There's nothing like a dining club to get you visiting places you've been meaning to for ages, is there? After the inaugural meeting at Silk Road in Camberwell, the follow-up was pencilled in a few weeks later. A dim sum feast at Phoenix Palace, a restaurant I'd heard a lot about, with good things written about the yum cha on offer and also the evening menu.
Note: There are a few pictures missing. It's quite tough photographing dim sum, especially as a lot of the baskets arrive at the same time.
The tick sheet. Rather than old ladies pushing around carts, Phoenix Palace employs the tick sheet system; you tick off your choices and when they arrive at the table, the staff member will cross it off. I prefer this system to the trollies, as there's no rush for items and you know everything will come out fresh from the kitchen (well, it should, anyway).
Beef ball dumpling. Minced beef mixed with mushed peas. Rather strange, and I've never come across this item before. It was nicer than it looks. Well seasoned beef and fortunately the taste of peas didn't come through too strongly. A very decent meatball.
Fried dough cheung fun. Another one I hadn't come across before, but really liked. The noodle roll itself was perfectly dense, while the fried dough filling was nicely crispy. Wonderful when dipped in to the sweet soy sauce provided on the side. Like a dining companion joked, the Scottish influence on Cantonese cooking is evident here.
Har gau. Perhaps the defining dim sum basket, and a good indicator of the overall quality of dim sum available most of the time. The version at Phoenix Palace is wonderful. Translucent, thin skin hides plump prawns which have a great flavour and are pleasantly juicy.
Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf. Not bad tasting rice.
Mini ribs in black bean sauce. Decent tasting, but mostly bones and ultimately quite pointless.
Vietnamese spring rolls. Nicely fried, with a good flavour.
Taro dumpling. I love taro dumplings, as I've documented already on this blog. The version here has a good flavour, but is not freshly fried and suffers as many editions do, becoming quite flabby. I'd still order it again though.
Turnip cake. Rather disappointing lack of prawn pieces and pork (in the form of Chinese sausage) but the turnip cake itself is good. Nicely crispy on the outside and well flavoured.
Xiaolongbao. Otherwise known as Shanghai soup dumplings, these things can be wonderful. Hot soup exploding from the dumpling and scalding your once-beautiful face, the lingering flavour making it all worth it. That is, if you are eating them incorrectly. Look at this article on how to eat xiao long bao. Unfortunately, this guide wasn't needed at Phoenix Palace, where the dumplings yielded no soup at all and were depressingly dry. The flavour was fine, though the skins were far too thick and the lack of soup is criminal. Avoid.
Dipping sauces. Not sure what you are meant to dip in these sauces or what they taste like as I didn't spot them on the table until the end of the meal.
Peking buns. I thought these would be a savoury item. Instead they were steamed, bready-type items with a condensed milk dipping sauce served on the side. Not dissimilar to doughnuts, really. Not bad.
The bill. £10 each.
Some items at Phoenix Palace were more successful than others, such as the har gau, and the overall quality was good. It's a good option for a dim sum lunch on the weekend, though beware of queuing times. I've heard it is not uncommon to queue for up to 45 minutes, even if you have booked previously, due to the two covers they serve on a Sunday. Also beware the gruff service. Don't expect a reply if you ask for something, just expect a shrug, the waiter to walk off and your requested item to appear shortly.
5 Glentworth St