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REVIEW: New Dim Sum Menu from @HutongShard (42 Pictures)


 

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Hutong is a Chinese restaurant and bar situated on the 33rd floor of The Shard. Recently opened this summer, it focuses on Northern Chinese cuisine with astounding views over London. With great reviews for their Peking Duck, will their Dim Sum lunch satisfy Londoners too? For the discerning dim sum aficionados, this is definitely one to try.

Hutong - Awesome teapots

Hutong – Awesome teapots

‘Dim sum’ is roughly equivalent to the British ‘afternoon tea’, i.e. a light meal usually enjoyed with a cup of tea. The tea association is so strong that ‘dim sum’ is often referred to as ‘yum cha’ (飲茶) which literally translates as ‘drink tea’.

Just like its British counterpart, the meaning of dim sum has evolved over time. The name dim sum (點心) is literally translated as ‘touch of heart’ as it became customary to serve these delicious light bites with tea after the Chinese discovered that tea actually aids digestion

London has more than its fair share of dim sum venues. However, specialist training for dim sum, like many cuisines, is quite lengthy. The economics of dim sum production encourages many London venues to serve pre-made products from an anonymous London supplier. These are hidden in the kitchen to be thrown into a steamer or deep fat fryer on demand. Only a few venues are known to actually make their own dim sum in-house.

Hutong - Raised Red Lanterns

Hutong – Raised Red Lanterns

As Hutong was one of the few new London venues I had not dined in this year I was pleased to be invited to try the new dim sum menu. I had visited twice before but only for drinks. Located atop the triplet of restaurants which occupy the 31st, 32nd and 33rd floors of The Shard, anyone visiting will enjoy a fantastic view of London. Given that The Shard’s observation deck ‘View from The Shard’ charges £25-£100 to gaze over London, it still perplexes me that visitors don’t just come to Aqua (31st Floor), Oblix (32nd Floor) or Hutong (33rd Floor) for a few drinks instead.

The tasting group was fairly intimate group of six. Namely Lizzie Mabbott (‘Hollowlegs‘), John Gregory-Smith (‘Eat Travel Live‘), Ed Smith (‘Rocket & Squash‘), Su-lin (‘Tamarind & Thyme‘) and Chris Osbourne (‘Tiki Chris‘). A quick tour of the premises included the rare opportunity for the ladies in the group to visit the famous gents urinals so beloved by Observer food critic, Jay Rayner, in his review.

 

‘MEDICINAL’ DRINKS

‘The Chinese Lantern’ Cocktail & ‘The Dragon Pearl’ Cocktail

Pre-lunch cocktails were entitled ‘Cocktail Cures’ with an explanation that all the house cocktails are based on Chinese ‘medicinal’ ingredients.

Hutong - The Chinese Lantern (Fresh mandarin, Aperol, St. Germain, passion fruit syrup, plum bitters, Champagne)

Hutong – The Chinese Lantern (Fresh mandarin, Aperol, St. Germain, passion fruit syrup, plum bitters, Champagne)

The two offered were the champagne based ‘Chinese Lantern’ and the gin based ‘Dragon Pearl’. The mandarin in the Chinese Lantern is, rather confusingly, alleged to be an aphrodisiac… and a contraceptive?

My experience with Chinese medicine has taught me that the more a ‘medicine’ is considered ‘good for you’ the more remarkably foul and odious it will taste. As the drinks are genuinely good I seriously doubt that they have any medicinal benefits whatsoever. Even if you’re only here to look at the view I suggest that you try out the ‘Comfortably Numb’ cocktail which uses Sichuan pepper to give you a lip-numbing sensation as you drink. Definitely the most unique drink I’ve sampled this year.

Chinese Lantern (Champagne Cocktail)

Fresh mandarin, Aperol, St. Germain, passion fruit syrup, plum bitters, champagne

Contains… MANDARIN: “Used in the treatment of indigestion allergies, digestive disoders and mastitis. In additon to its healing powers, hiccups and coughing are ailments that can benefit from mandarin. It is also known to enhance blood circulation and as an aphrodisiac.”

Dragon Pearl (Gin Cocktail)

Tanqueray 10, ginger & lemongrass cordial, agave nectar, fresh dragon fruit, anise basil.

Contains… DRAGON FRUIT: “Boosts immune system; lowers blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes; clearn toxins. Rich in flavonoids that are known to have favourable effects against cardio-related disease.”

 

DIM SUM

A selection of 10 different dishes

Hutong - Crispy shrimp roll with thousand year egg

Hutong – Crispy shrimp roll with thousand year egg

The full Hutong dim sum menu consists of 13 steamed offerings and 12 fried/baked offerings. We sampled 8 of these. ‘Crispy Peking Duck Rolls’, ‘Pan Fried lamb and fennel seed dumplings’, ‘Pan-fried mixed vegetable dumplings’, ‘Crispy shrimp rolls with thousand year egg’, ‘Shanghai-style xiao long bao’, ‘Vegetable and bamboo pith dumplings’, ‘Spicy minced pork dumplings’, and ‘Rose champagne shrimp dumplings’.

