By Jin Perez
My first time at Paradise Dynasty was in Singapore six years ago. I saw the posters everywhere, along the walkway to the MRT station and all over ION Orchard, the most happening shopping mall during those days. Photos of bamboo steamer filled with dumplings the colors of the rainbow haunted me. Oh, how I love rainbows. And chasing/eating them.
I made plans to have lunch there with a friend almost immediately. We ate our way through the colorful babies, which also doubled as educational materials for her learning toddler. “What color is this dumpling mama is eating?” “Green!” “How about the one Auntie Jin is eating?” “Yellow!” “Orange!” “Red!” He had almost as much fun as we did, even if all he ate was blended chicken and vegetables.
It was not surprising to see the same reception when Paradise Dynasty opened in S Maison. Curious people queued up for the fun experience and there was always a basket or two of rainbow xiao long bao on every table.
During one of my visits, I was able to chat with Paradise Group CEO Eldwin Chua who was in town to oversee the opening of his first Manila branch. “We are very excited to be in the Philippines. We have been wanting to bring our brand here for many years, we were just waiting for the right partner and the right location,” said the young Singaporean businessman.
In the span of 13 years, the Paradise Group has expanded into over 30 restaurants in Singapore and 20 outlets in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and London, with every branch exuding opulence and luxury. When you go, make sure to check out the VIP room with its monstrous dragon sculpture hanging on the wall. It’s like stepping into the lavishness and drama of 1930s Shanghai, with you feeling like some emperor, ordering and eating up a feast, and then feeling absolutely pleased with yourself when the bill arrives and you realize you are paying ordinary working men prices.
This is exactly the experience Chua wants to offer his diners. “Here at Paradise Dynasty, we want customers to enjoy premium food in fine dining setting without breaking their wallets. We use simple ingredients and find ways to elevate their flavors. We always work to improve and innovate so we can offer gourmet food with exceptional value,” he said.
So what are the five dishes you must try at Paradise Dynasty?
1. The most popular eight-color Dynasty xiao long bao, of course. You will be given an eating instruction manual to ensure you get the optimum taste of the technicolor pouches. No, you cannot just eat them according to your favorite colors. You have to follow rules here and eat the dumplings in this sequence: original, ginseng, foie gras, black truffle, cheese, crab roe, garlic, Szechuan. The two I enjoyed the most were #3 foie gras and #4 black truffle. While I thought this was fun and something people should try once in their xiao long bao-eating lives, I am still a purist at heart and prefer uncomplicated flavors, which brings me to the second dish.
2. Original xiao long bao. To be enjoyed simply with vinegar and ginger because the classic way is the best way. Period.
3. Scrambled egg white with fish and conpoy. This dish dates back to a time when seafood was a rare commodity in China. The emperor wanted crab when there was none so the kitchen had to create a dish to satisfy his craving. The result: egg whites cooked painstakingly under low heat to attain a texture similar to that of the crustacean. If this dish made the emperor happy, I believe it should make you and me happy, too. Tip: there is a special way to mix the egg yolk so sit back and let your server do the honors.
4. Stir-fried shredded pork with Chinese crepes. Paradise Dynasty’s take on Peking duck. Shredded pork stir-fried in black bean and hoisin sauce until tender, to be paired with scallions and wrapped in thin, soft, and chewy pancakes.
5. Radish pastry. This is the best thing at Paradise Dynasty. Soft and creamy radish strips in an incredibly fine and flaky crust that is almost too gorgeous to eat. Do eat it anyway. I can come to the restaurant and order nothing else but eight pieces of this golden beauty and leave perfectly merry and content.
Paradise Dynasty is located at 2/F S Maison at the Conrad, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. Tel: 63 2 828 83 33