Sunday, August 10, 2014

2014 Golden Dumpling Festival

August 10, 2014

Brief note from J
I had been looking forward to this event for quite a while, as it was an excellent opportunity for the chefs of the participating restaurants to showcase their skills using a single denominator (the dumpling). It was a delight to see the variety of dumplings displayed. Although the majority of the dumplings were made with sincere thoughts (I gauged this on the ingredients listed and the execution of the dumplings), as the Vanbrosia way goes, I unfortunately have to list my favorites from top (best of) to bottom (could do without). I would admit a slight preference for thinner, more delicate wrapped dumplings, and vegetarian anything always fares less well for me than 'well-rounded' dishes ;D, but I tried to be as objective as possible. Anyhoos, without further ado, here's my list:

Cibo: Braised pork and fig agnoli w taleggio & crispy sage by Chef Faizal Kassam

J's comment > very delicate wrapper; pork was tender and juicy w just the right touch of the taleggio cheese that boosted the flavor of the pork even more; loved the crispy sage which was crispy like a very thin chip (devil's in the details)

My vote for the best dumpling at the festival.

Maenam: Thai seafood dumpling in southern style turmeric curry by Chef Angus An

J's comment > another very delicately wrapped dumpling, w a burst of seafood flavors as advertised; didn't quite get the turmeric curry though; although not 'the best' for me, I can understand why this was the no. 1 favorite for both the judges and the public

Wildebeest: Foie gras and duck dumpling by Chef Wesley Young

J's comment > good wrapper; foie flavor not too strong though, didn't really get the duck flavor, but what was there, texture-wise, combo'd w the foie, was decent for me

Ask for Luigi: Chicken liver cappelletti in brodo w pancetta and sage by Chef Letitia Wan

J's comment > wrapper was good but chicken liver flavor could have been a lot stronger

Damso: Kimchi mandoo dumpling by Chef Eric Lee

J's comment > another good wrapper, but didn't get the kimchi flavor

Railtown Cafe: Xiao Long Bao, pork consomme, braised geoduck and water chestnuts

J's comment > well done on the consomme factor; had to wait about 10 mins + before eating this one, but the consomme on the inside was still very flavorful and actually present after 10 mins! didn't get the other advertised ingredients of geoduck and water chestnut but still a good Xiao Long Bao

Winner Winner: Coastal dumplings, local crab & shellfish parcels w preserved duck egg yolks and seasoned vinegar by Chefs Alain Chow, Chen-Wei Lee & Stanley Yung

J's comment > decent wrapper and flavors and by no means a 'bad' dumpling, but certainly not top three for me; can't agree w the judges and the public on this one for placing no. 2

Bestie: Smoky bison wonton w chili jam and kohlrabi slaw by Chef Colin Johnson
J's comment > good wrapper but flavors not particularly prominent

Pidgin: Sweet potato & chocolate dumpling by Chef Makoto Ono

J's comment > didn't get the sweet potato or chocolate flavors; the most memorable factor of this dumpling was actually the jus it came in, which was like a chinese sweet soup

Merchant's Oyster Bar: Braised duck and smoked plum, house buttermilk and shiso sauce by Chef David Jackman

J's comment > pan-fried dumpling wrapper a tad thick; none of the listed flavors particularly prominent though the texture of the filling was good; pink sauce was also a little off-putting; didn't get the shiso or smoked plum at all

La Mezcaleria: Braised beef chicharron in a guajillo chili sauce dumpling topped w queso fresco, salsa verde and cream by Chef Alejandro Cruz

J's comment > flavors were good, but I expected a chicharron to be crispy (the very definition is a crispy pork rind), which this dumpling was nothing of the sort

Homer St: Chicken & leek dumpling by Chef Tret Jordan

J's comment > your avg pan fried dumpling; chicken flavor MIA... funny, isn't Home St's signature dish their rotisserie chicken?

Harvest: Harvest #39 dumpling, pork ramen in a dumpling by Chef Hokuto Yamanaka

J's comment > swore I heard the staff handing me this dumpling say that there were ramen noodles in the dumpling; I probably misheard as I didn't see any noodles in my dumpling

Cinara: Pork and swiss chard agnolotti by Chefs Lucais Syme and Gill Book

J's comment > the pink center from the swiss chard was a little off-putting but the flavors were OK; would have loved a bit more center though, couldn't taste the pork at all

Bearfoot Bistro: Duck and shrimp dumplings w lemongrass and fried garlic by Chef Jimmy Stewart

Guu: Pork & shrimp dumpling wrapped w dumpling wrapper and tofu bag by Chef Yuki Ota

J's comment > essentially a mochi-kin bag without the mochi; didn't really taste the pork and shrimp, but got a whole whackload of tofu flavor

Campagnolo: Ricotta and kale gnudi, local tomatoes, ricotta salata by Chefs Nathan Lowey and Joachim Hayward

J's comment > ball was slightly crisp, texture almost crumbly but not bad; flavors were very vegetarian though

Bambudda: Fried nest dumpling, spot prawn mayo, seaweed powder by Chef Scott Korzack

J's comment > the center of this dumpling was most intriguing - it looked like sponge cake and the texture was reminiscent of same, but the flavors were decidedly savory; didn't get the mayo at all so it was essentially another vegetarian dumpling

Vij's: Chicken samosa by Chef Vikram Vij

J's comment > samosa was more chickpea than chicken; totally didn't taste chicken at all; slightly spicy

The Union: Red curry duck & lychee potsticker by Chef Lisa Henderson

J's comment > spicy! So spicy that all I could think of was where to get some water; totally didn't taste the duck or lychee as my tongue was on fire

J's Vote... for CIBO

A fully stamped passport

Steamers full of dumplings!
(brought my own steamer for this not-to-be-missed photo op)

♪ Follow the golden balloons ♫  Follow the golden balloons ♫

Extra Comments
The winner of the festival turned out to be Maenam according to both the judges and the public! Second place was Winner Winner whom both the judges and the public agreed on as well, and third was La Mezcaleria (judges), Bestie (public).

Event was very well run, hats off to Bao Bei and its team for coordinating 20 different food stalls, with lineups not taking longer than a few minutes (at most!) at each stall and I got there in the thick of it, around 1pm.

Labels: chinatown, chinese, festival

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