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Sunday, August 23, 2009

MIN JIANG: TOP OF THE HIGH STREET DIM SUM







































As rules-of-thumb go the one that says that the quality of the food in a restaurant is in inverse proportion to its view is not a bad one. You can’t really moan – you, the diner and the restaurant are usually complicit in the unwritten agreement that the latter’s responsibility starts and ends by providing a fabulous vista.

This doesn’t apply so much in London where, to be honest the views, especially from elevated positions are, well, a bit crap – the city as a whole being a bit of a dog’s dinner architecturally.

It was a bit of a surprise then, that my Dim Sum lunch at Chinese restaurant Min Jiang, situated at the top of The Kensington Gardens Hotel, was so enjoyable. Certainly because of the food which I already knew about –
DH’s visit a year ago confirmed that this was a very capable kitchen – but the fact the view over Kensington Gardens was really rather pleasant. Lots of green stuff (trees I think), not too many cranes. That sort of stuff.

Min Jiang is, of course, well known for its Roast Duck, of which they sell an astonishing twenty plus per day but I was here to try their Dim Sum. I already knew about their excellent Xiao Long Bao, Shanghai Dumplings filled with a savoury stock, which had piqued my interest about their other “bits of the heart”.

I had my answer as soon as I started nibbling at a little bowl of lightly pickled vegetables. The veg had been marinated in vinegar together with a little salt and sugar. Simple, sure, but light and tart and delicious.

Everything is freshly prepared and cooked to order by the chef (from Hong Kong) and the results show – this is some of the best Dim Sum cooking in London. Ok, the range isn’t wildly inventive or particulary extensive but there is a preciseness to the preparation and a lightness to the end result which didn’t leave me feeling bloated and harbouring a MSG-induced migraine even after nine dishes.

For the steamed stuff Har Gau and Pumpkin Dumpling were little balls densely packed with seafood. The skin was delicate, if a little thick, but miles ahead of the usual industrial Gau. Xiao Long Bao were still present and correct with a good, scaldingly-hot stock and meaty filling.

Char Siu Puffs – pastry encasing a rich porky filling - were a revelation, all hot and crumbly. Cubes of squidgy Turnip Cake were made into a spicy stir fry. Greaseless Spring Rolls came tightly packed with shredded Beijing Duck with a thick dipping sauce. A special of silky smooth rolls of Cheung Fun were stuffed with nuggets BBQ’d Pork.

Yam Croquettes show the kitchen’s dab hand at frying. In more run-of-the-mill places these will spend most of their last hours sunning themselves in a warmer. Here, at Min Jiang, they’re brought fresh from the deep-fat fryer. Great stuff.

Does the Chinese Custard Tart have its origins in Britain (home of the tart) or Portugal (home of the Pastel de Nata) ? For me it’s of minor interest but the delicate little cakes served here were wolfed down pretty quickly.

Min Jiang’s prices are a bit higher than the norm but then so are their standards. And to make sure you appreciate each dish there’s plenty of plate swapping. Think of it as eating from a tasting menu rather than a er, bun fight where everything is served at once and you all dive in. It’s altogether a calmer and more civilised experience.

You may prefer the hustle and bustle and cheapness of a Chinatown joint or the more modern spin at the disco-like Hakkasan or even the buzzy Yauatcha where you pay for the staff to be snotty and superior to you. It’s probably a sign of age but I was more than happy at Min Jiang - it has great food, friendly staff and a nice view. I may have just discovered my perfect Dim Sum joint.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Little Nutbrown Hare said...

Chinese egg tart - origins in Portuguese via Macau. Min Jiang was on my list until I read a terrible review but this has piqued my interest again. I guess I just have to try it to know...

Monday, August 24, 2009 1:09:00 am  
Blogger Kavey said...

YUM! Am now hungry!

Monday, August 24, 2009 9:40:00 am  
Blogger Gourmet Chick said...

Food looks great. Agree with you about the quality of food usually decreasing with the food. A few notable exceptions though and sounds like Min Jiang is another.

Monday, August 24, 2009 9:54:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hello LNH,

Two people can hold very different opinions about the same restaurant.

The trick is, I suppose, to find someone whose tastes concur with one's own or whose taste you trust.

Or you could do as Dos Hermanos do and visit anyway and write as you find. An independent unbiased view is a rare thing these days.

Happy Eating

HP

Monday, August 24, 2009 10:27:00 pm  
Blogger Mr Noodles said...

Did the xiao long bao have crab in the mix ? £6.50 for three seems v.expensive to me especially when the other dim sum is around the £4 mark.

Monday, August 24, 2009 11:04:00 pm  
Anonymous An American in London said...

Glad to hear you had a good dim sum experience. I remember reading on Helen's (World Foodie Guide) site a few weeks ago that the dim sum was mediocre and am now wondering which one of you ate there on the anomalous day.

The xiao long bao look good, but I echo Mr. Noodle's comment that three for 6.50 is pricey.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 9:27:00 am  
Blogger Mr Noodles said...

One more thought, I think you've omitted a whole category of dim sum restaurants from your summary.

I'm thinking of places like Phoenix Palace (Marylebone) and Pearl Liang (Paddington) that inhabit the middle ground between cheap and cheerful Chinatown and the la-di-da places like Hakkasan/Yauatcha and Min Jiang for that matter.

IMHO, these are the best places to go for dim sum.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 5:19:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hi Mr N,

We haven't been to Pearl Liang recently so I can't comment on the quality of their Dim Sum currently. We didn't see any reason to return to Phoenix Palace after our first visit.

Re the dumplings they were meat based. Are they expensive ? Well that depends what you're comparing them to. I wanted them, I enjoyed them so they were worth it to me.

Some people may rate the cheapness in a restaurant more highly than others.

HP

Tuesday, August 25, 2009 6:36:00 pm  
Anonymous Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

Pleased to hear that you had a far better dim sum lunch than I did! Pearl Liang, Yauatcha and now Yum Cha are my current favourites in London.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 5:32:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

I thought the cooking was spot on and it all freshly made and to order.

Need to go back and retry PL. YC had one or two good dishes as I remember but no standouts. I think a lot of their stuff is brought in.

I can't get past the attitude of the staff at Yauatcha although things may have changed since it's been sold.

HP

Thursday, September 24, 2009 10:48:00 pm  
Anonymous HK-LDN said...

Okay, the food isn't bad, some dishes are excellent, and of course the view, the wonderful view.

But the restaurant is full of suited fools, bloated businessmen, hotel guests, and listless loveless couples who would rather look out at the park than each other.

Not a patch on Royal China, where there is far better food at a much lower price. Far better atmosphere too.

Remove Min Jiang's park view and it becomes just another overpriced hotel restaurant serving mediocre dim sum. Worth a visit to try a few dishes that aren't served elsewhere, but once is enough.

Tried it once by choice, was dragged there twice more against my will. We were the only Chinese diners each time.

Still, saying that, their dim-sum quality is relatively high for London, but nowhere near top five.

As for selling 20 duck per day. Big deal. There are at least three restaurants on Queensway with superior duck, selling 50+++ per day.

Min Jiang is delicious, but only really suitable for first-time dim-sum diners.

Friday, January 08, 2010 12:34:00 pm  

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