Falstaff Magazin International Nr. 0/2021 - SixPack
On an unlikely looking stretch close to King’s Cross station, Dim Sum Duck quietly opened towards the end of 2020. It was a slow burn of an opening that gradually began to garner praise, with the cryptic note on their Instagram page stating that it was ‘run by a dim sum chef with 30 years’ experience’. Intriguing.
Having navigated the perils of several lockdowns (or smackdowns, as I’ve begun calling them), the chance to drop in a couple of times finally arrived. A tiny, unassuming restaurant, offering no frills, no reservations, open all day – flinging out some of the best dim sum I have ever had.
Pro Tip: arrive before 12pm or waltz in between 3-5.30pm, any other time and you’ll be faced with a queue. We arrive too early on a first visit for duck (still being prepared as we pile in at 12.01pm on opening), and instead trawl through as many dishes as we can. Everything we have is exceptional. We’ll get to the duck another day.
The dim sum are eye-wideningly good. It’s clear we’re in stellar dumpling territory as soon as the Har Gau come out: the ultimate test of a dim sum chef’s skills, the delicate pleating requiring great dexterity, the supreme quality of these an indicator of what is to follow – translucent gossamer skins holding impeccable bouncy chunks of prawn with a whisper of sesame oil. We’re off to a rollicking start. Siu Mai are crammed with minced pork and prawn, the silken wrapping holding a plump, generous filling bursting out of its casing, excellent when dredged through some chilli oil. Two baskets in and we’re already planning a return visit.
Shanghai soup dumplings are a total star, that delicate pleating in evidence again, almost impossibly thin and delicate, a deep and satisfying pork broth within – these are the kind of morsels that can make you grin inanely and wonder if you should order another round immediately. We resist, this time. Too many others to try.
Roast pork cheung fun, a classic of Cantonese cuisine with its origins in the province of Guangdong, are the Platonic ideal of this wonderfully slippery rice noodle dish, jammed with good char siu pork, bathing in a pool of light soy (which begs to be slurped up at the end, which we do), with the prawn version coming in a close second. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Deep fried prawn dumplings with ‘salad cream’ is a fun little number, a lacy, crisp carapace showing deft frying skills. I’m guessing the ‘salad cream’ here may the cutely packaged Kewpie mayonnaise, the Japanese condiment beloved of chefs across the world including David Chang of Momofuku fame – a flourish of playful cheffy fusion.
Glutinous rice wrapped in lotus leaves, also known as lo mai gai, is another charmer. A present to be unwrapped, it reveals more of that excellent char siu pork, alongside chunks of chicken and mushroom: a package of joy, unfurling its sticky goodness, with flavour running through it until the very last grain of rice. Haunting.
We end up chatting to charming owner Alec on our second visit, who breezily runs the front of house, and gently probe him with questions about the chef. The mystery remains, with the only detail revealed that the mystery man has been instrumental in the success of a top place in London. We’re loving the intrigue. A dish that we perhaps wouldn’t have jumped on during early visits, as we were in true dumpling mode, is the stir fried beef with Ho Fun noodles, which we’re steered towards by Alec as ‘a big favourite’ – he wasn’t wrong. Pitch perfect, showcasing good nuggets of beef, humming with smoky wok hei, the fabled ‘breath of the wok’ imparting magical smoky depth, another marker of the skill in the kitchen – every strand of noodle is perfectly coated with its delicate sauce. Mystery chef strikes again. It’s another ‘must order’.
On our handful of visits, it’s hard not to order the favourites, yet the menu sprawls out into plenty of other tempting options, including ‘seafood bean curd spring roll’ and ‘slow stew pork ribs with watercress soup’. We’ll get to them eventually. It’s a spot that plays on your mind hours after leaving, a real teaser. Thankfully (dangerously) I pass through King’s Cross almost every day, and there’s now a recurring thought of: can I squeeze a couple of dumplings in before the train home? Yes, yes I very much can…and I will.
This is as good a dim sum experience as you’ll find in London. It demands repeated visits. With dumplings – and more – as good as this, I’m happy for the chef mystery to remain.