It’s a drizzly Tuesday evening in February. My desire to review Hong Kong’s most interesting and innovative epicurean fare has hit its first bump in the road. After a long day the idea of picking through a plethora of small plates trying to discern new flavours and accompanying adjectives is really not one I relish.
I don’t have the energy to fake the platitudes and politeness that comes with selecting and splitting shared dishes. I don’t want to listen to a poorly trained waiter explain where they sourced their truffles from. I don’t even want to think about what to order. Therefore, Mrs A and I make the short walk to Water Street to our favourite dumpling restaurant.
Northern Dumpling Yuan is simple, homely and unconcerned with the complexity of the world outside. The interior is as unassuming as you’ll find. The small space houses half a dozen tables each of which accommodates a different walk of Hong Kong life. Looking around you’ll see the post-gym lone wolf gweilo smiling across the room at a pair local girls engrossed in gossip, unconcerned with the couple contentedly ignoring each other as they stare transfixed at Korean drama, which fails to attract the attention of a tired elderly man hunched over his steaming noodle soup.
As soon as you enter you are regarded with perfect combination of indifference and efficiency. Communication is conducted with a set of simple yet universal gestures. I hold up two fingers and curt wave signals the table that will be ours for the next 20 minutes. With a wave of my hand my order is taken and a few minutes later a plate of steaming dumplings is slid in front of us.
Northern Dumpling’s menu is pretty extensive with dishes from Northern China, but it’s its namesake you come for. You can choose between boiled, fried or soup dumplings, all of which come in tried and tested flavour pairing. We opt for fried pork and leek and boiled mutton and green onion, shrimp and pork and beef and water chestnut.
It’s remarkable that such a humble mouthful can charm each part of your palate. The succulent filling satisfies a base need for meat, the soft skin provides a silky texture, caustic vinegar cleanses the roof of the mouth while a dollop of chilli sauce leaves a slight ringing on the lips.
Both the beef and mutton dumplings have a gamey, depth of flavour that you rarely find in local neighbourhood restaurants. Whereas the vegetable (which we didn’t order this time around) and pork variants offer a slightly lighter alternative. The crispy fried dumplings are wholly satisfying but be warned, a jet of scalding oil will strike your hand as you bite in.
No sooner had the last dumpling been devoured we had paid our $120 with a quick scan of the Octopus card and we’re on our way home.
The lack of pretension and fuss is the antithesis of every restaurant springing up the Western district. When you fancy honest fast food on a wet Tuesday evening head straight to Northern Dumpling Yuan.
How much? $120
Where? G/F, 1 Water Street Western District
Who goes? Anyone and everyone