Friday, July 31, 2015

Streets Ice Cream, Australia

Ah, ice cream.  One of my favorite things.  It should come as no surprise that when I visit another country, I get ridiculously excited to try out their ice cream treats.  And I don't actually mean trying all the fancy, high-end, artisan ice cream hand-crafted scoop-at-a-time using liquid nitrogen and all organic ingredients either (although, yes, last week I wrote about my favorite gelato in Sydney, Messina!)  No, I'm talking about the basic, classic, packaged ice cream treats you can get in any convenience store anywhere.  Which in Australia, is Streets.

Yes, Streets is basically just the Australian version of Nestlé ice cream, which, as you may recall from my reviews, I didn't ever really like.  More accurately, it is their version of Good Humor, as both are owned by Unilever, just like Heartbrand, which I reviewed after visiting Zurich.

Anyway, probably to most Australian adults, these aren't anything exciting.  But to me, they were something new to try, and, spoiler, some are actually quite good!
The Magical Ice Cream Freezer.
The office I was working in had ice cream freezers scattered about.  Nearly every day, they were filled with new treats.  The first time I visited Sydney, this really was the highlight of my day.  And back then, the variety was huge and the freezers never seemed to run out.  On my recent visit, the selection was less varied, and you had to time it perfectly in order to get one of the "good" treats, but still, it was quite exciting to have these freezers all over the office.

Magnum

Magnum is a line of ice cream bar, on a stick, covered in coating.  The classic flavor is just vanilla ice cream with milk chocolate coating, but like any successful product, a slew of other varieties are now available, with different flavors of ice cream (salted caramel, strawberry, chocolate), different coatings (milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, with almonds, with bits of honeycomb, with bits of "vanilla pieces"), and assorted swirls (caramel, chocolate).  They are available in full size or miniature.

Magnums have been sold in other countries for years, but only came to the US in 2011.  Of course, I've never bothered purchase one here in the US, but, when I was in Australia, I tried many varieties.  I also tried a few in Zurich.  I didn't actually care for the ice cream component of any of them, it was never as creamy as I'd like, but the coatings were really quite good.  They need to leave the ice cream business and just make chocolate confections.
Strawberry White Crumble Magnum.
"Creamy strawberry flavoured ice cream covered in cracking white chocolate and crunchy vanilla pieces."

Now, I don’t care for strawberry ice cream in general, and this tasted a lot like strawberry flavored Carnation Instant Breakfast, aka, a bit fake.  The ice cream itself wasn't great either, not very creamy.

This sounds all negative.  And, I really didn't like the ice cream.  But ... the white chocolate coating was the perfect thickness, and was pleasantly sweet.  I really loved the crunch from the "crunchy vanilla pieces" mixed throughout.

Just the coating would make for a nice white chocolate confection.  I wish I could get that, and leave the ice cream behind.
Salted Caramel Magnum.
"Creamy vanilla with a salted caramel swirl, coated in cracking Magnum milk chocolate with a silver finish."

The silver finish was stunning.  Under the silver paint was a milk chocolate layer of the perfect thickness to give it a great snap as you bit into it.  They really do have the coating thickness nailed on these treats.
Salted Caramel: inside.
Inside was fairly creamy vanilla ice cream, with a salted caramel swirl throughout.  It was sweet, but I didn't really detect the promised salty aspect.  I didn't love it, but it was better than the strawberry ice cream.

Overall, this was fine, but not particularly interesting.
Ego Caramel Magnum.
“Premium creamy vanilla ice cream covered in two layers of thick cracking Magnum chocolate encasing a thick caramel sauce.”

Wow, I finally, finally found a Magnum that I really enjoyed!

Yes, it was the same basic vanilla ice cream inside that isn’t particularly remarkable, but it is what surrounded it that made it great.
Ego Caramel: Inside.
There were three layers of coating.  Each alone was fine, but together, they were a magic trifecta.

The outermost was a classic thick milk chocolate shell.  Inside was a thick layer of caramel, and finally a dark chocolate layer.

The layers were crunchy, so sweet, and just totally delicious.

Like with the strawberry white crumble, I would have even been happy eating just the coating.  In this case, I really think it would work, a 3 layer chocolate bar?  Totally.  The ice cream was totally unnecessary.
Honeycomb Crunch.
"Smooth and creamy honeycomb ice cream covered in a thick layer of Magnum cracking milk chocolate and crunchy honeycomb bits."

