As another restaurant riding on the xiao long bao trend, Paradise Dynasty came into the Philippine food scene carrying with it a lot of hype. When I first visited a half-opened S Maison in the MOA Complex last year, I had passed by Paradise Dynasty’s “coming soon” wall advertising their 8 colourful xiao long bao. I was immediately intrigued.
It’s not everyday you see soup dumplings coming in flavours of cheese, foie gras, and truffle! I already knew even as the restaurant was being constructed inside that people would flock here following the success of another xiao long bao place. I was already imagining the lines.
Paradise Dynasty is originally from Singapore, but over the years they’ve managed to expand all over the world and currently have 30 restaurants in different locations. This is their first branch in Manila, and quite a nice one at that. At the rate they’re going, I wouldn’t be surprised if they opened another branch at BGC.
According to the CEO of Paradise Group, Mr. Eldwin Chua, the secret to Paradise Dynasty’s success is how they provide good value to the customer– meaning they aren’t in the business of charging exorbitant prices for their food like other global franchisees do. They will ask you to pay only the right price for the quality of food you get. Well, you be the judge of that after reading through this review!
Now I know what you’re wondering: Is the xiao long bao at Paradise Dynasty really as good as advertised? Before I go into each dish, I’ll talk a bit about that first. To be entirely honest, the xiao long bao here is NOT the best I’ve ever eaten. However, it’s not bad by any means. The fact that you can choose from 8 flavours makes it novel. Indeed I wouldn’t call it a gimmick because they manage to execute well.
In eating xiao long bao, there are three main things you should always take note of: the skin, the soup, the filling. The common thing I noticed about the xiao long bao here is that there is a lot of soup but the meat inside is rather small. In most other dimsum places, people would complain over how there’s barely any soup in the xiao long bao, and I think they took that to heart way too much.
Personally I would prefer a balance. In the end, I think the xiao long bao at Paradise Dynasty could use a little more meat. The soup was just the right amount though, and tasty, so there’s that.
With regards to the skin, it seems that there’s some inconsistency there, which I will talk about in more detail down below. It may have been a fluke, or I could just have been particularly nit-picky that day, but those were my general observations.
In any case, I do feel that the xiao long bao here were quite enjoyable. I’m thinking of returning to try the Specialty Dynasty Xiao Long Bao, where you eat the eight different flavours in a particular sequence to make the most of your dining experience. Exciting!
Apart from the xiao long bao, they offer a good variety of other Chinese dishes. There are the classics-slash-staples like sweet and sour pork, and then there are regional specialties. I found their Szechuan cuisine offerings mouthwatering the moment I turned to that page on the menu!
Another thing that I really like about this restaurant is their ordering method. They leave you with a menu checklist and you can take as long as you want to decide on your order without anybody hovering over your shoulder (well, unless you call a waitress to assist you that is). Ordering is hard, believe me. There are a lot of interesting things to choose from!
Well that’s a long enough introduction, isn’t it? Let’s get down to my humble review.
Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao (Php 330 for 6 pieces; Php 540 for 10 pieces)
These xiao long bao are identified by their light orange skin. Selling these for Php 55 a pop isn’t cheap, but keep in mind, foie gras isn’t cheap at all. My only problem is: the flavour of said foie gras is so subdued it appears only at the end, almost like a light aftertaste.
That said, I find the soup to be pleasantly rich in a way that makes you pucker your lips. The skin is also soft without being soggy. Still a pretty good one to try.
Black Truffle Xiao Long Bao (Php 330 for 6 pieces; Php 540 for 10 pieces) 🌟
Without a doubt the best of the three xiao long bao we ordered. The moment you poke an opening on the dumpling’s skin, the truffle scent floats out and makes you go ‘Mmmm…’
My only gripe with this is the size of my filling. Although you do indeed get a satisfying hit of truffle flavour from both meat and soup, this still left me looking for something I could sink my teeth into. The filling in here was too small to do that. Despite that, I would order this again. 🙂
Szechuan Xiao Long Bao (Php 230 for 6 pieces; Php 380 for 10 pieces)
The beautiful red skin of this xiao long bao gives you a good idea of what lies within. True to the Szechuan style of cooking, this one has a full-bodied broth with just a slight heat. The aftertaste provides a kick that will surprise.
Unfortunately, my piece had some thick skin issues. The other two flavours we ordered were perfect– you could easily pick them up with chopsticks without breakage, and you could take a small bite or poke with a chopstick without trouble. When you eat them, the skin quickly gives way to the filling.
With this one, the piece I got was quite thick on the pleated crown. It even came undone the moment I picked the xiao long bao up. Eating it, the rougher texture of that thick pleat was rather noticeable. This was still enjoyable enough for anybody who likes spicy food though.
Pork Dumpling with Hot Chili Vinaigrette (Php 168) 🌟
A good amount of tasty filling is wrapped inside dumpling skin of perfect thickness. The dumplings rest in a vinaigrette that is garlicky and spicy all at the same time. What I love about this vinaigrette is how it has just the right hit of tanginess to tickle the tastebuds. I loved this.
Before you pick this up and eat it, make sure you’ve got a good amount of the sauce covering your dumpling, and get some garlic and chili flakes on there too! Some people might deem this spicy, but it was perfect for me.
