I’ve visited Chao Ban twice in 6 months. When I visited in March at the invitation of their PR agency I didn’t expect much. I came away impressed. We’ve wanted to re-visit ever since and finally two nights ago we had a chance to go there for dinner. This time however I went unannounced; I was reasonably confident it would be a good meal but it was also an opportunity to gauge my experience if I dined there anonymously. From the quality of the service, which was polite, but indifferent and hasty, I’m reasonably sure that they didn’t know who I was or remembered me visiting before.
On both visits I’ve tried only the dim sum and on both occasions Chao Ban has not disappointed. Chao Ban is not a terribly fancy place and the dim sum are not terribly fancy either: they lack the delicateness of a Yauatcha, or the sophistication of a Royal China, but they are hearty and they are filling, and most importantly they are completely value-for-money. I can quite easily see myself returning and becoming a regular, providing the quality doesn’t slip. For a change I even enjoyed the vegetarian dim sum. Though the wrapping of the zucchini and mushroom dumpling is a bit gummy and thick, the filling is perfectly cooked, flavourful and nice mix of crunch and softness. The dark green, spinach-tinged mixed vegetable crystal dumpling wrappers are much thinner and tear easily if gripped badly by chopsticks but the filling is just as good and the nutty hint of sesame oil is very pleasing. The pastry casing of the vegetable puff and the pork puff is light, flaky with a slightly sweet finish. Somewhat similar to a corn curd, the turnip cake is a big disappointment. Lacking the redeeming sweetness and crunch of the equally glutinous corn curd, the turnip cake is just pasty and bland; the topping of red chilli and fried garlic is a valiant but fruitless effort to inject flavour.
My favourites are the somewhat delicate and aromatic spinach and prawn Roll; the prawn and coriander dumpling both for the crunchy pastry and the flecks of coriander that give a bit of bounce to every bite, the char sui pao with its fluffy, soft and slightly sweet bread and the crisp fried pot sticker-style Shanghai dumpling.
The chicken sui mai were a bit tough and overcooked, but acceptable – not the best in the worst, but not the worst. We skipped dessert but we tried the steamed rice with minced tenderloin, the rice was dry but the mince was gingery and spicy – would have been much tastier with noodles. Unfortunately, Chao Ban does not allow you to parcel any uneaten food if you order the unlimited dim sum so order judiciously. We weren’t informed of this before we ordered a second round of dim sum and the rice, much of which sadly went to waste. (I knew they hadn’t recognised me because if they did they would have let me parcel the extras.) The unlimited dim sum option is only available for dinner and is priced at Rs 800 per head which, after taxes, comes to a little over Rs 900. This includes a soup, six steamed, three bread-based, four pan-fried and two baked dim sum, a rice or noodle and dessert. I’m not sure if you can choose which ones you want, but we were served nine out of 15 and we ordered a second round of the Spinach and Prawn Rolls and the Prawn and Coriander Dumpling.
|Invited by PR company||No|
|Guest of the chef/ restaurant||No|
|Restaurant knew I’m a food writer||No|
|Meal comped by the restaurant||No|