SUPERSTAR: DIM SUM ON SHOW AT EXCEL
It is, just in case you had not noticed, party season. The night time streets are filled with drunken revellers wearing Santa hats and vomiting in street corners and the pleasing new sight of diners in shirtsleeves or party dresses having to step out into the freezing night air to sate their craving for a mid meal fag.
DH, of course, are far too grown up for such shenanigans and keep our party going to quiet affairs where fine wines are poured in moderation and delicate canapés are passed around by pretty young things in slight outfits (or should that be the other way around?)
Still, we managed to overdo it at a rather smashing party last night and I woke this morning bleary eyed and in need of one of our recovery meals.
Over the years, Dim Sum has always fitted the bill when we are recovering from the effects of the night before. The combination of frying, stodge, roast meat and restorative black tea seems to put everything right with the world.
At the high end, Hakkasan, if we are feeling a bit on the impoverished side, one of the Chinatown staples like Harbour City (although last time out that was actively grim) and, more recently mid range places like Royal China and Pearl Liang.
Some dogged internet research by HP threw up the suggestion of Superstar way out East on the grounds of the Excel Centre.
It has been around for a long time but has, until recently, been known for churning out standard Cantonese food for undiscerning conference goers. All that changed in the Summer when they were joined by Man Wai Lau the much lauded dim sum chef from The Golden Palace in Harrow.
Time Out describes his as a “superstar” in his own right and he has certainly had an impact on the restaurant which, despite being stuck out at the arse end of nowhere on a cold Sunday in December was filling up nicely with a predominantly Chinese crowd who were noisily appreciative of what was put in front of them.
The list is, as in most places, split into steamed, fried and dessert options and there are a few specials to use up bits of the animal that may be left over.
The fried and baked choices were highlights with plump pork puffs looking and tasting freshly made rather than bought in. The same too for turnip paste which had shreds of turnip to give texture and evidence house preparation as opposed to the smooth efforts in some places which are fried from a bought in paste.
One or two of the steamed dumplings were less successful with har gau needing more chewing that is strictly necessary and shanghai soup dumplings lacking enough juice to be worthy of the name.
To that point, there was nothing really to get excited about. It was all perfectly fine, standard stuff prepared to an acceptable if not exceptional standard. It was raised to a higher level by the arrival of plates of roast pork and duck which were as good as I have tried in London, a terrific dish of pork cheung fun in which the suitably chewy meat was surrounded by a soft melting casing. A special of “special” pork turned out to be a rather pungent assortment of bits of pig’s stomach whch was served with the warning 'don't smell it"
A bonus is that, given its location, it comes in about £10 cheaper than DH’s normal dim sum outings at £40 including service charge which represents pretty good value for thirteen dishes and two large plates of roast meat.
However, on this showing, I can’t quite see Superstar becoming the dim sum de choix for DH. It is better than Yi Ban in the same neighbourhood certainly, but a notch below Royal China when it is behaving itself and a long way down from Pearl Liang, my favourite place outside of spending £100 at Hakkasan.
Still, in the middle of grumbling kidney season, it did the trick
Roll on the next party.