Ok, now this one I was super excited for.  I love honeycomb.  Why the US doesn't really have honeycomb I'll never understand.  But it shows up everywhere in Australia.  Apparently, even in the ice cream.
Honeycomb Crunch: Inside.
The honeycomb flavored ice cream was very, very sweet, but more interesting than the standard vanilla.  Still not very creamy though.

The milk chocolate shell had the perfect snap as always, but was even better  because it had crunchy bits of honeycomb inside.

This was solid, probably my second favorite flavor I tried, but, actually, too sweet for me overall.
Magnum White.
"Vanilla bean ice cream dipped in white chocolate."

I actually kinda enjoyed this, which is surprising given how simple it is.   Yes, just vanilla ice cream coated in white chocolate.  No extra fun elements to add crunch in the coating, no core of decadent caramel, just vanilla and white chocolate.

But I let it get nicely melty, and the ice cream was decently creamy.  The white chocolate was sweet.  I had it alongside a black coffee, and it was the perfect combination, almost like an affogado.  I'd do it again.

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Peppermint Magnum.

"Premium peppermint ice cream covered in thick cracking Magnum dark chocolate. "

I love minty things, but this was just basic green mint ice cream, again, not creamy.  The coating was decent dark chocolate.  Overall, not very interesting.

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Magnum Almond.

"Vanilla bean ice cream dipped in milk chocolate and almonds."

The plain vanilla ice cream never does it for me, and the milk chocolate shell was pretty boring.  The slivered almonds added crunch, but weren't enough to save this one for me.

Cornetto

Cornetto is the line of packaged ice cream cones.  As far as I can tell, they are just Australia's version of a Drumstick, which I've reviewed before.  I've also reviewed the fancier packaged Cornettos found in Zurich.

I only tried a few basic flavors in Australia, but in general, I thought they were better than their American counterparts, and the ice cream itself was better than inside the Magnums.
Classic: Vanilla & Choc Nut.
"Delicious vanilla ice cream with chocolate and nuts, crunchy wafer and of course the chocolatey tip!"

Yup, classic.

The vanilla ice cream was basic, but got nicely creamy as it melted.  The cone had a chocolate layer inside so it stayed crispy against the ice cream.  The nuts and chocolate on top seemed just like token offerings, not substantial enough to add much.

A very basic treat, but good enough for what it was.  Much better than a Drumstick, as the cone held up better.
Classic Supreme Chocolate
"A creamy mixture of milk and dark chocolate, topped with white chocolate, hazelnuts and meringue balls."

I liked this much more than the classic vanilla.

The chocolate ice cream was a decent chocolate flavor, decently creamy.  Much better than the ice cream inside the Mangums, but not remarkable.

The toppings were tasty though, I liked the crunch of the white chocolate and the nuts, although I didn't really notice the meringues.  Better than vanilla, but not particularly notable.

Other

I also tried a handful of other assorted treats.  I'll just group them all here together.  While the Cornetto and Magnum lines are the most extensive, I think these are more classics.  Or at least, I got that impression from my Australian friends.
Golden Gaytime.
"Toffee and vanilla-flavoured centre, dipped in a scrumptious chocolate coating and covered in crunchy biscuit pieces".

Ok, yes.  It is called a Golden Gaytime.  And the tagline is "It's hard to have a Gaytime on your own."  It a classic, been around since 1959.  It has staying power!

I've had a number of these over the years, but I never love them.  I almost love the crumble coating, but, it isn't actually "crunchy biscuit pieces", and always seems a bit soggy or mushy to me.  I want more crunch.  The chocolate layer isn't thick like a Magnum, so it pales in comparison. And the ice cream? Also not remarkable. The ice cream is clearly two different flavors, and one is vanilla, but the other is just sweet, and I wouldn't identify it as toffee.

Every time I have one of these it tends to make me grumpy. The coating is *almost* really tasty, but the toffee ice cream is just way too sweet.
Calippo Raspberry Pineapple.
"A juicy and tangy raspberry & pineapple refreshment."

One day, the ice cream freezer only had these.  They didn't look exciting, but, hey, I wanted something, so I grabbed one.  I had no idea what was going to be inside my tube.
Calippo Raspberry Pineapple: Inside.
It was basically a push-up pop.

