Yet another dining option at ION. This is the Paradise Group’s foray into xiao long bao and la mian, and we ventured here on Sunday night to check it out. We managed to get a table immediately, which was surprising for a Sunday night.
The entrance is quite small, so I was under the impression that it was a smallish joint, but the corridor goes pretty far in, past the vast glass-walled kitchen, till you reach a rather large and impressive dining room.
They serve innovative xiao long bao that are infused with various flavours, though do note that they are all pork-based. If it’s your first time, it’s probably a good idea to order the sampling platter that has one of each. We ordered one platter each, and sampled each different one simultaneously. The dumplings are quite garishly coloured, which can be a little disconcerting, but it makes for a pretty platter and an easy way to distinguish each variety.
White – Traditional
Yellow – Cheese
Orange – Crab roe
Green – Ginseng
Pink – Szechuan (spicy)
Black – Truffle
Grey – Garlic
Beige – Foie Gras
When we return we’ll probably order selected ones. I’ll pass on the Ginseng – the flavour was too strong for my liking, and the spiciness of the Szechuan didn’t quite suit a xiao long bao. Cheese was interesting, but I’m not sure that I can handle more than a couple before getting a bit sick of it. And I’m ambivalent about the Truffle, mainly because the truffle flavour wasn’t pronounced enough.
The Garlic was pretty good, but strong so definitely not the most social of choices. Traditional was good, and I really liked the Crab Roe, which was very flavourful, and the Foie Gras, which had just enough foie gras to give it some flavour and a lot of depth and body.
We ordered one of their specialty la mians – the signature la mian with sliced pork in pork bone soup. This was very good. The noodles were much thinner and more delicate than usual la mian. The broth was sweet yet it didn’t have the excessive oiliness of a similar tonkotsu ramen broth. The pork slices were wafer-thin and tender, and there was even a half-cooked egg. Do note that they put chopped coriander together with the spring onions, which we only belatedly discovered, so if you’re not a fan of coriander, do remember to ask them to hold it. We definitely will next time.
We’d heard some warnings about the spiciness of their Szechuan-style offerings, so instead of ordering a second spicy Szechuan la mian, we decided to ease into it by trying their poached chicken in Szechuan sauce (kou shui ji) instead. This wasn’t very spicy but it did have quite a kick to it, so I’m not sure that I can handle an entire bowl of spicy la mian. Especially when the signature pork bone one is so wonderfully delicate and refreshing.
This is definitely worth a visit, but skip dessert. We ordered the egg white soufflé balls with red bean and banana, which took 20 minutes to arrive and weren’t that great.
Except for the spicy Szechuan and ginsengy Ginseng, I’d gladly have any of the xiao long baos again. Even the cheese one, which I think some might find strange.
We’ll definitely add this to our list of places to eat at in Ion. Prices are very reasonable with most la mian dishes priced at around $10.
Service is a bit iffy though. I found the waiters would travel in clusters and there’d always be too many or none around. Having said that, when you do get their attention, they are very helpful and eager to please.
The only disappointment of the meal was dessert. I had high hopes for the soufflé balls with red bean and banana, but it took forever to arrive, and there wasn’t enough filling.
So for next time, we’ll order more xiao long baos and skip dessert.
2 Orchard Turn
#04-12A ION Orchard
Mon – Fri: 11 am to 10 pm (last order 9.30 pm)
Sat, Sun & PH: 10 am to 10 pm (last order 9.30 pm)
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