La Mian With Seafood (Php 380) 🌟
So much has been said about the xiao long bao but I want to direct people’s attentions to the la mian here at Paradise Dynasty. I wish we ordered more of this stuff! Paradise Dynasty’s la mian is made in-house; laboriously pulled by hand into perfection. Each strand is firm but deliciously chewy. This particular dish had a milky soup base that was light and really pleasant alongside the noodles, seafood, and the veggies. The serving is also good enough for 2 people.
Dry La Mian With Pork Wonton in Hot Chili Vinaigrette (Php 280) 🌟
This dish is basically the awesome dumplings from above placed alongside Paradise Dynasty’s awesome hand-pulled noodles. Two things I like? Maybe you can imagine how much I loved this! We actually ordered two of the same things and realized our mistake too late, but what a happy accident right? Ordering it in dry form (sans soup) really allows you to appreciate each strand of these lovely noodles. Every slurp is deliciously coated with that scrumptious Hot Chili Vinaigrette!
This dish just makes my noodle-loving heart soar. Can I get another bowl of this, please?
Poached Sliced Fish in Szechuan Chili Oil (Php 688)
At a glance, this dish looks like liquid fire in a gigantic bowl. (Yes, this indeed comes in a shockingly HUGE bowl.) A closer inspection will allow you to see that this is actually poached cream dory in Szechuan chili oil, with glass noodles, oyster mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, and bean sprouts. I like spicy food so typically dishes that are coloured a spicy red really awaken my appetite, and the picture of this dish on the menu had that effect on me.
The spice level for this dish is adjustable from Mild to Very Spicy, and I found that Mild was just spicy enough that I didn’t need to chase each serving down with water. (Note that I do have a decent tolerance for spicy food.) If you’re not used to full-fledged Szechuan dishes, with the whole shebang of dried chilies and peppercorns swimming in oil infused with even more chili, this probably isn’t going to be your cup of tea.
Another thing: this was way too salty! With every bite, you can feel that saltiness before the spiciness hits you, especially when you get some of the glass noodles and oyster mushrooms that have absorbed the sauce. Most members of my family did not enjoy this.
Stir Fried Lettuce with Chinese Wine (Php 198) 🌟
I LOVE STIR-FRIED LETTUCE. It’s one of my favourite veggie dishes of life, especially when it’s cooked just right so the lettuce remains super crunchy. This one has that added pizzaz from the Chinese wine– a sweet and lightly fruity note. This simple plate proves that it doesn’t take too much flashiness to make a good dish if you know what you’re doing.
Shanghai Fried Rice (Php 238) 🌟
This fried rice was exceedingly tasty. Actually you can get away with ordering just xiao long bao plus this rice and you will already have yourself a delicious and filling meal. The type of rice they used here is fat and sticky, so it will sit more heavily in your stomach compared to regular thin rice.
Chilled Assorted Eggs Loaf in Yang Zhou Style (Php 180)
I realize this is supposed to be an appetizer but since it didn’t come out at the start of the meal, it became sort of a dessert instead. We ate this to cool down our palates after the spicy Szechuan Poached Fish dish and found that this was rather unusual. Here at home, we often make steamed eggs that sort of resembles the moist Japanese chawanmushi, and I have to say I prefer those types instead of a dry one like this.
Paradise Dynasty Lotus Paste Bun with Salted Egg Yolk (Php 130)
Again, another appetizer that became a dessert. This was a nice sweet ending to a hot and spicy meal, but it’s not exactly something I found to be memorable. My brother likened these buns to mooncake thanks to the filling, but I prefer this bao exterior. The reason why I don’t like mooncake is because it’s made of pure sweetness, but with this one there’s thankfully some restraint. I really appreciate how generous they were with the salted egg inside, and how they didn’t go overboard with the sweet lotus paste filling.
It’s normal to have hits and misses when dining in a restaurant for the first time, but one thing is clear: Paradise Dynasty makes no compromise when it comes to the quality of their dishes. All the dishes are prepared, cooked, and presented with a high-end feel even though this restaurant isn’t necessarily a place for fine-dining. (Whether you like the dishes or not is a matter of preference, so best to order wisely!)
As I mentioned, I would like to come back to have their full Specialty Dynasty Xiao Long Bao experience. It’s a clever move to allow customers to sample everything so they can pick their favourites to order upon their return. At a glance, the dumplings may seem expensive; but considering the overall quality of the xiao long bao– from the ingredients to the originality of the flavours- I believe this is a fair price.
However, there’s more to love about Paradise Dynasty other than their xiao long bao. I am a big fan of their la mian dishes, and I think this is definitely not something you should miss. I don’t think the noodle dishes are expensive at all because the servings are big enough to be shared; plus hand-pulling noodles is tough work!
There are some dishes I regret not ordering from Paradise Dynasty- such as that extra flaky-looking Radish Pastry above- so a return trip seems to be in the picture. In the near future, hopefully.
If you want to try this place out, you’d best come before 12 noon to avoid having to wait in line for a long time. We arrived at 11 and were seated after about 5 minutes, but the restaurant filled up really quickly soon after. Xiao long bao places seem to have become synonymous with long lines.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
2/L, S Maison, Conrad Hotel,
Mall of Asia Complex,
Pasay City, Philippines
Contact No.: (+632) 828.8333 / 838.8333
Hours: Open daily from 11 AM to 3 PM, then 6 PM to 10 PM
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