Of all these, my favourites are the ‘Crispy shrimp rolls with thousand year egg’ and the ‘pan fried lamb and fennel seed dumplings’. The all you dim sum aficionados, the shrimp rolls are effectively ‘paper wrapped prawns’ topped with mixed sesame seed and with a subtle slice of the uniquely Chinese century egg (an egg which has been preserved using a quicklime mixture). Great texture combination and interesting use of a more unusual Chinese ingredient. ‘Pan fried fennel seed dumplings’ are very similar to Japanese gyoza and had a great seasoned lamb flavour with the fennel seed flavour bursting through. A great dish for ‘dim sum virgins’!

 

SIGNATURE MAIN COURSE

‘Red Lantern crispy soft shell crab with Sichuan dried chilli’

Hutong - Soft shell crabs didn't' last long!

Hutong – Soft shell crabs didn’t’ last long!

This is a very theatrical dish. If you are dining on a table of soft shell crab fans this is a great centrepiece. A large oversized kettle of a bowl is brought to the table and the lid revealed to lots of ‘oohs and ahhs’ following by split second of silence and then the clattering of chopsticks with everyone diving in! The crab itself has been fried perfectly so the insides are still lovely and moist while the legs has a nice level of crispiness. Dried red chillies are very interesting, but I doubt that they add much flavour. They are effectively ‘mini chilli maracas’ with seeds rattling around inside a chewy skin. Be warned, as someone who ate a few of them I can verify that the skin is quite tasty, but avoid the seeds… unless you’re hardcore enough to eat anything in Thailand without breaking a sweat!

 

DESSERT

‘Steamed Egg Custard Buns’ & ‘Mini black sesame glutinous dumplings’

Hutong - Mini black sesame glutinous dumplings

Hutong – Mini black sesame glutinous dumplings

As one with a savoury palate, I don’t usually order sweet desserts with dim sum, barring the occasional egg-custard tart. However, these little bites were like a dinky Oriental interpretation of the ‘petit-four’ to end the meal. Both dishes were almost one bite versions of the types of desserts one can see in bakeries like Golden Gate in Chinatown.

The ‘steamed egg custard buns’ were on the right side of light chewiness and the filling was not the overbearing sugar hit I expected from previous experience at other venues. The ‘mini black sesame glutinous dumplings’ were served warm with a ‘squidgy’ texture. For the uninitiated this could be a little disturbing but they are little balls made from glutenous rice flour and filled with a viscous black sesame paste filling.

 

CHINESE TEA!

Pearl Jasmine Green Tea, White Peony, Monkey Pick Tie-Guan-Yin, 2005 Puer Tea

Hutong - Brick of Tea

Hutong – Brick of Tea

As expected from an establishment like Hutong. There was a choice of loose leaf tea offered. Unlike many venues in Chinatown where ‘tea’ means a Jasmine tea bag is steeped inside a stainless steel pot.

For the tea geeks our there, notice that the options cleverly cover most of the popular Chinese tea categories. A green tea, a white tea, a post-fermented tea and an Oolong tea (Monkey Pick Tie-Guan-Yin). Someone clearly put some thought into this menu. Tea is served in lovely large pots and like many good venues the waiters have an uncanny knack of refilling your drink without you noticing.

I selected the 2005 Puer Tea. As someone who runs on coffee it is a pleasured to drink something special. Aged Puer Tea has a distinct richness and is the sort of thing I could sip all afternoon. I think this was the unsung hero of the meal. Great tea… isn’t that what ‘yum cha’ is all about?

 

SUMMARY

Our meal including tea would cost £29.95 per person (excluding the cocktails). Pretty good value for a venue where Jay Rayner spent £200 for 2 on dinner in his review. Yes, dim sum can be had for £15-20 per person in Chinatown but then you don’t have the great view or the handmade aspect in many of those venues. In a place where even the dipping sauces are made in-house, you ‘get what you pay for’… as can be said for many things in life.

NOTE: Many thanks to Hutong for their invitation to try out their new Dim Sum menu and to the hospitality of the team…

For a second opinion on the day see the blogs of my fellow diners

Hutong
Ad: Level 33 The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY (map)
Ph: 020 3011 1257 Em: reservation@aqua-london.com

Ww: www.aquahutong.co.uk | Fb: HutongLondon | Tw: @HutongShard

Square Meal Hutong on Urbanspoon

One comment on “REVIEW: New Dim Sum Menu from @HutongShard (42 Pictures)

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