The raspberry and pineapple were both quite strong flavors.  It was very sweet, but refreshing enough on a hot day, and it made me feel like a kid again.  They also come in lemon and cola lemonade flavors.
Banana Paddle Pop.
Ok, next up, the paddle pop.  These were always the last to go from the ice cream freezer.  Magnums and Cornettos disappeared fast, but, Paddle Pops were clearly the rejects.  And another classic, these have been around even longer than Golden Gaytimes, Paddle Pops were launched in
1953.

Available in chocolate, banana, and rainbow.

These are the most basic ice cream treat you can get, just an ice cream bar, on a stick.  So simple, but it sometimes just really hits the spot.

The ice cream is low fat, but it melts really nicely, and I thought it was the creamiest of all of their treats.  The banana flavor is nice, not super fake tasting, although it obviously is.  Really quite pleasant, although it isn't anything fancy.

The chocolate version is like our fudgicles, not something I ever really love, so I always went for the other flavors.
Rainbow Paddle Pop.
I'm not really sure what the different flavors of the rainbow paddle pop are supposed to be, but it is very similar to the banana version, just with a pink swirled color as well.  Again, just not very interesting.

Update Review: I tried one on my next visit as well.  It didn't get creamy and melty like I wanted it to, likely because it wasn't a hot day, and non-melty ice cream just isn't nearly as satisfying.  I really think I liked these at some point, but, it wasn't on either of these visits.
Pine-Lime Splice.
"First launched in the 1950s, Splice was the original fruit and vanilla split on a stick. For decades it has brought Australians 'the taste of summer' with its delicious range of tangy fruit products, all made with real fruit juice. The combination of creamy vanilla and refreshing fruit ice shell will delight your senses and take you away on a tropical escape."

I saved the best for last.  The Splice is the item I fell in love with on my first visit to Australia.  It is, hands down, still my favorite.  On this recent trip however, the ice cream fridge never contained any Splices, so, we had to go seek them out ourselves.  As you can tell, everyone was quite happy to get them!

So, the Splice.  Simple vanilla ice cream core, on a stick, coated in fruity ice.  Available in raspberry or "pine-lime".  Apparently that is a flavor that makes sense in Australia.  I think it means pineapple and lime?

I know this doesn't sound like it should be anything special.  But ... it is.  Seriously, the most perfect treat for a hot day.  The icy outside is sweet, yet refreshing.  The inside is smooth, creamy, and mellow.  It melts perfectly.  You have to eat it pretty fast on a hot or sunny day, but that is just part of the experience.  I love how the textures combine.

This reminds me of a treat I used to have at the local ice cream stand in my hometown, where they had Slush Puppies (aka, flavored icy drinks) and soft serve ice cream, and you could order a creation that was a Slush Puppy with vanilla ice cream swirled on top.  I always got this (blue raspberry flavored ice, vanilla ice cream), and loved it for the contrast of sweet ice and creamy ice cream, exactly like you have with a Splice.  Splices are also similar to Solero bars in many countries by Unilever, which I've reviewed before.

I love these things.  
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quick Bite at Prospect

I live, and work, right near Prospect restaurant.  I've been to the bar area many times, usually just for cocktails and sometimes bar snacks.  You can read all about my past adventures, and the restaurant in general, in old reviews.  I've never loved Prospect the way some of my friends do, but, they also have gone through several chef shuffles, so I do keep giving them a try.

On this particular visit, it was a random night, on the early side, and I had no plans until later in the evening.  I was really craving something tasty, but was incredibly lazy.  And by tasty, I didn't mean my usual desire for decadent desserts or baked goods.  I had plenty of those in my apartment.  I wanted ... an upscale snack.  I know, really an odd mood to be in, but, luckily for me, I could just venture downstairs to Prospect.

I felt a bit silly, dining alone somewhere nice.  Since it was early, the bar area was not busy, and it was easy for me to get a seat, rather than sit awkwardly in the dining room.  I knew I could order off the full menu from the bar from past experience, and was really much more comfortable there.  The bartender was friendly and polite, and took great care of me.

I enjoyed my "snack" quite a bit, and must remember that Prospect is always there as an easy, although non-traditional, option for me!
Amuse Bouche: Halibut Brandade with Spicy Aioli.
Since I had plans later, I only ordered an appetizer, not a full entree.  And as I said, I was just sitting at the bar, not the main dining room.  So I was surprised when an extra bite showed up.  An amuse bouche, even for a bar patron, who was just getting a single appetizer?  Amazing, and appreciated, but I felt slightly bad.  Did they expect me to order an entree next?  I wasn't planning to have a full meal and felt guilty.

