[Closed] New restaurant review: Chifa Dumpling House in Soho, Hong Kong
Peruvian-Chinese food in Central
When I was in high school, one of my MSN usernames was “dumpling.” It’s embarrassing now, but I’d chosen it for the simple fact that I really, really like dumplings. (And I had more than one person tell me they thought “Mmm. Dumplings…” every time I came online. Clearly many people like dumplings!) So you can imagine my excitement when I heard Pirata Group (behind some of my favourite restaurants in town including Pirata and Tokyolima) were opening their newest spot Chifa Dumpling House.
This being Hong Kong, there are many dumpling restaurants in town. Well, that’s a bit of an understatement. In writing this, I searched on OpenRice and it turns out there are at least 1,460 restaurants serving dim sum in this city and at least 572 serving dumplings. So what does Chifa offer that the others don’t? It’s all in the name. Chifa means a fusion of Chinese and Peruvian cuisines and, as far as I know, it’s the only place serving chifa food in town.
I made plans with a girlfriend and we looked forward to a long evening of girl talk and stuffing our faces. We decided to go with the “House of Dumplings Tasting Menu” ($320 per person) where the restaurant would choose what we ate since our server assured us we’d be rolling out of the restaurant. For reference, I’ve included the a la carte prices below.
What we ate
First out was the Wonton Soup ($70). Fat pork and shrimp wontons with dried mushrooms and pak choi in with the broth as well. The menu says the base is a “Peruvian clear soup” but it just tasted like a regular fragrant pork and shrimp broth to me. This came with nice little pots/jars of chili oil and vinegar. Nice, comforting, and a promising, if traditional, start to the meal.
The fried chicken ($95) was nice too, with juicy meat and a crisp batter. That said, it was supposed to be a five-spice batter, but it tasted quite plain. The aioli verde helped bring more flavour. It was slightly zingy but not too overwhelming for the palate.
We were brought two options from the classic dim sum section. I was really looking forward to the Char Siu Bao ($65 for three pieces) as it’s one of my favourite dim sum. But when I bit into it, I was surprised at how underwhelming it was. The filling wasn’t anything special, and there also wasn’t very much meat inside. The Xiao Long Bao ($65 for four) were similarly underwhelming, with a thick dough and little broth.
When I cut into the Prawn & Omelette ($130), I was really excited because oooh that egg looked gooey. There were some stir-fried prawns with veggies (oyster mushrooms, bell peppers, snow peas) on the side too that looked spicy. While the ingredients were fresh and of good quality, the overall taste of both the omelette and the prawns was very, very mild.
The Lomo Saltado ($190) looked gorgeous, but I think this one maybe wasn’t to my taste. It looks like a Chinese sweet and sour dish, but oddly isn’t sweet at all. The sauce is a thick, gooey, not at all sweet, but not very salty either substance. The beef itself was soft and tender though.
After taking a bite of the Seafood Chaufa Rice ($130), I started thinking that maybe this is why we were given vinegar and chili sauce at the beginning of the meal. Were we expected to put them on all the dishes so they’d have taste? The seafood (prawn and squid) in the rice were very fresh, but the rice was quite bland. No smokiness, and it had some random bits of fresh kale (?) on top.
There’s only one dessert option on the menu, but luckily it’s a good one. I love dense cheesecake ($75), and this one, with blackberry compote and coconut sorbet, hit the spot.
The space looks great and the vibe is buzzy but the food fell short of my expectations. Surprising given how much I love Tokyolima, their Japanese Peruvian restaurant. It was a case of the menu descriptions making the food sound better than it actually was. I also felt the selections we were given from the Tasting Menu were poorly chosen as they didn’t showcase the more interesting dishes. I mean really, why were given only classic dim sum and not any of the signature dumplings? If I wanted classic dim sum, I wouldn’t be going to Chifa… And as they were, the classic dim sum weren’t as good as the traditional places in town. Perhaps I’ll try Chifa again and order a la carte next time, but unfortunately it’s not a place I’ll be rushing back to.
G/F No, 26 Peel St, Central, 2311 1815