With an influx of people from mainland China, Chinatown has become more interesting recently. The variety of food has expanded from just mainly Cantonese to cooking styles from other parts of China. You can imagine my excitement when I heard that there was a new restaurant called Beijing Dumpling.

Like Dumplings Legend, Beijing Dumpling has a show kitchen. They were so determined to sell the idea of freshly made dumplings (Xiao Long Bao 小籠包) that they even used it as its shopfront. With that in mind, I ordered the classic dumpling with crab meat (蟹粉小籠包). How was it?

It was one of the ugliest dumplings I have ever seen served in a restaurant. The skin was not smooth but rough. Unlike the amazing dumplings at Din Tai Fung, I could not taste any crab meat inside. There was not much soup inside each dumpling neither. For a restaurant which put so much emphasis on dumplings in its naming and marketing, I expected higher quality dumplings than these. They did not even give us any vinegar with ginger as dipping sauce, which is the standard condiment for dumplings! (We had to ask for it ourselves)

How was the other food? Sadly, the menu mainly consisted of Cantonese dishes, a handful of Asian ones and even fewer choices from Beijing. With nothing new to try, we opted for the ‘All you can eat hot pot’, which was one of its speciality. For £20 a head, you are supposed to be able to eat as much as you want. You can order any of ingredients from the menu which is a selection of meat and vegetables- Well, that is the theory anyway!

For those unfamiliar with hot pot, it’s Chinese dish normally served in winter. Each table gets a large pot of simmering broth, and a selection of meat, fish and vegetables to cook in the broth. It’s a bit like fondue.

We made it clear to the waiter that right at the time of order that out of the 22 ingredients we could choose from, there were some ingredients we did not want and there were some we would like in a larger portion. We were told that we did not have a choice in the first round as EVERYTHING would come on one plate in default portion.

Little did we know that they meant all the raw ingredients would be ‘dumped’ onto the plate in one go. This was how it looked:

Hot pot for Beijing Dumpling
There was virtually no presentation! It looked like they just scooped everything out from a skip, with prawns flying around, raw lamb and raw beef all mixed up in a mountain of pink. I have had Chinese hot-pot many times in my life, and this is NOT how it usually looks like! And, just in case you think there is a lot of meat, think again! They used the classic trick of putting lots of vegetables underneath to create the illusion of volume!

The restaurant said that they do not tolerate customers wasting food, ‘any surplus of food left over will be charged £8.50 per takeaway box’. This is not new as they started doing this in Singapore many years ago to avoid greedy customers taking more food than they can finish in buffet. They usually do it by weight, e.g. a fine is imposed per 500g of food unfinished. But I have a problem with the policy at this restaurant- we were given ingredients we made clear at the time of order that we did not want. If we did not finish them, we could not really order more of the ingredients we did want. It was not really fair as red meat like beef, tripes, and lamb are popular ingredients for hot-pot but we felt like we were made to eat ingredients that were less interesting and cheaper  like potatoes (Who put potatoes in hot-pot?) before we could order more quality meat.

Cutlery for hot pot at Beijing Dumpling
We were given only one pair of chopsticks which was odd as usually we have one pair for picking up raw food and another pair for cooked food too avoid cross contamination. Hmm… we know the norm so we asked for that ourselves. But I am a bit worried for those who have never tried hot-pot before- how are they supposed to know?

For those who have never tried hot-pot before, the cutlery on the left in the photo above is a mini-sieve. You put the raw ingedients inside and then put it in the soup to cook. Alternatively, you can put ingredients directly into the soup and collect the food using it. For noodles, it is far easier to use the former method.

Soup for hot-pot at Beijing Dumpling, London Chinatown
There were 3 soups/broths on the menu for hot-pot but one of them was not available. We tried the other two in a pot with a central divider instead. The spicy pork bone soup was nice and hot and the century old egg and coriander soup was light and formed a good balance with the other. There were also a wide choices of condiments which we could get ourselves, from sesame sauce to hoisin sauce, etc

We also tried the Dan Dan Noodles, which was nothing like the authentic one. The noodles were thin and they were just served in a spicy soup. Another disappointment.

Beijing Dumpling had more attentive and friendly service than Dumplings Legend. It was good for Chinatown standard. It was for this reason I gave this restaurant 2.5 stars instead of 2. It is not a good place for dumplings. It is not the only restaurant in Chinatown which serves hot-pot neither. It has good soup bases but the choices are limited. I really have a problem with their ‘buffet’ policy. I would prefer they charge the ingredients I want to eat by portion so that I can really enjoy the food. This is a better way to avoid wasting than serving us all the ingredients on the menu in one plate! Until they have improved, Beijing Dumpling is not a place I would like to go back.

Beijing Dumpling
£58 for 2 with tea and soft drinks, incl. service
23 Lisle St, Chinatown
Tel: 020 7287 6888

Beijing Dumpling on Urbanspoon

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