In case you were in any doubt – I love dim sum. Whether eaten at a hole-in-the-wall, an only-frequented-by-taxi-drivers eatery or a three-Michelin-star palace, dim sum fills me with joy, satisfaction and, most of all, deliciousness! So when I heard about the opening of Man Mo Café, a “contemporary dim sum” restaurant serving dishes such as foie gras xiao long bao, I was certainly intrigued… but unconvinced that it would actually work.
Man Mo Café is tucked away amongst the lovely little antique shops on Upper Lascar Row (better known as Cat Street) and I loved the juxtaposition of this modern, clean restaurant against the chaotic traditional trinkets shops. For me, this contrast of the old and the new is exactly the Hong Kong that I love.
The décor is very simple – white walls decorated with photographs of different aspects of the city and a wooden ceiling engraved with two birds. The furniture is simple and modern, whilst still retaining an element of traditional Chinese style, and we particularly appreciated the use of typical blue-and-white Chinese crockery, again combining the old with the new.
Man Mo Café is the brainchild of Swiss expat Nicolas Elelouf and his dream of East-meets-West dim sum comes together through the expertise of his two chefs, who previously worked at Robuchon and Din Tai Fung.
The first of the dumplings we tried were the aforementioned foie gras xiao long bao; instead of the usual vinegar and ginger, we were advised to sprinkle sea salt over the top (I’ve never cared for the vinegar anyway!). Although the skin was a little thicker than it should have been, the filling was heavenly. In place of the soup within the dumpling, there was a little trickle of fat from the foie gras – yes it was rich, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way!
The truffle Brie dumpling had so much potential, but unfortunately was a little too mild in flavour. A sprinkle of salt and pepper did help, but it would have been better if the truffle flavour had been a little more pronounced.
We were, however, completely in awe of the bouillabaisse. Whilst it maintained the essence of this traditional French fish soup, two little seafood wonton dumplings gave it a lovely Asian touch. Instead of being served with bread, it came with two crispy strips of wonton skin, topped with rouille and sprinkled with shichimi. Fantastic.
The “Burgerbun” was also a sweet idea – a fun take on a baked char siu bao, but filled with minced beef, onions, lettuce and tomato, and served with teeny-weeny squeezy bottles of thousand island sauce to pour directly onto the meat. The bao to filling ratio could have been better, but taste-wise, it was perfect.
Our final (savoury) was the steamed ratatouille dumpling, filled with beautifully soft, delicious veggies and served with a tangy tomato sauce.
The so-called ‘duck fried risotto’ was basically a little bowl of fried rice with a few strips of duck. Fried rice is one of my go-to comfort foods – add rich, comforting duck and you can hardly go wrong!
For dessert, given that one of the first things Rach announced to Nicolas was that she was Sassy’s resident Dessert Queen, we tried all four of the sweets on offer! Firstly, the “Bun Tatin”; similar to a custard bun except filled with stewed apple, this was pleasant, but not exceptional.
The “Kung Fu crème brulee”, made with Kung Fu tea (whatever that is!) had a satisfyingly crunchy top layer of caramel and the perfect silky texture beneath. Unfortunately, however, the flavour of the tea was a little too strong for us.
For our favourite dessert award, it was a close call between the “Nutella Ball” and the “HK Egg Lemon Tart”… but I think we would have to choose the latter. The Nutella ball, a generous scoop of everyone’s favourite chocolate spread encased in sesame pastry, was as rich and heavenly as it sounds – but we would have preferred it if the centre had been just a little more molten.
The pastry on the lemon tart was less flaky and oily than a traditional daan tat, giving way to a thin but delicious layer of lemon curd and a thick, gooey layer of soft meringue. I tried as hard as I could to leave half of each dessert, given how much we had already eaten… but I just couldn’t resist finishing this one completely!
Prices range from $48 to $88 for two dumplings, whilst the soups, rice and noodle dishes range from $48 to $108. Once you’ve tried a fair selection of dishes, your meal at Man Mo Café is likely to cost a tad more than the average dim sum joint – but come on, does this seem like an average dim sum joint to you?!
Got dim sum cravings? Check out our Dim Sum Guide for more eating inspiration!
MAN MO Cafe 40 Upper Lascar Row Sheung Wan
2644 5644 www.facebook.com/…
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!