Anyway, the amuse was pretty tasty.  It was incredibly hot, clearly fresh out of the fryer.  It was salty, as it was brandade obviously, but it was salty in a good way, if you like intense salt flavor.  Which I do.  The interior was creamy and moist.  The spicy aioli served alongside was creamy and had a slight tang, a nice counterpart to the hot salty bite.  My only complaint is that it was a bit too oily, I think it probably just needed to be drained for a second longer.

It was also a fairly unique choice for an amuse, hot and a heavier sort of dish than an amuse often can be.  I liked it, and could even see it as a regular item on their bar snacks menu.
Monterey Calamari: Squid Ink Spaghetti, Pickled Jalapeños, Viola Turnips, Sea Urchin Emulsion. $15.50.

Since I just wanted a small bite, I opted for an appetizer.  I've been craving calamari lately, so I ordered the dish titled "Monterey Calamari".  Of course, I knew it was Prospect and that there would certainly be a twist on what I was expecting.  So I knew for sure that this wouldn't just be a plate of fried calamari, particularly given that the follow up description said there would be squid ink spaghetti and sea urchin emulsion, all things I love.

When it arrived, I did sorta laugh to myself.  Calamari?  Yes, there were a few rings of calamari on the plate, but this was very much a squid ink pasta dish.  The naming aside, this dish really had my name all over it.  I love squid ink pasta.  I love uni.  And, as I said, I was craving calamari.

The calamari were tiny little rings, and honestly, got completely lost in the dish.  When I found one, it added a little texture, but little else.  The rings were nicely done, not rubbery.  Although the calamari is what drew me in, I didn't really mind them not being prevalent, as everything else was fantastic.

The squid ink pasta had a nice chew to it, slight squid flavor.  It was a generous portion of pasta, particularly for an appetizer.  I had obviously expected this to be a calamari focused dish, with the squid ink pasta being a creative garnish component somehow.  But, instead, it was a great pasta dish.  (I do think it would be better with a thicker form factor of the squid ink pasta, to really get more of the squid ink flavor however).

The sauce was creamy, slightly uni flavored, and stuck to and coated the pasta well.  I really liked the heat and vinegar component provided by the pickled jalapeño.

But the star was the lobe uni on top.  First, I REALLY didn't expect that.  The description just said "sea urchin emulsion", which certainly describes the sauce, but gives no indication that there would be a chunk of bonus uni.  And it was fabulous.  Creamy, sweet, really really excellent.  The best uni I've had in recent memory, better than even at sushi restaurants where it should be the star.

The only thing that wasn't successful about the dish is that, unlike the amuse, it wasn't delivered hot.  It was kinda lukewarm when I received it.  Still delicious, but unfortunate.

One criticism I've had of Prospect in the past is that it seems pricey for what it is, given the portion sizes (I appreciate the smaller portion sizes, and don't want them to change that, but I always feel things are just slightly over-priced).  That was certainly not the case with this dish.  Only $15.50, for a decent size serving of pasta, delicious sauce, and quality uni?  Oh yeah, and some calamari?  Really quite good price.

This was the best dish I've ever had at Prospect.  I'd get it again, although there were a bunch of other things on the menu I'd also like to try.  I'll certainly be going back!
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dim Sum @ Luyu and Yum Yum, Sydney

During my recent trip to Sydney, it was time to be brave, and break outside our mold of devouring all the Thai food we could find.  And, perhaps even more brave, venturing out of the city a bit, to Newtown.

Several years ago when I was in Sydney I visited Newtown once, with a friend who lived there, for some cheap, unremarkable Thai food.  On my visit just a few months ago, I returned to Newtown, for one and one reason: to get what were supposed to be the best pies in the area at Pie Tin (spoiler, they weren't).  So far, my track record with Newtown wasn't great, and it takes a lot to get me to venture further than necessary (although sometimes the effort pays off great, like the amazing dinner, and subsequent brunch, we had at Pinbone!).  I had high hopes that this journey would prove just as fruitful.

Newtown is mostly comprised of cheaper eats, as it is a student area.  Luyu and Yum Yum, our destination, was not that.  Not that it was high end dining, but, for the area, it certainly didn't fit in.  Far fancier, in decor and food presentation, than anywhere else on the street.  It is even located on the upper level, looking down on all the regular establishments on the street.

