Newly-arrived Singapore xiaolongbao chain Paradise Dynasty evokes what you’d get if you crossed Din Tai Fung with Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. It has the immaculate linen of Din Tai Fung but offers a more unorthodox soup dumpling selection.
Soaring dark marble walls make the interior feel grand and palatial but also cool and intimate at the same time. Staff garbed in copper-colored robes bow as you enter, but after we sat down we realized they didn’t quite possess the same Disney-esque demeanor as the Din Tai Fung crew. It took them a while to attend to my table, and when they finally did they were a tad surly like your average noodle den nai nais.
The mainstay is the xiaolongbao sampler (68RMB) with eight dumplings divided into four different flavors – classic pork, pork and crab roe and the more bizarre cheese and pork and foie gras and pork flavors. Each wrapper’s color matches its contents – crab roe orange for the crab roe ones, bright yellow for the cheese etc., – and the skins are colored with natural ingredients such as red sorghum and spinach. The basket of dumplings arrives looking like an edible easel.
The xiaolongbao are hit and miss. The pork probably ranks among the top ten xiaolongbao in town while the pork and crab roe taste a bit stale as if the dumplings were stuffed with an over-the-hill TGI Fridays crab cake – nothing like the crystal clear crab flavor that imbues Din Tai Fung’s rendition even when it’s not crab season. The foie gras xiaolongbao is a bit of a gimmick like the foie gras burger or foie gras hot dog, but it’s a tasty one. A hot balloon of dough bulging with custardy, gooey liver? Hard not to enjoy.
We were also partial to the pork and cheese xiaolongbao, mainly because we have an unhealthy craving for that plasticky-yellow cheese found in burgers and drizzled over tacos. The dumpling was like the Shanghai version of a grilled cheese sandwich.
Other highlighted offerings include the noodle soups, of which our faves are the pork belly (45RMB) and beef brisket. A thick, rich stock simmered from pork bones makes the dish.
Paradise Dynasty may not be in contention for the best xiaolongbao in town, but if you’re craving something more maverick than the traditional pork and crab soup dumplings, check it out.
Paradise Dynasty – No 2-205, Second Floor Touch Mall, 669 Zhongshan Nan Er Lu, near Dongan Lu, Xuhui district. Tel: (0)21-6067-2601. Hours: 11am-10pm.
See a complete list of our reviews here.
Benjamin Cost is Shanghaiist’s Food Editor. Email tips, recommendations, and news updates on Shanghai’s dining scene to [email protected].com.