but you don’t go WOW like for the case of Din Tai Fung’s truffle XLB, which has multiple truffle slices in every XLB, and one ends up literally being overdosed on truffle. Pros and cons. 7/10
That was the good part. Now for the rest of the meal. Don’t worry, I’ll make it quick so it doesn’t hurt too much.
Sweet and sour soup. This was done decently enough. Mildly spicy and had all the right components: tofu, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, strips of pork. Peppery and sour from a good dose of black vinegar. 8/10
Sichuan Dan Dan Noodles. Barely spicy. Lots of crushed peanuts. Strong peanut taste in the broth. No tongue numbing sensation from sichuan peppercorns. Noodles had a nice bite, but otherwise, it was a very dull bowl of noodles. This bowl of noodles should be spicy. It should awake senses. It should give a kick to person having the first taste, screaming “THIS … IS … SICHUAN!!!” . But no, this was peanut flavoured noodles in a rich red broth. 3/10
Dumplings in chilli oil. Slightly spicier than the noodles, but still mildly so. Still no tongue numbing sensation, but a little bit of sichuan peppercorns was tasted. That said, the pork filling was delicious and tender. If only the sauce that had delivered it, delivered. 6/10
Mapo Tofu. So for a restaurant that has nearly half a menu of sichuan offerings should get the mapo tofu spot on right? Not necessarily so! The mapo tofu was mildly spicy! Again, the same recurring theme happens throughout all the dishes here. Mild, conservative flavours. This would be great for cantonese cuisine, but fails big time for sichuan cuisine! I would consider this a decent cantonese bean-paste-styled mapo tofu, but it was presented as sichuan fiery red styled mapo tofu. It did not tasted half as spicy as it had looked. It did not have any tongue numbing sichuan peppercorn taste. As a sichuan mapo tofu, it is a fail. As a savoury dish to devour a bowl of rice with, it’s a win. You decide. 5/10