Dragon Castle dim sum
A few years back, I had gone to the Dragon Castle with a friend on the advice of her Hong Kong Chinese mother. Googling for dim sum places now, I found several rave reviews from about that time - but also the suggestion (on this board) that the chef might have changed since then, with a consequent decrease in quality. But we were in the area, so we decided to give it a try.
As well as Cantonese offerings, the dim sum menu at Dragon Castle has xiao bai long (Shanghainese dumplings) and even a couple of Thai and Vietnamese dishes. But, since Hanoi is nearer to Guangdong (the capital of Cantonese food) than Chengdu (the capital of Szechaun), arguably that’s no worse than the inclusion of what now seems to be the obligatory few Szechuan dishes on every London Chinese menu.
We stuck to the Cantonese offerings, ordering: prawn dumplings (ha gow), turnip and peanut dumplings, pork puffs, deep fried taro dumplings, beef balls, and chicken feet. The waiter tried to dissuade us from the chicken feet, and then to persuade us to get the warm ones in black bean sauce rather than the cold ones marinated in rice wine. But, despite being Gweilo, we like cold marinated chicken feet, so get them we did. And very pleased with them we were too. The large “meaty” feet had picked up a lovely flavour from the marinade and were served with tasty pickles on the side. Those and the pork puffs were our favourite dishes. Our least favourite were the beef balls, which were not as aromatic and gingery as ones we have had elsewhere, and the two sets of steamed dumplings, whose skin was just too thick. All the other dishes were exactly as they should be, no better and no worse. Some of the Chinese diners were having the congee (not on the English menu, but on the Chinese order form, with translation) and that looked very nice, with a generous amount of preserved egg and other bits floating in it. I was eyeing it up for seconds, but we were just too full to order anything more.
Our meal was fine but not special. My partner disagrees, insisting that the chicken feet were very special and beat out the chicken feet from elsewhere, but, as someone who can’t eat prawns, he doesn’t understand how important decent ha gow are. Dragon Castle was certainly no better than standards such as Royal China or Imperial China. Are these the best places for dim sum in London? Or is there some really good dim sum place I’m missing?
You might want to try Pearl Liang. We had dim sum there early in the week, and I thought it was a good offering. I don't think it's in the high echelon or company of Hakkasan perhaps, but I was happy as I left. :-) That said, I am not a dim sum expert by any means.
Min Jiang's a lot more expensive than Dragon Castle, but I've had amazing dim sum there. The best XLB I've had in London too.
Some of the most enjoyable things I've had from Dragon Castle recently have been from the specials menu - a decent cheung fun 'Vietnamese style' with cha lua sausage and crispy shallots, duck spring rolls, and wontons in chili oil. Not earth-shattering, but a good option if you're nearby.
I was always a fan of Hakkasan and Yauatcha - true very expensive but good dim sum is never cheap (and I live in Hong Kong where the best is very refined and very expensive). I will second Pearl Liang which is good middle ground food, have not been to Min Jiang but it sounds good and probably high end.
I think the one to watch is to see what the new Shangr-La Hotel (in The Shard) will do, their standard main in-hotel restaurant is usually under the Shang Palace brand and they usually deliver very good dim sum.
Am not a dim sum expert, by any stretch but definitely found the dim sum at Pearl Liang to be better than those at Dragon Castle.