In case you were in any doubt: I truly love dim sum. Whether eaten at a hole-in-the-wall, only-frequented-by-taxi-drivers kind of dim sum ‘restaurant’, or a three-Michelin-star dim sum palace, dim sum fills me with joy, satisfaction and, most of all, deliciousness. 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 I wasn’t completely convinced it would work.
Tucked away amongst the lovely little antique shops on Upper Lascar Row (better known as Cat Street), you’ll find Man Mo Café. I love 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 are decorated with photographs of different aspects of the city and a wooden ceiling is engraved with two birds. 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 that again combined the old with the new.
Man Mo is the brainchild of Swiss expat Nicolas Elelouf. His dream of East-meets-West dim sum comes together through the expertise of his two chefs, who were previously at Robuchon and Din Tai Fung.
The first of the dumplings we tried were the aforementioned foie gras xiao long bao. Instead of vinegar, we were advised to sprinkle some sea salt over the top (I’ve never cared for vinegar anyway!). Although the skin was a little thicker than it should have been, the filling was heavenly. In the place of soup at the base of the dumpling, it had 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 it 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 wantons gave it a lovely Asian touch. Instead of being served with bread, it was served with two crispy strips of wanton skin, topped with rouille and sprinkled with shichimi. Fantastic.
The burgerbun was also a sweet idea. It was a fun take on a baked char siu bao, but filled with minced beef, onions, lettuce and tomato, served with a teeny weeny squeezy bottle 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.
The final (savoury) dumpling we tried was the steamed ratatouille one, filled with beautifully soft, delicious veggies and served with a tangy tomato sauce.
The so-called ‘duck fried risotto’ was basically just 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.
We simply couldn’t resist trying all four of the desserts on offer, starting with the bun tatin. This was similar to a custard bun, but filled with stewed apple – it 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 HK egg lemon tart was less flaky and oily than a traditional dan 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 stop myself from finishing this one!
Prices range from $48 to $88 for two dumplings, whilst the soups, rice or 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 you a tad more than your average dim sum joint… but does this really seem like an average dim sum joint to you?!
Man Mo Café
40 Upper Lascar Row
Tel: +852 2644 5644