Oh, I forgot to mention, it was also fairly new.  I know, I know.  Now I'm just getting crazy.  Going somewhere new, further away, and not getting thai or brunch, the only things I've really loved in Sydney?  But, reviews from food blogs I follow in Sydney were strong.  The photos looked great.  The same was true for the Gantry, which we visited a few nights earlier, and it was good.  I was starting to trust my food bloggers.

So, on Sunday morning, Ojan and I headed to Newtown, to Luyu and Yum Yum, to meet two Sydney friends for dim sum. It had been ages since either of us had dim sum, and we were quite looking forward to it.

Service was a bit strange.  The hostess didn't know where to seat us, even though the restaurant was empty when we arrived, and we had a booking.  We often had to flag someone down in order to get more water.  The server didn't know what teas did not contain caffeine, suggesting a green tea to Ojan when he said he wanted something without caffeine.  Some of our dumplings took a very long time to arrive.  They did do a good job of clearing dishes as they were finished though, and every dish arrived piping hot, so hot that we often had to wait a few minutes for items to cool down so we wouldn't scald the inside of our mouths.

Overall, it was fine.  The food was good enough, clearly care was put into making each dumpling, and quality ingredients were used, but nothing really stuck out.  The selections were creative and it was a nicer setting than typical dim sum/yum cha.  But it was really pricey.  I see no reason to return.

The Space

Interior.
The restaurant has an open feel with high ceilings.  The large bar along the side didn't have much activity as we were there at lunchtime, but I read that they make some interesting tea based cocktails.
Tables and chairs.
The decor is fairly swanky, obviously brand new.  Lots of wood.  The color palette was stark, black and white, with wood tones mixed in.

White bowls and plates, plus black chopsticks, were set on every table.

They needed better sound isolation, with all the hard surfaces, as nothing absorbed noise.  As the room filled up, it quickly got hard to hear our tablemates.  Partially, it was due to the very loud music, all high energy pop.  It didn't quite seem to fit the mood of the restaurant, and I found the noise level to be a bit ridiculous for a mid-day meal, and it certainly hampered our ability to chat with our friends.
Centerpiece.
The center of the table had a mat with a tea pot, 4 little tea cups, and a plant.  A nice idea, but, it didn't turn out to be practical.  As soon as our table started piling up with dishes, which happened not only to us but to everyone around us, it was clearly in the way.  We didn't have enough space for all our dumplings, much less this random thing in the middle.

The tea pot also turned out to be decorative only.  When we ordered tea, it came in a different pot.  Not really sure why they had a decorative pot on every table in the first place.  Still, it was decent decor.
Glass Walled Kitchen.
The kitchen is enclosed in glass, so you can spy on the cooks in action.  I was able to watch cooks meticulously filling the dumplings and loading up the steamer baskets.  They didn't seem to make them exactly to order, as they would prepare a big batch of each style at a time, but they were steamed to order.
Swanky Bathroom Sink.
The swanky decor continues into the bathroom, with gray slate tiles, strange black metal faucets, and copper (?) washbasins.

I don't normally review the bathrooms, but, there was something unique here.
There, I fixed it.
The hand dryer.  In the midst of all the brand new, swanky decor, the hand dryer was held up by duct tape.  I found this way too funny.

Menus

Menu: Dumplings & Dim Sum.
The reason we were there was for dumplings, which make up a majority of the menu, along with some other small dim sum style bites.  These are mostly all sold in quantities of 4, which was perfect since our group was 4, except for a few random ones that came in sets of 3.  We didn't ask for anything to be modified, particularly since I wasn't planning on having several of them, yet we were brought 4 every time.  This was nice of them I guess, but they should have asked, especially since they charged extra in every case, and, like I said, I didn't want some of them.  The prices below will be for 3 even though 4 are shown, since I didn't write down the adjusted prices.

We ordered all but one type of dumpling available on the menu, plus a few other small bites.

We ordered an initial set of 7 items, then added on another 3, and then went back at the end for a final round of the favorites.
Menu: Main Dishes.
The rest of the menu is main dishes, and we skipped it entirely, but we did see some good looking fried rice, stir fried veggies, salt and pepper squid, and amazing looking deep fried eggplant.  If I went back, I'd certainly get the deep fried eggplant, but we had so much fried food on our trip that I just wasn't in the mood at the time.
Dipping Sauces: Soy, vinegar, sesame chili oil.
We were provided with three sauces to go along with the dumplings.  I set to work perfecting my mix, which I put in my individual bowl.  I'm not quite sure if that is what I was supposed to do, since it was a large bowl, not a dipping bowl, but I don't know how else you could make a dipping sauce.

Dumplings

Over the course of the meal, we ordered every type of dumpling, except for the vegetarian mushroom dumplings.
Flying Seafood Dumpling (4). $13.80
"Scallop, Fish-ball, Prawn, Asparagus & Flying Fish Roe in Rice Dough Steamed."

This was probably the dumpling I was most excited for, since I love scallops.  I was thrilled to see the scallop perched right on top, not chopped up and mixed with other fillings.

Inside the dumpling was the fish ball, prawn, and asparagus.  I didn't taste any asparagus, nor prawn really, just a moist fish ball.  It was fine, but, I wanted to detect more individual flavors.  The scallop was a slice on top, tender, delicate, and on top of that was flying fish roe, which added fun pops as they burst.

The rice dumpling wrapper was nicely done, not too thin, not too thick, perfectly steamed.

Overall, this was fine, and I liked all the seafood, but there just wasn't much flavor to it.  My second favorite bite of the meal, for the scallop alone.
Mr Luyu “Starburst” Dumpling (4). $11.80.
"Chicken & Mr Luyu Homemade Soup in Fruit Infused Flour Dough Steamed."

This is one of their signature dumplings, a stunner with the colorful wrappers.

The online menu lists this as a pork dumpling, but alas, when we visited it was chicken.  I don't like chicken, but tried it anyway, since I was fascinated by the sound of the fruit infused dough.

The filling was indeed a chicken ball, plus some flavorful soup.  Good enough, but, again, chicken.  I didn't taste anything fruity in the dough, although there was obviously color to it.  More beautiful than tasty.

Each dumpling came perched atop a slice of carrot.  Woah, genius!  I honestly don't understand why more places don't do this, as dumplings always stick, and, particularly with soup dumplings this becomes tragic, since it causes them to burst when you pick them up.  That care was nice to see.

My 7th pick of the meal.
Mr Yumyum Pot Sticker (4). $10.80.
"Chicken, Ginger, Shallot & Chinese Cabbage in Seaweed Flour Dough Pan-Seared."

The online menu also lists the pot stickers as pork, but alas, for us they were chicken.  I skipped them, but the seaweed bits in the wrapper skin looked like a nice touch, and the fresh garnish under each pot sticker was a nice presentational element.

Why was everything chicken that should have been pork though?
Caviar Dumpling (4). $13.80.
"Prawn, Carrot, Coriander & Celery in Rice Dough Steamed."

These were great looking dumplings, little bags, tied up with a leaf, and meticulously topped with caviar.

Inside the dumpling was a mix of prawn, carrot, and celery.  The vegetables were minced and slightly crunchy, which I actually liked.  The prawn was a bit fishy.

The rice dough wasn't as successful here as in the Flying Seafood dumpling, it came out slimier.

I did really like the caviar on top, super salty, and like the roe from the flying seafood, it added a fun pop.

My third pick of the meal.
Mr Luyu’s Herb Dumpling (4). $11.80.
"Prawn & Chives in Rice Dough Steamed."

Another rice dough dumpling, this time with translucent skin.  Everyone was quite impressed with the skin on this.

Inside was a whole prawn and chopped chives.

This wasn't very interesting to me, just a prawn.  My 6th pick.
"Kiss Me" Dumplings (4). $10.80.
"Chicken, Ginger, Shallot, & Lulu Homemade Soup in Flour Dough."

I skipped the "Kiss Me" dumplings, since again, chicken.  These were classic soup dumplings, albeit with chicken instead of pork.

It is a bit hard to see, but on top, the red is actually little lips for decoration.  So cute.

Two of our diners said these was the best of the dumplings, and ordered a final round of them for "dessert" after we were done with everything else.
Snow White Rabbit Dumplings (3). $12.80.
"Prawn, Asparagus, Bamboo Shoot, Luyu Home-made Creamy Soup in Chrysanthemum infused Potato Starch Dough."

Ok, speaking of cute.  If I thought the lips on the "Kiss Me" were cute, they were nothing compared to the rabbits!

Yes, look closely, and you'll see that the dumplings are shaped like rabbits, ears and eyes and all!

I complained about not being able to taste any asparagus in the flying fish dumpling, which was not the case here.  Inside was a whole piece of asparagus, so full of flavor, a bit crunchy, and quite tasty. The bamboo also added further crunchy bits.

The dough was a bit thicker, perhaps because it was potato starch rather than flour or rice?  It was soft and a tiny bit doughy, but I liked that.

My absolute favorite, and the most interesting flavor and texture wise.  I'm not sure why it normally comes as only 3 pieces though, when most come as 4.
Manga Dumpling "Hedgehog" (3). $12.80.
"King Oyster Mushrooms, Chinese Mushroom, Fungi, Carrot, Corriander in Flour Dough Baked."

Continuing to get cuter.  I failed at the photo here though, as I didn't get a shot of these from the front.  Doh.

They really, truly looked like hedgehogs.  Certainly the cutest and most elaborate of all of the dumplings.  They had eyes in front and spines down their backs.  OMG.  So cute.

These were almost good.

They were more like buns, but called dumplings.  The dough was soft and slightly sweet.  The topside was crunchy where the spines were carved out.  I would have really liked the dough, except that they were just drowned in oil.

The menu said these were baked, but, I'm not sure how that was possible given how much oil was on them.  They really seemed fried.  The oil just ruined them.

Inside was a mushroom filling that wasn't very interesting.  Nothing really mattered though besides the oil.  The others thought I was exaggerating when I tried the first one and reacted strongly to the amount of oil, but they quickly agreed.  We all saw the potential in these, but alas, they were not executed well.  I imagine the oil is needed to achieve the crispy top, but, there has to be a better way to do it.

This should have just been an order of 3, but, 4 were brought to us, and we were charged extra.  We wished that only 3 came, as we didn't even want to finish 3.  My 4th pick though, for creativity and potential in the sweet, soft dough.

Small Bites

We also opted for a few of the other non-dumpling small bites.  We skipped about half the items from this section, including chicken buns, the crispy "mini frisbee", spring rolls, and the king prawn, since most of those were fried, and heavier than what we were in the mood for.
Garlic Bread (4). $7.80.
"Garlic, Cheese & Butter in Plain Flour “Man Tow"."

Yes, we ordered something called garlic bread.  I knew from my research that this was not going to actually be garlic bread.

The base was mantou, Chinese steamed bun.  It was topped with garlic, butter, and cheese.

The bun was soft and fluffy, and I kinda liked that.  The topping was very cheesy, but I didn't really taste any garlic.

I was fascinated by this, and we all found it interesting, but, I didn't actually like it.  I'm not sure why, cheesy bread should be a good thing.  My 5th pick. 
Duck Pancake (4). $16.80.
"Duck, Spring Onion & Cucumber."

This is certainly not something I'd order since I don't care for duck, but the group wanted it.

Ojan really liked it, and declared it the best item of the meal.  I asked if I'd possibly like it, since he knows my tastes pretty well, and he said maybe.  So, against my better judgement, I tried it.

The pancake was a thin dough wrapping.  It wasn't oily or anything, fairly soft.

Inside was the duck, smothered in hoisin sauce, complimented by a fresh cucumber spear.  The sauce was tasty, but, I just don't care for the gaminess of duck.

As I said though, Ojan really liked it.

Dessert

Dessert: Fruit Tart.
And finally, dessert.

No dessert is listed on the menu, but I know they always offer a dessert, and it changes daily.  Today it was a "fruit tart".  I asked what fruit was used and was told strawberry and I think mango?  It didn't really sound great, but, I needed my dessert.  Plus the server said it was really good and that it was creamy.

Um, what?  When he said creamy, I expected, well, a cream filling.  Maybe a custard?  This was not creamy at all.  The filling was chopped up apple cubes coated in yogurt.  It was not cooked.  While technically I guess yogurt is creamy, this was not.  And he never mentioned apple, the primary ingredient.

The promised strawberry was one tiny little slice on top as a garnish, along with a sprig of mint.  The rest of the tart was all apple.  Funny how he didn't mention apple in his description.

The filling was crazy sour.  Tart apple.  Sour yogurt.  Literally no sweetness.

The crust was a crispy shell that I did like, but, wow, I didn't care for the filling at all, and this really wasn't a dessert to me.  It belonged as a breakfast item perhaps, just fruit and yogurt.

I left highly unsatisfied, and went to seek out cronuts (stay tuned).
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